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Home workouts tend to get a bad rap in fitness circles, especially among those committed to goals slightly loftier than simply ‘keeping fit’. The generally held belief is that bodyweight circuits and basic calisthenics may be good for getting a sweat on; but unless you have some serious weights available at home — you’re probably not going to move the needle on your muscle building goals all that much.

We can confirm that this is fake news.

Even if you’re not the proud owner of a fully kitted-out home gym, you can still be the recipient of a wicked pump; one that will make a serious dent in your strength and size ambitions. All you need is some basic household furniture, as well as the festive enthusiasm and effortful execution of Macaulay Culkin seeing off home invaders.

Using the back of two dining room chairs, boxes or two parallel work surface and a sturdy broomstick or equivalent, pull together your emergency calisthenics station and get to grips with the following upper body ladder that promises to deliver some serious muscle swelling volume to your chest, back and arms.

Climb The Ladder of Gains

You’re going to be working in a ‘ladder’ format, working from 10 reps of each exercise, all of the way down to 1, alternating exercises circuit-fashion as you go. Ladders are an incredibly efficient way of dialling a lot of muscle building volume into a small space of time— working back and forth between ‘pushing’ movements and their ‘pulling’ opposites, you give each muscle group just enough time to recover, whilst you continue chipping away; keeping your heart rate (and subsequently the calorie burn) through the roof. Meanwhile, the descending reps drop the intensity just enough to keep you working right on the edge of your capabilities.

But don’t get too comfortable; fewer reps per movement mean each circuit gets a little short, and so does the ‘rest’ for each body part, essentially creating a muscle burning spiral, finishing in four of the toughest single reps of your life. That is— if you perform them right, and on that note…

Slow is smooth, smooth is fast hard

The usual criticism levelled at bodyweight movements such as dips and press-ups is that they’re just too easy, and when compared to heavy dumbbells and loaded barbells — that’s a fair comment. So to maximise the muscle building panache of this workout, we’re going to have to make every single rep as difficult as possible. That means: good form, full reps and most importantly taking it slow. We want to maximise each muscle’s ‘time under tension’, moving through each and every rep under as much control as possible, over 4-5 second count. Remember— it’s not how many reps we perform that builds muscle; it’s how we perform those reps.

So, lower yourself into each dip over 3-4 seconds, before exploding back up. Hold your chest to the bar for as long possible on those pulling movements, contracting those back muscles, hard, all the while; and otherwise grip, squeeze and pump up every muscle you can whilst moving slowly through each exercise, capitalising on every inch, of every rep.

If you want to get the most out of this workout, then you’ll need to make the most out of this workout.

Any time you feel those reps getting sloppy, are tempted to throw in some ‘body english’ to assist you back up, or just find yourself flopping back to the ground on each ‘eccentric’ or lowering portion— stop. The goal here isn’t to finish all 220 reps pf this workout as quickly as possible, it’s to finish it as effectively as possible.

Whenever the quality drops: Stop, stand tall, take a sip of water and take five to ten deep breaths— resetting, restoring and refuelling those muscles, before jumping straight back into the fray.

Oh, and in other news, we can confirm that mince pies do indeed fuel muscular contractions, if that helps.

1. Dips x 10-1

Grab yourself a pair of dining room chairs, or a couple of boxes and place your hands on both, lifting your feet from the ground with your arms locked out straight, supporting your bodyweight (A). Bend at the elbows, slowly lowering yourself until your elbows are at right angles, ensuring they don’t flare outward (B). Drive yourself back up to the top and repeat.

2. Inverted rows X 10-1

Place a bar, broomstick or dowel across your chairs or boxes and hang below with straight arms, a wide grip and a tight midline (A), Bend your elbows and pull yourself to the bar, pause here for a second (B) before lowering yourself under control back to a full hang, repeat.

3. Feet elevated press-ups x 10-1

Kick both feet up onto your bench, creating a strong plank position with your hands on the ground, shoulder width apart (A). Slowly lower your chest to the ground (B) before explosively pressing back to lockout.

4. Leg assisted chin-ups x 10-1

Jump back into your inverted row position and walk your feet backwards until your torso is almost upright, and turn your palms to face you. (A) Keep your knees bent and pull your chin above the bar, squeezing your biceps hard at the top (B) before lowering.

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