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We asked strength coaches how to perform the most popular gym lifts at home — here's all the equipment you need to do them safely

We asked strength coaches how to perform the most popular gym lifts at home — here's all the equipment you need to do them safely

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  • Just because you can't bench press or squat with a barbell doesn't mean you have to miss out on the benefits of these gym-specific lifts.
  • There are plenty of at-home alternatives that allow you to see similar results such as towel-assisted leg curls which simulate deadlifts or dumbbell floor presses that mimic the bench press.

If you love to work out, you probably long for the sensation of a barbell in your hands or on your back. I don't blame you, either; the feeling of triumphantly hoisting hundreds of pounds is exhilarating. Working out at home is great for keeping active and fit but it just isn't the same.

But being confined to your apartment or house doesn't mean you can't get in an effective workout. You may not be able to load up a barbell with serious poundage and lift it, but there are ways to challenge your muscles with minimal space and equipment.

I spoke to strength coaches Matt Pudvah (CSCS and head strength coach at the Manchester Athletic Club) and Dean Guedo (a former competitive powerlifter and a strength and nutrition coach) who each helped provide a list of the best alternatives for popular exercises. Some are even able to be performed with just your bodyweight and minimal equipment.

Here are the best alternatives to your favorite in-gym lifts:Read the original article on Insider

Gym lift: Barbell deadlifts

Gym lift: Barbell deadlifts
Flamingo Images / ShutterstockDo these instead: Towel leg curls and banded pull-through

Towel leg curls

Pudvah points to towel leg curls as an excellent variation for when you don't have weights at your disposal. To do these, you'll first lay on your back and place your heels on a towel placed on the floor (ideally, this would be done on a hard floor surface).

Next, curl your heels to your butt to activate your hamstrings, which are the primary muscles involved in a deadlift. Repeat as many times as comfortable to complete a set.

"Towel leg curls leverage your body weight for resistance in place of a barbell," Pudvah explains. "This move challenges your glutes and hamstrings in a similar way a barbell deadlift would — think of it as a pushup for your legs."

Banded pull-through

This move mimics the hip hinge pattern of the deadlift and the use of the band places continued tension on both the hamstrings and glutes. According to Guedo, if you do this exercise right and keep your arms straight and your core tight throughout, you should feel like your hamstrings and glutes are doing all the work. The more band tension you use, the harder you can make this exercise.

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Gym lift: Barbell Back Squats

Gym lift: Barbell Back Squats
ShutterstockDo these instead: Tempo split squat and goblet squat

Tempo split squat

To perform a split squat, stand roughly a foot in front of your couch and face the opposite direction. Then, raise your leg and place your foot, laces down, behind you on top of a cushion. Now, squat down until both legs are bent at a 90-degree angle.

This move increases the stretch of your quad muscle and allows you to better focus on one leg at a time. Because you're not using weight, Pudvah suggests moving slowly to increase the muscles' time under tension (or TUT).

"Lower yourself to a three-count, then hold the bottom position for three seconds before rising to a three-count," Pudvah instructs. "Your quads should be burning after a couple of reps."

Goblet squat

The only mechanical difference between a back squat and a goblet squat is that you're holding a dumbbell in front of you. Squatting with weight in front of you forces your core to work hard to prevent you from tilting forward. You also strengthen your back muscles as they play a part in keeping you upright.

Of course, your legs get a workout since you're performing a loaded squat. Guedo says that you can hold the weight further away from your body to create a more dramatic counterweight. Any weight you have around the house — be it a medicine ball, heavy box, or whatever else you find — works well for this exercise.

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Gym lift: The barbell bench press

Gym lift: The barbell bench press
Julia La RocheDo these instead: Pushups and dumbbell floor presses

Pushups

You don't need to look further than the pushup for a bench press alternative. It is, after all, the same movement as a bench press, just flipped over. According to Pudvah, the significant difference is that you're moving about 65% of your total body weight. So, someone who weighs around 185 pounds is pushing roughly 120 pounds. You can add weight by wearing a backpack loaded with books, wrapping a resistance band around your back, or slowing down the rep to make it more difficult.

Dumbbell floor presses

Dumbbell floor presses are an exercise you've likely done at the gym and is one that almost perfectly replicates the bench press.

To do it, first lay on your back with your feet flat on the floor and hold a dumbbell in each hand. Next, press the dumbbells over your chest with your elbows pointing 45 degrees. Press the weights up until your elbows are locked out and then lower them back down until the back of your arms touches the floor.

"Benching from a floor press allows you to focus more on the upper body, instead of using your feet and an arched back to get the weight up," Guedo explains. "Pause with your elbows touching the ground but make sure not to rest them and relax. You want to create tension throughout your body then press."

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Gym lift: Barbell rows

Gym lift: Barbell rows
Antoniodiaz/ShutterstockDo these instead: Prone Y-T-Ws and TRX rows

Prone Y-T-Ws

"This simple exercise uses all the same shoulder and upper back muscles that a barbell row would activate," Pudvah says.

To do them, lay down on your stomach and extend your arms so they're straight out next to your head. Then, lift each arm off the floor, pulsing them for 10 reps. Now bring your arms straight out to your sides and pulse them off the floor for another 10 reps. Finally, form a W by bending your arms at a 90-degree angle at your sides and pulse them for 10 reps.

To make these harder, hold two 16-ounce water bottles filled with water in each hand.

TRX rows

"The TRX row is a great replacement for a dumbbell row since you use your body weight for resistance, and it allows you to use both arms at the same time," Pudvah explains. "This forces you to expend more energy and burn more calories."

Simply hang a TRX, or any suspension trainer, from your door and set the straps to mid-length. Set your feet right under the anchor point, grab a handle in each hand, and then lean back, so your arms are fully extended. From there, row yourself up until your hands pass your torso.

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Gym workout: Barbell overhead presses

Gym workout: Barbell overhead presses
Cirkoglu/ShutterstockDo these instead: Alternating single-arm kettlebell presses

Grab a kettlebell with one hand and clean lift it so it's at your shoulder. Set your feet shoulder-width apart, brace your core, and press the weight overhead until your arm is locked out and against your ear. Keep your other arm at your side and repeat this motion. Once you've done enough reps, switch to the other arm.

"Doing this while standing is convenient since most people don't have benches but it's also harder," Guedo says. "When you stand, you must use your core to keep in position. When you press with one arm, you'll feel your obliques on the non-pressing side activate as they work to keep your torso from rotating."

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The equipment you need to replicate these in-gym lifts

The equipment you need to replicate these in-gym lifts
ShutterstockResistance bands

A pair of looped bands are great because they're easy to store, are highly portable, and replicate just about any exercise. We like Wsakoue resistance bands, which come with four looped bands of varying resistance. This is ideal since you'll most likely want a lighter band for curls and presses, a medium band for rows and pushups, and a heavier band for squats and deadlifts. If you need even more resistance, you can double up and lift two at a time.

Dumbbells

It's more money upfront but investing in a set of adjustable pair of dumbbells is worthwhile. The Bowflex SelectTech 552 Dumbbells aren't new to the market but, for most people, they're all anyone needs. They adjust from 5 to 52 pounds, replacing 15 pairs of weights, and they take up minimal space.

If you're going to purchase one piece of equipment for your home or apartment gym, an adjustable pair of dumbbells can take you far. And, for under $350, you can't do much better in terms of quality and reliability than the tried-and-true Bowflex originals.

Suspension trainer

Attach it to a tree or door frame and a suspension trainer allows you to turn up the difficulty of your standard bodyweight workout. Use them for rows/pullups, assisted single-leg squats, biceps curls, and more. There are a few models on the market but the TRX (aka the original suspension trainer) is a solid choice. It offers a few different models but the TRX Go is all you need.

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Three ways to make any exercise more difficult

Three ways to make any exercise more difficult
iStock

The key factor in getting bigger and stronger muscles is muscular tension. Applying more tension to your muscles means more damage to your muscle tissue and that damage is what forces your muscles to become stronger and bigger.

The implement you lift — be it a dumbbell, barbell, band, or kettlebell — is a load that places tension on your muscles. However, you don't need heavier weights to create more tension. There are techniques, which Guedo outlines below, that make a move more difficult without the need for upping the load. You can apply them to most movements at any point in your program.

Tempo

You can slow down the tempo with which you lift a weight or band to create more tension. Typically, you want to use a lighter weight when lifting with a slower tempo so it's easier to control. Using lighter weight means that this is also a useful technique for lifters with injuries since you won't aggravate an achy elbow or your lower-back with more weight than you're able to handle.

If you've never tried this technique before, use a 3-3-3-0 tempo. The first number indicates the lifting phase, the second number is the pause at the apex of the move, the third number indicates the lowering stage, and the final number is the pause at the bottom.

Isometric

An Isometric is when you hold the portion of a lift for anywhere from a few seconds to a minute (or more). Take a dumbbell row, for instance. While rowing, hold the extended arms part of the lift for 10 seconds to feel a stretch in your lats. You can even pause at the top to feel more muscle burn or pause halfway through. Either way, you increase the time your muscle works.

Usually, if you're looking to modify a movement to make it harder, you'll find the point in a lift where you're the weakest, often the middle or bottom. When you find it, hold it there for 2 to 4 seconds and then finish the rep.

Partial reps

Most of the time, you want to lift with a full range of motion. Take biceps curls for example; you want to extend your elbow all the ways and then lift the weight up to your shoulders. The thought here is that you'll fully lengthen and then shorten the muscle, getting the most out of the exercise. Typically, this is correct. Once you start to fatigue, you'll find it harder to maintain a full range of motion. It's at this point where, instead of stopping, you can perform partial reps.

Partial reps are what they sound like — repetitions you perform with a limited range of motion. Instead of entirely lowering your arms down for a curl, lower the weight halfway and curl from there. You're always creating tension on the muscle, so this technique still sparks some muscle growth. For any move, finish your full reps, and then complete the same number of partial reps.

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