T Nation

Working out at home with no spotter

Hey guys! Happy New Year! Here’s my question: do a lot of you guys work out at home? Due to my hectic work schedule, I usually can’t get to the gym. My problem really comes in when I’m hesitant to push too close to failure, especially on bench presses and squats. I try to be as safe as possible by using dumbells, but I HATE them using for squats - I just don’t get a pump like I would with a rack. How do you guys get around this? And more importantly, anybody make good gains without consistentlt going to failure?

Yeah, I work out in my shed (it’s cold!). I do more strength training than bodybuilding so my routines are more abbreviated. I do weighted dips instead of bench press, and I use deadlifts and hip belt squats for legs. You can take both to failure (make sure you have a pad underneath the weight so you don’t crack the concrete) because the weight is underneath you the entire time. The hip belt is available from Ironmind.com It’s 90 bucks but if you workout by yourself at home it is worth it.

Get a power rack, or failing that, get a trap bar. I find that “squats” with a trap bar are superior to regular squats. They are kind of a cross between a squat and a deadlift. I think they are a lot safer, as well. To see a trap bar go here: www.exrx.net /WeightExercises/GluteusMaximus/ TBDeadlift.html I got mine for 145.00 Love it!!

Believe it or not some of my best SIZE gains ever have come working the big basic movements (squat, deadlift, bench, chins), twice a week, with a 5x5 routine and NEVER going to failure. Working with a Stuart McRobert theory of gaining momentum, starting with weight well below what I could use for 5 reps max, and adding 5 lbs. a week. My diet was crap at the time, and I still managed to gain big strength and size. I wasn’t overtraining prior to this either, so it’s not just a change of routines that made the difference. Use good form, PROGRESS, and the results will come.

Ironmind sells some portable racks that are like cross beams in apower rack, but free standing. I think the pair is about 200$ or so. I tend not to go to failure with my training, but you should have some catch system for heavy squats or deads, failure or not.

I work out exclusively at home using a variety of equipment including a smith machine and hack squat/leg press machine to name a few. Both of these pieces have safety features that allow you to stop the movement…safely…at various intervals during the rep. This allows me to go as heavy as I want (to failure) without a spotter and without having 911 on speed dial. The downside, particularly for the smith machine, is that the movement (presses, squats) follow a controlled path. As such, your ancillary muscles that assist in the movement are pretty much left out of the equation. To counteract this weakness, I always incorporate a set or 2 of heavy DB exercises (presses, lunges, etc).

I've made significant gains during the past several years using this equipment. Based upon your life situation, you need to decide what level of investment you are willing to make. As a single father being raised by a 17 year old daughter, my choices are pretty clear...no time to go out to a gym, and she sucks as a spotter (!!).

As for training to failure, absolutely. There’s nothing like it when you’re going heavy in the 6-rep range…feels more like training to accomplishment. There’s alot to be said about inching your way up the steps on your chin and knees.

Invest! When your life settles down, you can join a gym and sell off the equipment in the classifieds under the “never-been used” Nordic-Trak and Ab-Slider.

Something I am interested in purchasing is the free-spotter, it is pretty cheap and can be used for barbells as well as dumbells. I found it at shermworks. I work out in my basement, and it seems great for heavy benching and squats. I always hated Smith Machines because they locked you into the movement, not allowing the important stabilizer muscles to do any work. The Free Spotter will give you the safety of a Smith Machine with the results of free weights. Plus, I always hated hoisting heavy dumbells into position (I don’t think the “dumbell penis pinch” is one of Ian Kings recommended exercises); and it gets around having to hoist them, or lower/drop them onto the floor. I would buy the dumbell kit also, but I have Powerblocks, and it does not work with them, only standard and Olympic dumbells