A couple of years ago I posted about my gym routine which, with minimal changes in my lifestyle, allowed me to gain nearly 30 pounds in about a year from regular exercise. I've always been a small guy, and gaining weight and muscle is very difficult for me. It was important to me to find a routine that would allow me to do that without sacrificing too much of my free time to the gym.

These days, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, gyms are not an option for a lot of people. So for the last few months I've been trying to replace my routine with exercises I can do from home. I live in a small apartment so I don't own any large exercise equipment or even a set of dumbbells. So how do you work out at home in this setting? The answer is you do what you can and do it regularly.

This routine will take you about 25 minutes at a leisurely pace and you should do it every second day. This works out to about 90 minutes per week.

Everything from my last post still applies. Make working out a habit and don't skip any days. Always take a day to let your body rest between workouts.

The routine

The new routine is always the same, unlike the alternating exercise sets I used at the gym.

Do this every second day:

The only equipment you'll need is something soft for your floor like a yoga mat or blanket, and the edge of your bed or couch to do the bench dips from. To save time, you can do the calf raises as you come up from your squats and combine the two movements. Squat, stand up, and rise onto your toes, then back down slowly.

If you happen to have dumbbells, you can add in:

You can use anything heavy and handheld for makeshift dumbbells, but please be careful.

How much to do

I've listed varying numbers for each set. If an exercise feels too easy, do a higher number of reps. Feel free to go beyond these, up to 20 or more reps per set if things start feeling easy.

I began this routine doing "easy" push-ups, with my knees on the floor. I did 3 sets of 10 at first. When that became too easy, I increased to 3 sets of 12, then 15, then 18. I now do 3 sets of 20 "normal" pushups with my legs straight and knees off the floor.

Since my last post, I've switched from tracking my workouts with FitNotes on Android to using Strong.

As usual, make sure you're challenging yourself every time you work out, but also listen to your body. If something doesn't feel right, stop, rest, and try again next time.

Adam Hollett's face against a dark wood background

Adam Hollett is a developer and technical writer at Shopify in Ottawa, Ontario.