How to Create a Workout Program for a Small Apartment Gym

Dumbbells are an effective tool for getting a great workout fast.
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Creating a workout program for a small apartment gym means adapting to the equipment and space you have available. If you are accustomed to commercial gyms with a large variety of machines and free weights, then you may need to simplify your workout. In some cases, this will mean substituting one exercise for another, using less weight or adding advanced training techniques to get more out of less. You don't need fancy equipment to get a good workout. Follow a few basic guidelines to learn how to get an effective workout anywhere.

Mind Over Matter

    A small apartment gym will likely have less training equipment than a commercial gym. You have to check your ego and realize that sometimes less can be more. Your body and your muscles have no concept of how much weight you're using or what kind of equipment is creating the resistance. Muscles adapt to training stimulus as a survival tactic. Therefore you must find a way to create a muscle-building, fat-burning stimulus. Using a scientific training approach and adding some advanced training techniques will help you achieve a great workout in any gym.

Full-Body Workouts

    A full-body workout means hitting every major muscle group in one session. Work the major muscle groups from largest to smallest, for example legs, back, chest, shoulders, triceps and biceps. Choose a compound movement as your first exercise, such as a multijoint move like the leg press, pullup, bench press, overhead press and barbell curl. Author Steve Holman often recommends something he calls “4X” training, which means doing four 10-rep sets of an exercise with only 30 to 40 seconds of rest between sets. This allows you to get a great workout in a short amount of time. This workout can be performed two to three times per week.

Positions of Flexion

    POF, or positions of flexion training, means hitting the target muscle group with three specific training angles. First, target the most muscle fibers possible with a compound movement. For example, you might start your chest workout with a dumbbell or machine bench press. Next, you use a stretch exercise, such as a dumbbell fly, which allows a full stretch at the bottom of the movement. Then you finish the muscle group with a contraction or isolation exercise. Per the chest example, this would be a cable crossover or incline dumbbell fly. For this workout, you would use a training split something like this: on Monday work your chest, back and abs; on Tuesday train your legs and calves; on Wednesday rest; on Thursday work your shoulders and arms; and on Friday repeat Monday’s workout.

Advanced Techniques

    Advanced training techniques really allow you to get a good workout anywhere. Examples of these are drop-sets, super-sets, partial reps and super-slow reps. Drop-sets mean doing a set to exhaustion and then immediately decreasing the weight slightly and doing another set without any rest between the two. You may further extend such sets by adding a third or fourth “drop.” Super-sets are when you do two exercises back to back with very little rest in between them. Partials are 6- to 8-inch half-reps, which can be added to the end of a set to create more time under tension and apply a muscle-building stimulus. Super-slow reps mean taking a full six seconds to lower the weight on every rep, which stimulates fat burning for up to 72 hours following a workout, according to Holman.

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