Weekly column by fitness experts Adam Wright and Jacqui Watson for the Waterford News & Star, in association with Kingfisher Fitness Club
HI FOLKS, It’s Adam! During our recent trials and tribulations I was asked, “I have a set of 5kg dumbbells and I’m ready to have strong toned arms… can you help?” I think limited equipment might be a concern for more than just this person so let’s talk about that!
How much weight you have available doesn’t have to be a hugely limiting factor (especially if you’re a beginner or intermediate lifter) and you do also have body weight for exercises like push ups, don’t forget.
The things that are going to matter are your training age (beginner, intermediate, advanced), the exercises you chose, how well you do them and how far you push yourself to improve your performance at these exercises over a reasonably prolonged period of time.
Beginner, intermediate, advanced?
For beginners just learning the new exercises and getting better at performing them properly can result in building and toning* muscle. Neural adaptations to exercise refer to the brain’s ability to better use the muscles involved in a particular movement, and in doing so muscle can be built.
For intermediate lifters they already know the lifts quite well and so progressive overload becomes the main driver of muscle growth. That is, always striving to perform a little bit better every workout. We’ll talk about ways to do that in a second.
“Advanced” lifters may need more advanced techniques but growth from simple progressive overload (the intermediate phase) can go on for years. I’ve been lifting for over two decades and can still make gains using intermediate techniques. Advanced techniques are not something many people need.
So how do you “progressively overload” at home?
In the gym we might use more weight but in this case we’ll need to attempt more reps or sets, less recovery or altered range of motion each workout. More reps is the easiest to explain. If we managed to do 8 good quality reps today before we reached failure (the inability to perform another good quality rep) and we take time to recover (enough time between workouts) and we consume adequate protein (1.6g-2.4g per kg body weight per day) and the next time we train we strive to do even one more rep (get comfortable being uncomfortable because going to failure, or close to, stings), then over time, following this formula, we’ll slowly ask our muscles to do a little bit more than they’re currently used to. And as a result our muscles should grow in order to adapt to this challenge. Given enough time, change will become visible.
By the time we’ve progressed our performance from where we are now to two to three times that number of reps (over a reasonably prolonged period of time, we’re talking weeks and months here) I can reasonably safely assume we’ll have improved the musculature of their arms.
Heavy weights Vs Light weights
For some exercises 5kg will be “heavy”, for others it will be “light”. In simple terms, as long as you can do at least 5 good quality reps, how many you do after that doesn’t matter for muscle growth as long as you go close to failure (keep going until you really can’t do another good quality rep). If you’re interested in learning a little bit more search Pubmed for article number 25853914.
And final point: Being able to see muscle “tone” also relies on low enough levels of body fat. That’s the nutrition/energy balance side of things.
For basic exercise tutorials for home workouts check out my Instagram @AdamWrightPT. For follow along classes featuring me check out the Kingfisher Club’s Facebook page. Jacqui will be back next week. Until then stay safe and have a great week!
*To my fellow fitness professionals, forgive me for using this word. It’s useful even if it doesn’t really mean anything #SmileyFace