Maintain Your Muscle Without a Gym

Sarah Hall, Senior Manager

Fear struck the (extremely efficient) hearts of gym goers around the DMV as fitness centers became some of the first to receive official orders to close last month. Several of my clients questioned the effectiveness of continuing to train at home without access to the equipment they had become accustomed to using. Fortunately for them, and for all of us devoted to a regular lifting program, it’s actually not that hard to maintain your muscle once it’s been built. You will probably lose some of your maximum strength, which will quickly return once you resume your normal program, but it’s highly unlikely you will lose any actual muscle mass. Research points out that individuals training progressively in a 16-week program were able to then decrease volume by a third while still building size and strength (2); therefore, even working out on an altered schedule with reduced access to equipment, you can still challenge existing muscle mass with unfamiliar exercises to encourage it to stick around.

High loads and low loads lead to virtually identical improvements in muscle mass; equivocal results in study after study leave no room for debate. Isometrics and mental imagery training during lower load lifting further encourages muscle mass maintenance by increasing the mind-muscle connection. What this means is you become more effective at activating the targeted muscle, even with lighter or no weight! Once you return to the gym, this strengthened mind-muscle relationship will make progress on your normal program even easier and potentially decrease your risk for injury (4, 9, 10, 11, 12).

Single leg training will improve your squat strength just as much as doing squats. Actually, single leg training will significantly increase your overall lower body strength. In order for this to hold true, though, you really have to challenge your single leg work. If you can do step ups all day, work towards single leg squats (i.e. skaters, pistols) (1, 8, 13). Similarly, push ups have been shown to effectively maintain and build upper body strength through muscle activation that mimics the bench press (3, 5, 6, 7, 14). How many push up variations have you tried, or have you even mastered the standard push up yet?


If you are continuing to maintain an abbreviated workout schedule while your fitness center is closed, you’re already doing a great job! The key to ensuring your current program is focused on maintaining the muscle you’ve worked so hard to build is understanding progressive variations in programming. Luckily, Synergy has a team of experienced and certified professionals who understand the importance of individualized exercise selection and programming and would love to coach you in a Customized 30 Day Home Workout!

Reach out to your Site Manager or [email protected] to learn more about this $99 program.

View the 30 day workout program Here!



  1. Appleby, Brendyn B., Stuart J. Cormack, and Robert U. Newton. “Specificity and transfer of lower-body strength: influence of bilateral or unilateral lower-body resistance training.” The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 33.2 (2019): 318-326.
  2. Bickel, C. Scott, James M. Cross, and Marcas M. Bamman. “Exercise dosing to retain resistance training adaptations in young and older adults.” Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 43.7 (2011): 1177-1187.
  3. Calatayud, Joaquin, et al. “Bench press and push-up at comparable levels of muscle activity results in similar strength gains.” The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 29.1 (2015): 246-253.
  4. Counts, Brittany R., et al. “The acute and chronic effects of “NO LOAD” resistance training.” Physiology & behavior 164 (2016): 345-352.
  5. Gottschall, Jinger S., Bryce Hastings, and Zachary Becker. “Muscle activity patterns do not differ between push-up and bench press exercises.” Journal of applied biomechanics 34.6 (2018): 442-447.
  6. Kikuchi, Naoki, and Koichi Nakazato. “Low-load bench press and push-up induce similar muscle hypertrophy and strength gain.” Journal of Exercise Science & Fitness 15.1 (2017): 37-42.
  7. Kotarsky, Christopher J., et al. “Effect of progressive calisthenic push-up training on muscle strength and thickness.” The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 32.3 (2018): 651-659.
  8. McCurdy, Kevin W., et al. “The effects of short-term unilateral and bilateral lower-body resistance training on measures of strength and power.” The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 19.1 (2005): 9-15.
  9. Schoenfeld, Brad Jon, et al. “Differential effects of attentional focus strategies during long-term resistance training.” European journal of sport science 18.5 (2018): 705-712.
  10. Schoenfeld, Brad J., et al. “Strength and hypertrophy adaptations between low-vs. high-load resistance training: a systematic review and meta-analysis.” The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 31.12 (2017): 3508-3523.
  11. Schoenfeld, Brad J., et al. “To flex or rest: Does adding no-load isometric actions to the inter-set rest period in resistance training enhance muscular adaptations? A randomized-controlled trial.” Frontiers in Physiology 10 (2020): 1571.
  12. Slimani, Maamer, et al. “Effects of mental imagery on muscular strength in healthy and patient participants: A systematic review.” Journal of sports science & medicine 15.3 (2016): 434.
  13. Speirs, Derrick E., et al. “Unilateral vs. bilateral squat training for strength, sprints, and agility in academy rugby players.” The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 30.2 (2016): 386-392.
  14. van den Tillaar, Roland. “Comparison of kinematics and muscle activation between push-up and bench press.” Sports medicine international open 3.03 (2019): E74-E81.