I'm a student and live a schedule that makes it impossible for me to commit to any extremely serious programs or even go to the gym. As such, I have began to train at home, doing primarily the following:

  • Pushups with resistance bands, I set the bands so that I can only do 10 reps at max strength.
  • Pullups

5 sets each to exhaustion for both

I drink whey after the workout, and rest 2 days before I repeat the cycle.

I'm neglecting the lower body, which I know is not that great, but I'm trying to focus on my upper body. I want to be stronger, be more toned and shave off excess fat on my stomach.

Here is my general approach to food. I don't have any goal of trying to count calories or figure out exact protein contents. Instead I eat whole grains, white meat, fish, nuts, vegetables and fruits. In an average meal I would do 30% grains, 40% vegetables and 30% meat or meat alternatives (tofu, seitan, etc). I eat 3 meals a day, with snacks once or twice a day with nuts, seeds, or fruits.

How does this all look? Will I make good progress with this? Do I need to make my exercises more intense?

  • Looks fine to me. I bet you'll get stronger. If you can work out more often I'd do so. If you have time and want to add sprints on the off-days, or pistols, or whatever, that would be good too. But if your schedule is tight, don't sweat it. This will work to a significant degree. Sep 21, 2012 at 3:04

2 Answers 2


First, let's get into what other types of exercises you can do: chair dips, squats, wide fly push ups, pull ups, chin ups, military press, diamond push ups, decline push ups, lunges, and any sort of kettle bell exercise. The exercises you choose are up to you, but I think your best bet given your goals are: chair dips, wide fly push up, decline push up, and chin ups. This will give you a good amount of chest, shoulder, bicep, and tricep work, as these seem to be your target areas.

Second, you need to reevaluate your set/rep count. Instead of doing 5 sets to failure, do 3 sets of X reps for each exercise, where X is a reasonable number of reps given your current strength. Every workout, you will then increase the number of reps for each exercise by 1. Repeat this, deload when necessary, and you will see improvement.

You should also consider "greasing the groove," which is summed up succinctly with the formula Specificity + Frequent Practice = Success. In other words, the more you do something, the better you get at that specific something. Start doing a handful of pull-ups (nothing extreme, maybe 3-5) every time you use the bathroom, or leave your house, or watch a movie. Over time, you will begin to see amazing improvements in your ability to do that exercise.

I'm neglecting the lower body, which I know is not that great, but I'm trying to focus on my upper body. I want to be stronger, be more toned and shave off excess fat on my stomach.

No, it is not great, but it is not awful either. With the minimal amount of exercise you are doing, you aren't really in danger of looking like The Hulk with Barbie legs, nor are you in danger of creating any serious muscle imbalances, save for those that present themselves by exerting more than your lower body can handle (i.e. lifting a heavy box). Once you get your life straightened out and more time on your hands, I encourage you to take on a full body strength program (Starting Strength and Stronglifts are the favorites of this particular site, but there are many more out there).

Your diet is pretty much rock solid. That said, I really recommend counting calories for a week, just so you have a ball park idea of what you really take in every day. Knowledge is power.

Your goal for fat loss is contradictory with your goal to increase strength. Building muscle requires a caloric excess to fuel muscle growth whereas burning fat requires a caloric deficit to fuel fat cell loss, so you can see how these two goals compete against one another. You can try to do both at the same time, but won't see optimal results in either, or you can instead do cycles of bulking/cutting where you focus on strength training for a period of time (3-6 weeks) then switch focus to cutting fat through a leaner diet and increased cardio.

  • Can't say i agree with excluding body weight squats. As both Starting Strength and Stronglifts say (somewhat, at least), if you're not squatting then you're not working out.
    – DForck42
    Sep 21, 2012 at 14:15
  • @DForck42 Given his limited time and specific goals, I felt avoiding squats was the best short-term plan. Long-term, as I noted in my answer, he should be doing squats, but that day is not today.
    – Moses
    Sep 21, 2012 at 16:15
  • thanks for the helpful tips. The reason why I try to max out is because I've been told that maxing out is how you get stronger. Low rep low intensity on the other hand is not as helpful. How true is this?
    – mugetsu
    Sep 24, 2012 at 23:37

If you want to be stronger you need to train your whole body, otherwise you will end up with a huge upper body, but lacking strength because your lower body can't support it.

There are a lot of exercises you can do at home, if you want to continue doing push ups, which are great for your upper body, but strengthen your core, too, you might want to either go for more or make them even more complicated, even without a resistance band. You could try Diamond Push Ups, basically it is a normal push up, but you put your hands close together so that you thumb and index finger form a diamond shape.
If you happen to have an exercise ball at home, you can do push ups on that, too. The legs on the ball or the hands on the ball. Those are a pretty strenuous exercises that train your stabilizing muscles in the back.

You should do more than those two exercises you mention, as said above, go for a workout that trains all your muscles, of course you can set a focus, but you shouldn't ignore the others. Check out the link above, there are other programs listed, eg for crunches and dips. If you need more dig around for other body weight exercises.

I personally do body weight exercises thrice a week, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. If you need the two days rest, take them, otherwise you could do more. As always you have to listen to your body first before listening to other people (especially those on the Internet).

Your food plan sounds OK judging from what you tell, but check your drinking habits as well.

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