The Swole Guy’s Guide To Reclaiming Your Gains Without The Gym

Don't wait for level 1 to get back to your former size, start now! ??

Kirsten Curtis |

There’s nothing quite as disheartening as looking in the mirror and seeing skinny arms, a flat chest or a boep where once there used to be ripped, lean muscle. On the scale of suckage and disappointment, it’s right there with the end of Game of Thrones. Even more frustrating: knowing there’s nothing you can do anytime soon to get your gains back. Well, dig that deep V out of the cupboard, son, because we have some good news: it is possible to build size without the gym. Use these tips from Jacques van der Linde, owner of healthy lifestyle brand JVL, to reclaim your gains, regardless of what lockdown level we’re on.


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#1 Build For Function, Not Just Size

Jacques wasn’t always a big dude. “I had quite a small build for most of my young adult life,” he recalls. He was sporty though. And it was after dislocating his shoulder playing rugby that he realised he needed to start building functional strength and muscle to help prevent future injuries. The ripped physique that Jacques has today was the result of hard work and discipline. “Before having a little human to take care of and before JVL grew as big as it is now, I used to train twice a day,” he says. These days he’s still disciplined about getting a 45-60 minute session in six days a week. Training is a form of stress relief. And while the visible mass it packs on certainly doesn’t hurt, Jacques’s main goals are health and longevity.

YOUR GAME PLAN: If you train for function, rather than just focusing on size gains, it becomes a lot easier to switch up your training if you need to.

#2 Remember: There Are  Different Ways To Reach A Goal

The bench press, cable station, dipping station, free weights, Smith machine and other strength machines all form part of a typical training session for Jacques. So when South Africa went into lockdown, he could easily have given up. Instead, he got creative.

READ MORE: How To Tell If You’re Using The Right Weight

“I have combined more cardio in between my sets and I have had to experiment with the small number of weights that I do have in order to still be able to achieve a full-body workout each week,” he explains. “On one occasion I took a resistance band, tied it around my weighted barbell, lay on my tummy and grabbed hold of the band to get a good back workout in. Not something I ever imagined doing as an alternative to a cable lat pulldown machine!” He’s also been incorporating entry-level callisthenics moves as a substitute for weights.

YOUR GAME PLAN: You may have a preferred way of training to reach your goals and that’s totally fine. But it doesn’t mean that’s the only way to achieve the same results. If you’re open to alternative training methods, you’ll discover that there are many ways to get success in the gains department.

#3 Get Smarter About Your Training

Here’s a shocker: “One of the biggest myths out there is that men should train very heavy to achieve a big and lean physique,” says Jacques. “It’s never about the weight, it’s always about the mind muscle connection. Finding that strength in a workout is where the secret lies.” The fact that Jacques already wasn’t using the heaviest weights in the gym made it much easier for him to transition to home-based workouts.

YOUR GAME PLAN: Use Jacques’s method to get major gains without lifting super heavy: “My workouts are controlled yet fast-paced compared to most guys’ workouts. I honestly believe in super set workouts and because of that I don’t train too heavy at all. I pre-exhaust the muscle group I’m training within the first 15 minutes of the workout and then thereafter I push each set till failure.”

WATCH: Jacques’s back and chest workout will help you build upper-body gains at home.

#4 Focus On What You Have, Not What You’re Missing

It wasn’t easy for Jacques to make the switch from gym to home training. “Obviously, I am now training alone and without my ‘wolfpack’ and I had to dig deep to find my inner motivation,” he says. “But I knew that I had to train regardless of how I felt or what went on around me.” If you fixate on the machines and iron you don’t have access to right now, you’re going fall into despair and feel like there’s nothing you can do. “I literally did not think that training at home would serve any purpose for me,” Jacques admits. But I have really become so accustomed to it and my training is actually better than ever. It’s always a mindset!”

READ MORE: 8 Workout Apps To Help You Sweat Through Lockdown

YOUR GAME PLAN: Forget about the gym. Just for now. And start looking around at what you do have that you can use. Is there a couch? A broom? A tub of protein? That’s an effective workout in the making. If you have some rewards points to spend or you can afford it, invest in some basic equipment. “The number one must-have should be a set of dumbbells,” says Jacques. “Get maybe one set light and one set heavier. Those should take you a long way already. If you can, also invest in: Resistance bands in variants of strength, skipping speed rope, bench or a step, barbell and some variants in plates.”

#5 Eat For The Gains

You know this already, but your gains are 80% what you eat and only 20% what you’re doing in the gym (or, you know, the lounge). “I was able to still maintain my muscle mass in general through supplementation and in the way I eat,” says Jacques. “Nutrition is actually the foundation of keeping and gaining more size. I keep my calorie intake balanced, not necessarily high, which is the mistake most make.” Jacques eats a 90% plant-based diet, with a little bit of fish here and there but no other meat. He avoids highly processed foods, opting instead for whole, organic food. And he helps keep his nutrient intake optimal with a whole host of supplements, all JVL, of course!

READ MORE: Eat This Homemade Healthy Burger And Chips Without Cheating On Your Diet

YOUR GAME PLAN: Eat less junk food. Find a healthy balance of macronutrients (protein, carbs and fat) that works for your goals. Then make sure you’re also getting enough micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) and drink plenty of water. “It’s quite an ‘old-school’ method of living but trust me it still works!” says Jacques.

Start Your Comeback Today!

If you’ve already lost your gains to lockdown, it’s not too late to get back to you former swole self. “We never have to accept where we are because we have the power to change and move forward and these principles apply in our health and for our physique as well,” says Jacques. “So just start again, today!”

YOUR GAME PLAN: “Set clear goals that you measure weekly and get someone to measure them against. We all need some good clean competition sometimes,” says Jacques. Plan your workouts in advance and get a healthy meal plan. Speak to a dietician to get a plan tailored to your exact needs. If you can’t afford a dietician, use a free app like MyFitnessPal as a start. Finally, remember what this means to you, says Jacques. “Find your ‘why’ and let that fuel you.”


Using the body-weight workouts in this book, you’ll increase not only your size and strength, but also your power and mobility.

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