Building muscle is never easy, but if you only work out at home, it can feel like an even tougher task. For most of us (read: me), it's too difficult and expensive to replicate a gym's wide variety of strength-training machines and equipment at home. To be specific, I have the space and resources for about five pairs of dumbbells. Sure, that's enough to put on some muscle if you have the right moves and routine, but it's pretty tough to do a true progressive overload program if you can't go heavier than a pair of 15-pound weights. Because of that, I never bothered to really try strength training at home because I assumed I'd plateau too quickly to make it worth the hassle.
So when I saw that Chris Hemsworth's health and fitness app, Centr ($10 per month), was preparing to launch a 13-week at-home muscle-building program, I was intrigued. The program was designed by Hemsworth's longtime trainer Luke Zocchi, who had a simple goal: to adapt Centr's muscle-building gym program, called Power — which is based on the workouts he does with Hemsworth to prepare for the Thor movies — for people who work out at home. That meant drastically scaling back the equipment requirements and figuring out how to increase the challenge on your muscles from week to week without the variety of machines and weights you get in a gym.
"When I prep Chris for these Thor roles, [at] a minimum we'd normally do . . . three months of training, so around that 12-week mark," Zocchi tells POPSUGAR. Meaning, this 13-week program isn't all too far from "the real prep that we do for Thor," he says. Each phase increases the load, intensity, and time under tension, which also reflects the way Hemsworth ramps up training.
So I decided to try it. The Centr Power at Home program consists of 13 weeks of workouts plus a meal plan optimized for muscle building. I followed both parts of the program as closely as possible, and it felt less like a workout program and more like a lifestyle change — and the results blew me away.
What Is Centr Power at Home?
Centr Power at Home is a muscle-building program consisting of four three-week phases. You do the same six workouts every week for three weeks before getting a fresh set of workouts in the next phase. The different phases, which progressively increase in difficulty, are meant to help you avoid plateauing, which is what happens when your body adapts to your workouts and you stop seeing the same gains as you did in the beginning. "Every phase, it gets a little bit harder," Zocchi explains. "We increase the intensity. We change exercises . . . we play around with eccentrics, slow, negatives. It's just to create that growth and keep shocking your body to keep getting results."
Centr Power at Home also has three different levels you can choose from: beginner, intermediate, and advanced, with the exercises and structure differing slightly between levels. In beginner, for example, you do three days of strength and three days of cardio per week; in intermediate, it's four days of strength and two cardio; in advanced, five days of strength and one cardio workout. No matter the level, everyone gets one rest day per week. The phases also differ by the equipment required (more on that below).
When you finish all four phases, the program moves on to a deload week, which is similar to a rest week, "but you're not completely resting," Zocchi says. "You're still doing the workouts and the movements that you've done throughout the program, but you're decreasing the weight." It's intended to prevent overtraining and burnout, giving your body a reset before you move on to the next level of Centr Power or whichever workout program you want to tackle next.
I tackled the intermediate level of Centr Power at Home. Here's what a week of my workouts looked like:
- Monday: Chest and triceps
- Tuesday: Legs
- Wednesday: Functional workout (cardio workout from the program or an off-app workout)
- Thursday: Back and biceps
- Friday: Full body
- Saturday: Functional workout
- Sunday: Rest day
The intermediate workouts were around 30 to 40 minutes in length at first and gradually stretched out to around an hour as I progressed in the phases. For the functional workouts, I did the bodyweight cardio HIIT workouts that come with the program, which were 30 to 40 minutes long.
Centr Power at Home: What Equipment Do You Need?
Centr Power at Home requires minimal equipment, but you'll need a few key items depending on the level you choose. For beginner and intermediate, you'll need dumbbells; a bench; long, looped resistance bands; and anchor points for the resistance bands (one at a low height, one medium, and one high). For the advanced version, you'll need all of that plus a barbell and a pull-up bar.
For my intermediate workouts, I had access to dumbbells (five, eight, 10, and 15 pounds) and resistance bands. For anchor points, sometimes I'd pinch my resistance band in my door jamb at different heights, which was convenient when it didn't smack back and hit me on the head. I also tried looping my band around pillars in my house, though it would sometimes slip down.
I worked around the bench requirement in a few ways. For the supine moves, like dumbbell bench press and skull crushers, I laid on the ground instead of the bench. I used a chair for seated moves like overhead press, and a low table or cooler for feet-elevated push-ups and Bulgarian split squats. So while Centr recommends using a bench, you don't need one if you're willing to get creative. Just make sure your surface is very sturdy because you'll be putting a lot of weight on it during moves like step-ups, feet-elevated push-ups, and Bulgarian split squats.
Centr Power at Home Meal Plan
Centr also provides a meal plan optimized for building muscle, which the app recommends using alongside the workout plan. (Note: You aren't forced to do the meal plan, but it's highly recommended.) "Nutrition is so important across all levels of fitness, but especially when it comes to muscle building and strength training," Zocchi says. "If you don't support the training with the right nutrition, you won't see great results."
Specifically, it's important to be in a calorie surplus when you're trying to gain muscle, and the Centr app provides specific calorie amounts to hit based on your weight, height, and goals. I opted not to track my calories, instead just following the meal plan as listed and adding snacks (also Centr recipes) as needed to feel full and satisfied. The meal plan is also customizable, so you can replace meals you're not interested in with others from the app (there are hundreds to choose from). For me, a typical day of meals and snacks on the Centr muscle-building meal plan looked like this:
- Pre-workout breakfast: overnight oats or a smoothie
- Post-workout: super smoothie
- Snack: egg and veggie muffin
- Lunch: homemade vegetarian burrito bowl
- Snack: protein balls, smoothie, or banana and peanut butter on toast
- Dinner: salmon with broccolini and brown rice
Every meal and snack in Centr's meal plan included all the macronutrients, which means you're eating plenty of carbs and fat along with the big dose of protein you'd expect when you're trying to put on muscle. I was surprised that it truly didn't feel restrictive to me or like I was craving certain foods. Food quality is especially key, says Angie Asche, RD, Centr's resident nutritionist. "Having high fiber, high protein, those foods that are going to be beneficial for body composition and recovery," she says. "The very ultraprocessed things are OK in moderation, but when your goal is to build muscle, you want to focus more on those whole foods."
Centr Power at Home Review
Between the all-encompassing meal plan and the workouts, Centr Power at Home was a true lifestyle change for me. I wanted to be as faithful to the program as possible on both fronts, which meant that I spent a lot of time cooking, especially on the weekends, and I stepped up my workout consistency as well.
Prior to starting Centr Power at Home, I worked out four to five times a week, mostly with low-impact workouts like barre, Pilates, yoga, and walking. It was jarring at first to shift so completely into strength training, and I was very sore for the first few weeks. Hobbling around after leg day, wincing every time I moved my arms after chest and triceps, the works. But it was extremely satisfying to feel myself getting stronger, and I actually could feel and see a difference from week to week.
For me, the meal plan was the most challenging part of Centr Power at Home. The recipes themselves were simple and delicious, especially the breakfast options and the protein-packed post-workout smoothies (the peanut butter banana one is seriously so good). The tough part was the time commitment. If you want to stay faithful to this meal plan, you will be cooking a lot. I meal prepped, ate lots of leftovers, and took shortcuts when I could (Asche recommends buying preprepped ingredients, which was a game changer), so by the end, I had a semisustainable routine going on. It was still a major adjustment, even for someone who cooked at home 95 percent of the time before this meal plan. Between the time commitment of cooking and avoiding meals out so I could stick to the meal plan, this program definitely impacted my social life. I estimate that I paid $100-$115 per week on groceries, so the meal plan is a financial commitment as well (on top of the cost of the app itself).
It's worth saying that you don't have to be this consistent with the meal plan if, for example, you value going out to dinner every once in a while. "Following a meal plan to a T in today's world with our jobs and everything else is very challenging," Asche says. She recommends being mindful with your food when eating off the plan and opting for meals with a balance of lean protein, carbs, and fat.
Case in point: I had to travel a few times over the 13 weeks, which meant I was away from my kitchen and couldn't follow the meal plan — or do my workouts, for that matter. I followed Asche's advice and tried to just be mindful about what I was eating without stressing myself out about it because life isn't all about building muscle and eating perfectly nutritious meals. Zocchi also notes that it's OK to take a short break from the Centr Power at Home workouts when you're traveling if you don't have time or access to the equipment. Just think of it as an extra rest and recovery period for your body. Even if you take a week off, he says, there's no need to feel guilty or like you've screwed up your results. Speaking of which . . .
Centr Power at Home Results and Next Steps
I saw (and felt) results with Centr Power at Home within just a few weeks. Visible muscle definition is a tricky metric since every person's body is so different; how my body reacted to this program might not be the same as someone else. For me, the biggest difference came in my upper body. My muscles visibly grew bigger and more defined in my shoulders, biceps, triceps, chest, and upper back. I also saw muscle gains in my abs, quads, and hamstrings.
I felt stronger physically as well, and this was reflected both in daily life and in my workouts. Tasks like lifting my luggage into the overhead bin on the airplane felt much easier and less like I was tearing a muscle in my arm every time I did it. (True story, that was happening for a while.) In my workouts, I was able to hit new PRs in exercises that have always been hard for me, like bicep curls and push-ups, and got through sets more easily as I moved through each phase. At the end of this program, I can confidently say I'm stronger than I've ever been.
My body also felt great throughout the program. I didn't experience any injuries or debilitating soreness, other than some wrist pain when I (unwisely) tried to double up on dumbbells. (Next time, I'm just buying a heavier set.) The extra protein in my diet also led to my nails getting stronger (they'd recently been flaky and prone to breaking), and I had noticeably more energy throughout my day.
Ultimately, Centr Power at Home is a really effective program for building muscle and getting strong. The meals are healthy and satisfying, and the workouts made me stronger than I knew I could be. The time commitment was significant, though, and adhering closely to the program required me to sacrifice a decent chunk of my personal time and social life. It makes sense: the program is based on the training program of an actor whose most well-known role requires him to look like a literal god. My job (thankfully) doesn't require that of me, so I'm ready to get back to a more balanced schedule that includes having pizza every now and then.
If you're looking for results and serious strength and don't want to get a gym membership to do it, Centr Power at Home will get you there. I'm already thinking about trying one of the more advanced versions of the program. You know, maybe after the holidays.