5 Ways to Make an Exercise Harder Without Buying Heavier Dumbbells
Covid 19 has seen a change in our exercise routines. As gyms closed down we were forced to look at alternative ways to train. The question on many peoples minds was how can I achieve the same intensity without lifting heavy weights?
Changing your fitness routine can take a major psychological adjustment, as many people feel dependent on the gym and the equipment.
The good news is that you don't have to rely on heavier and heavier weights.
Some of the best physiques have come through body-weight movements, yoga postures, repetition fatigue and HIIT (high-intensity interval training) workouts.
How exactly do you make your at-home workouts match the grueling intensity of a gym, with limited equipment? Here are five ways to feel the burn without shelling out for a heavier set of dumbbells.
1. Do More Reps
Higher reps is a proven way to induce hypertrophy and develop muscle. When you've finished an exercise and still feel like you could do more, add a few additional reps to each set — enough to where your last two are difficult but doable.
2. Add Pulses
Reducing your range of motion makes for a harder workout. Your muscle is constantly working throughout a pulse workout.
With a pulse rep, you don't have the fraction of rest time that you would in a normal rep. For example, when you drop into a squat, come up only part way, lower back down, then come all the way up. Depending on your fitness level and strength, you can add more pulses.
3. Perform Hybrid Exercises
Combination exercises, often called compound or hybrid exercises, combine two or more exercises into one, which makes for a more challenging workout.
If you can't increase the weight on your squats and lunges, try combining them with upper-body exercises like push-ups, pull-ups and rows. Common hybrid exercises include burpee tuck jumps, glute bridge to sit-ups and step-up to kickbacks — but the variations are only limited to your creativity. We also recommend decreasing the stability of an exercise for a harder workout. In lieu of balance boards and stability balls, you can balance on one leg, stand with your feet close together or switch seated or supine exercises to standing ones.
4. Focus on Eccentric and Isometric Contractions
Eccentric contractions — the portion of an exercise when you muscle lengthens — are associated with greater strength and mass gains compared to concentric contractions — the part where your muscle shortens.
Even if your body is the only thing you have to lift, you can still pack on mass by slowing down.
You can also maintain an extended hold halfway through a move (ex. 10 seconds at the bottom of a lunge or the top of a glute bridge) Holding an exercise for longer is a great way to build strength and stamina without having to increase the weight.
5. Get Your Head in the Game
At-home workouts can get a bit repetitive. Same home, same time, same equipment — right? That's why we recommend shaking the 'blahs' out of your system and setting clear intentions for a high-energy home workout.
To be successful with minimal equipment, you have to set the intention and atmosphere for your workouts.
We recommend deep breathing for several minutes before you exercise. The more present you are in your workouts, the more neuromuscular activation (mind-body connection) you'll have in each of your exercises.
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