Workout not challenging enough? The favourite answer is do more reps, add more weight. But if that’s too dull, there are plenty of other ways to progress.
Good question. Here’s why:
Making your lifts heavier is the simple way to boost your workout. But it’s also an easy route to sloppy form. Maybe you’re recovering from an injury. Adding more weight might worsen it. Maybe you want to increase stability in a joint, which requires more sophistication than just piling on the weights.
Or perhaps you simply don’t have any more dumbbells to work with!
In other words, make the move more complex, known as adding ‘complexes.
A good example is the Typewriter Pull-Up. Do a standard pull up but add a side-to-side move at the top. Or add complexity to a barbell clean with an overhead push press.
You can also add complexity by chaining movements together in a row with no rest. For example, do four reps of cleans. Then instead of dropping the bar, transition straight into rows. Then squats, then curls, then overhead presses. A quick, effective 10-minute workout.
Slow down. (No, not speed up as you might have thought!). It’s one of the easiest ways to make things tougher. This works on almost every movement. Try it for yourself on some push ups. You’ll soon discover how a five second descent compares to your usual speed.
A word of warning – this can make your muscles ache A LOT. So just alter a couple of exercises before you slow up your entire workout.
This can be a very effective approach. But beginners should master the basics on solid ground before attempting to decrease stability.
A BOSU ball is great for toughening up exercises like reverse lunges, step ups and press ups. Or try barefoot on a foam pad first if you’re prone to knee or ankle problems. Experienced lifters could use a bamboo bar with weights dangling on bands for tougher overhead carries and presses.
Isometric holds are static positions such as the plank. They are incredibly effective because they require significant strength to maintain. Think of it like a tug of war between your muscles. Try it out and you’ll know what we mean!
You can adapt most exercise to add an isometric ‘pause’ at any time during the movement. For example, add a 3-second pause at the bottom of a squat. Or during a bench press when your elbows are at 90 degrees.
These are great ideas. Not being able to get to the gym means I'm struggling with my strength training so I would recommend anyone at home doing these to keep their strength up.
for some reason the typewriter pull up has really tickled me - I will have to make the noise if I can ever get that far!
I've never thought of doing anything creative like this with my exercises so it's given me plenty of ideas. But I wonder who really keeps it up? It's perhaps more of a novelty to do now and then, then probably everyone gets back to the standard exercise!
slow down? Who knew? But I tried it and yes, it is much harder. Suspect I may have been swinging the dumbbells rather than working properly.
Isometric pauses are good and work well. I would recommend that you hold it for 8 seconds or less for maximum gains or your energy system runs out of energy then anyway.
unstable surface is a great one - but it will be a while before I can use a Bosu ball without an undignified crash. Baby steps..
I like the idea of an isometric pause. Again - nothing I'd ever really thought about before so I will be including them - and expecting results!!
Some great ideas here. I had never really thought beyond lifting more weight. I particularly like the changing tempo as that's very easily done.