With the Coronavirus social distancing measures in place, a lot of gyms have closed their doors, and many of us are sticking with home workouts until further notice. If you are someone who strength trains in a gym setting, you may be wondering how you can continue to challenge yourself at home. Even if you do have dumbbells and some equipment at home, chances are you don’t necessarily have access to the exact same weight and load options.
There are definitely bigger fish to fry as a society right now, we all know that.
However, for those of you who are looking to maintain a sense of normalcy and who do regularly lift as a form of stress relief, you can try using any of the tips below to keep consistent with your strength workouts at home and continue to challenge yourself.
7 Ways to Make Your Home Strength Workouts Harder
1. Tempo Reps
Tempo reps are one of my favorite ways to make an exercise that I’d normally perform with heavier weights harder. Basically, you slow your movement down. Most people think to make something more intense, you need to go faster or speed up. And yes, when we’re talking about cardio, this can be the case. But for your strength workout, you want to shoot for time under tension – anywhere between 2-5 counts down and 2-5 counts up. Even if you don’t have weights, this can be applied to your bodyweight exercises. So for your deadlifts, you could lower on the way down for 4 counts, then return to standing for 4 counts. For pushups, maybe you lower for 3 counts, and push back up for 3 counts. You can play around with it.
2. Partial Reps
Partial reps are another way to keep tension on your muscles. Think about a strength exercise having both a top and a bottom to the move. With partial reps, you stay in the middle of the rep, work a partial range of motion, and don’t give the muscle a break. In a squat, this would look like lowering all the way down and then coming only halfway back up.
3. Circle Bands
Circle bands/hip circles are one of my favorite at home exercise equipment options. You can make so many lower body exercises harder with them! Add them above the knee for things like squats, lunges, bridges, and hip thrusts, and feel the difference in your glutes firing up. You can also add them to a lot of bodyweight exercises like hydrants, side lying leg lifts, etc. to continue with your glute gains. This is the blue hip circle I love and use all the time.
Playing around with height is another way you can make strength exercises harder. For example, you could lunge off your bottom step in your home staircase to create a deficit. You could elevate your feet on a kitchen chair for decline pushups or bridges. Do single leg sit to stands to a lower surface or step ups to a higher surface.
5. Drop Sets
Drop sets are great if you have a few different sets of dumbbells, you basically use all of your sets for one exercise. Using a front raise as an example, you could start with 12 pound weights for 10 reps, then drop to 10 pound weights for 10 reps, then 8 pound weights for 8 reps. This is considered a high volume burnout, so I actually wouldn’t recommend doing it for every exercise in your workout. When I program these for clients, I like to use it as a finisher. But a drop set finisher combined with some of the other strategies above would get you a very effective strength workout at home!
6. Unilateral Movement
Your compound, bilateral movements do let you lift more weight, but when you’re limited on the load you have access to, it’s a great time to work on your single arm and single leg exercises. Think: single arm chest press, single arm rows, single leg deadlifts, etc. You may even find that you notice some imbalances that you can work on while you’re at it.
Finally, get CREATIVE! There are so many things that you probably have around your house or in your yard that could be transformed into workout equipment. Use the edge of your kitchen table to do inverted rows. Pick up heavy duffel bags or bags of groceries for deadlifts and carries. Leverage the weight of your kids. Use a cooler as a bench. If you have a swing set in your yard, you can use the swings as suspension in lieu of a TRX. I remember traveling once and using a cinderblock at the AirBnB I was staying at to do single leg deadlifts. Go into your garage or basement and take a look around. I bet you can surprise yourself!!
Hopefully these strategies will help you not only in the short term, but also come in handy in the future – because there will ALWAYS be seasons where we simply can’t get TO the weight room as much as we’d like to! Let’s just hope that the future reasons are for things like busy work phases, or because it makes more sense with your family’s schedule, and not a national health crisis.
Readers, let’s chat! How do you like to keep your home workouts challenging? Which of the 7 tips above have you tried before, and which are new to you?
If you could use some help navigating your workout routine while at home, please do not hesitate to reach out. My virtual services are up and running, and I offer everything from my do it yourself Fit On the Go + Lift On the Go anytime/anywhere workout collection (currently on sale two for the prices of one), to my Empowered Together Coaching Club membership for monthly workouts/challenges – access to me for support + questions – and being part of an encouraging community (might be nice right now if you are feeling kind of isolated), to private one on one coaching.
If you aren’t sure which would be the best for you, book a free 30-minute connection call. I’d love to discuss how I can help right now or customize the right type of program for YOU!