Adding Variety & Challenge to Your Home Workouts
Having trouble staying interested in your home workouts? Wondering how you can change it up or increase the challenge? Maybe you only have a few small pieces of equipment to use.
Luckily, there are plenty of ways to change it up! Even with only your body weight, you can still get a fantastic workout at home using some of the following variations.
Let's jump right in!
First up - Unilateral Movements
Unilateral means you work one side/limb at a time. You can increase your stability, intensity and really connect with the muscle you are targeting as well as up the challenge of the movement! Bonus, this also helps with muscle imbalances from side to side.
For example: Let's take the Single Leg Romanian Deadlift. You have to focus on keeping your balance, connect more with the standing/working leg and use perfect form to pull it off. Ground your foot firmly into the ground and really flex the hamstring and glute to stabilize yourself and complete the movement.
You can start with using a kickstand stance, then work your way up to lifting the non working leg behind you. Always hold onto to something if you feel too unstable.
You can add dumbbell or kettlebell to one or both hands or even try a band! Step onto the band using the loops as if they were dumbbells. The resistance will be amazing for building muscle and adding another dimension of intensity!
Other common unilateral exercises are: One arm overhead press, bicep curls, tricep exercises, various shoulder moves, pistol squats, leg press, extension and curls (for use with machines), one arm chest press, one arm dumbbell rows, one arm pulldowns...You get the point :) You can EASILY target one side of your body which makes this a great option for adding variety to your workouts.
Up Next - Increase Your Time Under Tension
Time under tension means the amount of time you spend in the eccentric or concentric part of the movement. So if you were to squat down more slowly you would have to engage your muscles longer to complete the movement which is an increase in intensity and gainz!
Here are 5 ways to increase your time under tension (TUT):
Tempo: Slow down the tempo. You will have to think about what you're doing and engage your muscles more.
For example: Let's take a Romanian Deadlift (bilateral - both legs) and add tempo to it. Lower count 1,2,3; No pause at the bottom; Lift for 1; Squeeze at the top for 1. You would see this written as 3011.
Tempo Breakdown: The first number denotes the eccentric part of the movement - how quickly you lower the weight. The second number denotes how long you stay in the bottom position. The third number denotes the concentric (lifting) part. The fourth indicates how long you are in the top of the movement.
So we spend a count of 3 lowering the weight or our body forcing more engagement of the muscles as we keep our balance. There is no rest at the bottom and we spend only a count of 1 lifting and squeeze at the top for a count of 1. This looks like a slow lower and fast lift up.
I love using tempo in squats, back movement, leg extensions and leg curls.
At Home: Tempo'd squats with or without weight, RDL's, Chest Press or Pushups, Lunges, any and all ab movements work well slowed down.
Isometric Holds: Isometrics holds are shown to increase strength in the flexed muscle and
beyond. Using them in certain points of a movement/lift can help you gain strength in a sticking point. They are useful in rehabilitation and require only body weight to perform (though, of course, you can add weight).
For example: Planks. The old standby! Hold a plank for 10-30 seconds and feel your body tense and shake as it works to hold you in place. Almost everyone has done this and understands how hard it is to simply hold your body up correctly! And this is why standing around flexing your muscles is useful as well as fun ;)
At Home: Try movements such as Prone Cobra, IYT's, Glute Bridge Holds, Crab Pose Hold, Isometric Lunges. Hold them for 5-30 seconds. Promise - you'll be shaking!
1/2 Reps: Immediately challenge your control and stability plus add volume for...you guessed it...increased time under tension and intensity.
For example: Take the chest press. You could do this as bench, incline or machine press.
1/2 Rep Breakdown: Starting at the bottom, perform one full rep then press weights half way up and lower for your half rep. You can also add the 1/2 rep at the top. For this, we would start our movement at the top. Lower the weights all the way and press back up for your complete rep. Then lower only half way; press back up to complete the 1/2 rep.
At Home: 1/2 reps are excellent to add into any movement where you'd like to build extra strength in either the concentric or eccentric portion of that movement. Squats, Shoulder Press, Chest Press, Lunges. You can do bicep and tricep 21's where you do 7 full reps, then 7 reps mid way down, 7 reps mid way up. It's a killer challenge!
Note: I don't recommend ONLY doing 1/2 reps ever for any movement. Full range of motion is always going to build more muscle, improve your overall strength, balance and coordination, keep up joint health and prevent the risk of injury from weakness in a point of your range.
Pulse: Smaller than a 1/2 rep, this is a short, quick, constant movement that keeps you squeezing the engaged muscle.
For example: A pulse at the top squeeze of a glute bridge will increase the intensity and challenge to not just your glutes but your core as well. You may have performed pulses in barre/pilates style workouts, pulsing in a squat or lunge.
At Home: Add a few pulses at the bottom of your squat, or in a stationary lunge going deep enough to hit your end range then lifting a few inches. Your muscles will be awake then! Great for adding onto the end of a workout for an extra burn.
Pause: Adding a pause is slightly different than tempo because you add a pause anywhere in the movement. They are useful at the bottom of movement (eccentric) or in a sticking point.
Example: Take the squat. Lower to bottom of squat. Hold with tension (not relaxed) for a count of 2 or 3 seconds, lift. Your muscles spend more time engaged in that position where most of the time we tend to bounce back up. I also like these with deadlifts. Pausing right at the beginning of the concentric portion teaches you to get the glutes and hamstrings engaged so you don't ruin your lower back. For a real time example, if I'm using weight for RDL or Deadlift, I p
ick the bar/dumbbells up a few inches, pause for 2 then continue the lift. Of course, use an appropriate so you are engaging the correct muscles safely (glutes and hams) and not blowing your lower back.
At Home: Try this with a squat, RDL, and back movements.
Bonus Tips! You can add more volume/more reps as well to increase the time under tension; helpful if you only have light weights at home. However, this can be a little monotonous, so adding in one or more of the variations above can replace doing 15-20 reps of everything all the time. Additionally, you can alter your rep scheme and rest times. Perform a ladder of reps increasing or decreasing: 1st set - 8 reps, 2nd set - 10; 3rd - 12 etc. And/Or decrease your rest time. If you have only light weights and they seem to easy, shorten your rest time to 30-45 seconds between sets (or superset movements) to fatigue the muscle faster.
You can use all of these variations in the gym as well!
Well, there you have it! Many ways to stir things up in your home workouts. Try adding a combo of these variations to your current routine!
Till next time!
Coach Abby O.
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