Making Body Weight Exercises Challenging

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The last time we found ourselves in this situation of being locked down and stuck away from our usual gym equipment, I wrote a bit about some ideas for things to do at home which you can find HERE.

This time around, I want to get a bit more specific about how to keep making progress, even if the only thing you have to work with is the ground and your body.

My Top 3 Ways to Challenge Yourself Without Adding Weight

1. Do More Reps

This is probably the simplest way to add some challenge if you don’t have enough weight to challenge yourself at the usual number of reps you’d have in your plan. We’ve all experienced that feeling of doing 4-6 heavy, challenging reps where it’s difficult right from the beginning. With significantly less weight, it might take 15, 20, 30 reps to find that same level of fatigue. That’s ok. Unique situations call for unique solutions. I wouldn’t program a set of 20 or 30 reps under normal circumstances but these circumstances are far from normal, so we do what we have to do to keep moving forward.

2. Change the Tempo

This one will sneak up on you, but there is loads of benefit to be found in messing with the tempo of your exercises. The best part is, you can keep this quite fresh, as you have a ton of options. You can go faster. You can go slower. You can do it on the way up. You can do it on the way down. You can do both! This takes a bit of pressure off to come up with new exercises to keep things fresh as well. For example, doing a squat rapidly, for instance as many as possible in 20 seconds, feels like a completely different exercise than counting 5 seconds on the lowering portion, pausing for 5 seconds at the bottom, and taking 5 seconds to return to standing. That’s just an example. You can apply that principle to a ton of different exercises.

3. Remove Stability

This is one of my favourites, but it’s also one I see misused more than the others, so you have to make sure what you’re doing makes sense. I’ll use a split squat as an example because that’s probably the easiest to progress this way. Doing it the traditional way with both feet on the ground is a good start. Progressing from there you can elevate your back foot onto a bench or bar. You can put your front foot on a balance pad or the round side of a BOSU ball. At home, you can put your back foot on a skateboard if you have one laying around. (Front to back OR side to side, or diagonal! Get creative).

Some things to avoid in this category are the exercises where you’re standing on something with both feet and balancing that way. That doesn’t have a ton of carryover benefit to what we do on the ice, but the single leg stuff is great.

Give some of these concepts a try next time you go through a workout at home. They’re some great ways to add to the challenge of an exercise without adding to the wear and tear on your body.

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