If you’re a frequent gym-goer or an advanced lifter, you might assume that it’s impossible to get in a good workout when you’re training at home and don’t have any equipment. That couldn’t be further from the truth, though.
Even if you don’t have a single dumbbell or resistance band to your name, you can still progressively overload your muscles and challenge yourself during your workouts. Read on to learn about some of the most effective strategies you can start using during your next training session.
Slow It Down
Changing up the tempo of your exercises is a highly effective way to make them more challenging without adding any extra weight. During your next workout, think about slowing down the eccentric portion of your go-to movements.
Remember, it’s during the eccentric, or lengthening, portion of an exercise when you build the most strength. Focusing on eccentric muscle contractions can also create more muscle damage and help you to experience more muscle growth.
Some good exercises to slow down and use eccentric training are squats, push-ups, single-leg deadlifts, and reverse Nordic curls.
Instead of lowering your body in these exercises for just one or two seconds, try to increase the lowering time to 3-5 seconds. Each week, try increasing the lowering time by one second. You’ll be amazed at how challenging this is and, as an added bonus, you’ll likely notice yourself getting a lot stronger.
Include AMRAP Sets
AMRAP (short for “As Many Rounds as Possible”) sets are a great option to test your endurance and intensify your workouts. To incorporate AMRAP sets into your workouts, simply challenge yourself to do as many reps as you can of a specific exercise.
Some people like to see how many reps they can do within a specific time frame. For example, they might give themselves 30 seconds to crank out as many push-ups as they can. You can also simply see how many reps you can do with no time constraints at all.
When you’re doing AMRAP sets, remember to only do as many reps as you can with good form. If you’re doing sloppy push-ups or are barely squatting below parallel, you’re not going to see as many benefits from adding these sets to your workouts. You could also be setting yourself up for an injury.
What do you normally do when you reach the bottom position of a squat or lower yourself down all the way to the ground when doing a push-up? If you’re like most people, you probably pop right back up as quickly as you can so you can do another rep.
Instead of returning to the beginning position as fast as possible, what if you paused and spent some time holding the most challenging part of the exercise? This is very difficult to do, especially when you’re doing exercises that might already be a bit of a struggle for you. Holding yourself in that position, though (known as an isometric contraction), is a great way to build strength.
Try holding the bottom of a squat, push-up, or another exercise for two seconds during your next workout. Then, each following week, increase the length of the pause by one second.
Try Supersets and Circuits
Who says you have to rest after every set of an exercise? There are benefits to this style of training, of course, but there are also lots of reasons to switch it up and try something new.
Combining exercises in the form of supersets (performing two exercises back-to-back before resting) and circuits (performing three or more exercises back-to-back before resting) can help you keep your heart rate elevated while working out and challenge your muscles in new ways.
When you’re planning your workouts and decide to incorporate supersets or circuits, it’s important to be thoughtful with regard to the specific exercises you combine. A lot of people seem to just slap random exercises together and, while that’s better than nothing, it’s not as advantageous as a well-planned superset or circuit.
The following are two of the best ways to combine exercises for supersets:
- Opposing muscle groups (e.g., squats followed by single-leg toe touches)
- Compound sets (e.g., sumo squat and glute bridge)
When putting together circuits, you can combine several exercises that target the same muscle group or alternate between different muscle groups for a full-body workout. For example, you might do a circuit that combines exercises like push-ups, squats, and sit-ups to target your whole body, improve your endurance, and fit in a quick workout when you’re short on time.
Rest a Little Less
It’s still important to make rest a priority during equipment-free workouts. That being said, you might be able to get away with resting a little less when doing these kinds of workouts since you’re not moving as much weight around.
If you normally rest for three minutes between sets at the gym, for example, try reducing your rest time to 1.5 minutes between sets. This allows you to keep your heart rate up and helps to prevent boredom. You’ll be able to wrap up your workout and move on with your day a bit sooner, too.
Add Half Reps
Adding a pulse or half rep to your exercises is another way to increase time under tension and challenge your muscles. Instead of rising completely from a push-up after you’ve lowered yourself to the floor, for example, rise up halfway and then lower back down, then push yourself all the way back up.
This extra pulse makes a regular push-up way harder and gives you more bang for your buck. You can use this same approach when doing all kinds of other exercises, including squats, lunges, glute bridges, and tricep dips. You can also combine half reps with some other techniques in this list (such as pauses) for a double whammy.
Change Your Workout Split
When you were working out in the gym, perhaps you followed a traditional “bro split” and trained back and biceps one day, chest and triceps another day, etc. This may have worked well for you in the gym, but you might find that it’s not really translating very well to your home workouts, especially if you don’t have any equipment available.
Instead of sticking to your old workout split, consider trying a new format. For example, you could do two upper-body days and two lower-body days or try 3-4 full-body workouts per week.
Changing up the frequency of your training sessions is a good way to break out of a plateau, and it allows you to experiment with new ways of exercising. Even when you do return to the gym, you might find that you like training a little less frequently, especially if you can get the same results while having more time for other things in your life.
Increase Your Range of Motion
Many people, even experienced exercisers, forget about the benefits of increasing their range of motion while they train.
By elevating part of your body while performing an exercise, you can create a new stimulus for your muscles and get more out of that movement. Deficit push-ups, for example, allow you to lower your body down farther than you’d be able to when doing a regular push-up on the floor.
To try this out, elevate your hands on two books (make sure they’re the same height) while you do push-ups. You’ll find that it’s much more challenging for your chest, arm, and shoulder muscles.
Train in a New Plane
In a typical gym setting, most of us train almost exclusively in the sagittal plane. The sagittal plane splits your body into right and left halves, starting from the top of your head. Exercises like lunges, squats, and biceps curls are all considered sagittal plane exercises.
There are two other planes of motion: the frontal plane (splits your body in half from front to back) and the transverse plane (splits your body in half across your torso). If you’re not training in these planes often (or at all), you’re missing out on a lot of benefits.
Instead of sticking only two reverse lunges or walking lunges, try adding in lateral lunges to improve your frontal plane strength. Consider doing push-ups with a side plank rotation or rotational step-ups, too, to improve your transverse plane strength.
These exercises might feel very challenging at first. Focusing on them will help you to become a more well-rounded athlete, though. They will help you to reduce your injury risk as well.
Intensify Your At-Home Workouts Today
It’s clear that there are lots of things you can do to make your at-home workouts more intense without any extra equipment. Even if you’re using only your body weight, that’s no excuse not to continue pushing yourself and making progress toward your goals.
Do you want more ideas on how you can shake up your at-home workouts? If so, give some of our other blog posts a read today. Start with this one on creating an at-home bodyweight program.