If you’ve been following me, you know the past two months were stressful due to my home renovation (which came out beautiful, btw). I also had some deadlines due during this time. So between running to home depot all the damn time, dealing with contractors, my house being a mess, managing my workload and trying not to lose my mind, I didn’t make it to the gym as often as I would’ve liked.
BUT! I still managed to workout. When I wasn’t able to make it to the gym, I did several quick home workouts which you can see on my Instagram (follow me: @ms_fitgeek). Home workouts are great for beginners because when you’re just starting out you don’t need much equipment. And they are also a godsend when you’re crunched for time. Nothin’ like squeezing in a quickie 😉
However, people who are a little more advanced with their fitness might shy away from home workouts because they’re not as challenging without heavier weights. This was the situation I found myself in, but I’m all for adaptation and learning to roll with the punches. Plus, I love figuring stuff out. So I embraced the challenge of putting together home workouts that required minimal equipment but were still changing for my level.
So how do you make your workout harder without adding (much) more weight? There are a few ways…
A negative rep means performing the eccentric part of the lift slowly. WTF does that mean? Basically, it’s when you force yourself to go slow on the portion of the exercise where you are normally going with gravity. So for example, with a squat the eccentric portion is when you are lowering your butt to the floor. With a push-up it’s when you’re lowering your chest to the floor. With a pull-up it’s when you’re coming down from the bar. With a curl it’s when you’re lowering your hands down to your hips. The opposite of eccentric is concentric, which is where the contraction happens: when you bring the weight up to your chest in a curl, when you push yourself up from the floor in a push-up, etc. So to perform a negative rep you would do the eccentric part slowly, aiming to have it last three to five seconds.
This is a great method for building strength and muscle, however it is very taxing. I would say only include one to two negative exercises in a workout. You will most likely be sore AF the next day.
Whatever you can do with two limbs is significantly harder with one. Some examples would be: Pistols (my favorite), one arm push-ups (I can’t even do these on my knees), one arm pull-ups and single-leg deadlifts, which are great for developing your hamstrings. If you have dumbbells you can also alternate reps to make the exercise a sort-of single-limb movement. So for a shoulder press, you would lift one arm at a time instead of both at the same time. Same for a chest press.
A pause rep is when you pause for about three seconds at the point of contraction, which is usually at the bottom of the lift. So, a pause squat would be pausing when you’re sitting at the bottom of the squat. For a chest press it’s when the weight is at your chest. For a deadlift it would be right under your knee. These are killer and also challenging with lighter weight.
Change the angle or elevation
If an exercise feels too easy, you can play with the angle to make it more difficult. For push-ups, you can elevate your feet or try doing a pike push-up. For a chest press, increase the incline of your back. So instead of doing them on a flat bench you can do them on an incline bench at about 45 degrees. Bulgarian split squats use both single limb and elevation. For an inverted row, the more parallel you get to the floor the harder it becomes.
A circuit is when you do one exercise after another with very little rest in between. This is more of a cardio tactic, but it will leave you gassed without having to use heavy weight or much equipment. For example, you would do 10 push-ups, 10 squats and 10 rows one after another, rest for a minute, then repeat 2 or 3 more times.
A complex is when you combine two or more exercises. There are a ton of possibilities, but commonly used complexes are deadlift to row or thrusters (front squat to shoulder press).
With that said, I’ve included a beginner’s level full-body home workout, and a more advanced version below it.
Perform 10-15 reps of each exercise, then move on to the next exercise. Rest 1 minute after you finish the last exercise, then repeat 2 more times. The only equipment you will need is a pair of dumbbells and a band. For beginners the dumbbells should be about 5-15 lbs.
Push-ups – You can do these on your knees. Just make sure your back is straight and your butt isn’t sticking up in the air. The video linked below for negative push-ups is a beginner’s variation so you can try that too.
Lunges – Can be with or without weight. Do 10-15 reps per leg.
Romanian deadlifts w/dumbbells
Shoulder press – You can do these seated or standing.
Perform 8-12 reps of each exercise, then move on to the next exercise. Rest 1 minute after you finish the last exercise, then repeat 2-3 more times. The only equipment you will need is a pair of dumbbells and a band. For beginners the dumbbells should be about 15-35 lbs.
Negative push-ups – Go slowly as you lower your chest to the floor. It should take three to five seconds for you to lower yourself. The video instructs you to lower your knees to the floor before you lift back up. If you are more advanced you can skip that part and push-up without any leg assistance.
Paused goblet squats – hold 3 seconds at the bottom)
Pull-ups – Can use a band assist
Pistols or single-leg sit down to bench – Do 8-12 reps per leg.
Pike push-ups – to make these harder, put your feet on a bench
Single-leg deadlift to row – For these, I would recommend doing one romanian deadlift and one row. Reset, then do another romanian deadlift and row. Repeat for up to 12 reps. You can see an example of me doing it here.
If some of the modifications in the advanced version are too hard you can also mix and match from the beginner’s version. Try it out and let me know what you think 🙂