There are so many simple ways to make home workouts heavier and just as challenging as what can be done in the gym. If a gym isn’t accessible to you, or your primary place of exercise is at home, here are eight simple ways to make your home workouts heavier. And thankfully these require no extra equipment! I have also included links to videos or photos of most exercises mentioned.
1. Do all lower body exercise single-legged
Make your home workouts heavier by performing single-legged exercises. Performing single legged (SL) exercises doubles the weight, making the exercise far more challenging. Beyond the added weight, I prefer single leg exercises as a physical therapist because often people have asymmetrical strength from side to side. This is such a simple way to make a home workout heavier, but it is often overlooked! Here are some examples of exercises you can do single-legged:
2. Fill a backpack with books
Make home workouts heavier with a heavy backpack. Most of us have a backpack and books lying around at home. You can wear the backpack in the front or back, or hold it with one or both hands as a weight. Here are some ideas for how to use a backpack with workouts:
- Turkish get-ups (hold the top handle like a kettlebell)
- Bicep curls
- Overhead press
3. Focus on the eccentric muscle contractions
Make home workouts heavier by modifying your lifts with a focus on eccentrics. The eccentric portion of a movement is when the muscle is lengthening against load. For example, when performing a bicep curl, the eccentric portion is when the weight is lowering toward the ground. The eccentric portion of the movement has been proven to produce more force. You can emphasize eccentric movements by performing the movement more slowly and with more control.
4. Find heavy things around the home
Take some time to explore your home for some heavier items. I find that the kitchen hosts many heavy items – from cast iron skillets to crockpots. In fact, I would argue that movements with everyday home items may even be better than weights because they are more functional, daily tasks. We need to maintain our strength so we can carry and lift these items as we age and having the specific strength can help prevent injury. Here are some examples of what you can do:
- Squat to place a heavy item on the floor and bring it back onto the counter top repeatedly.
- Front and lateral raises with a skillet
- Use jugs of water as kettlebells
- Use soup cans as free weights
- Carry heavy things up and down stairs
5. Increase the lever arm while you’re at it
If we compare a 15 pound cast iron skillet and a 15 pound dumbbell, lifting the skillet by the hand will actually cause your muscles to produce more force due to the long lever arm. This concept can be applied to core exercise as well. For example, say you are doing core exercise on your back – leg lifts and lowers will be more difficult with your legs straight than with your knees bent due to the weight of the legs being further away from the core.
6. Find a buddy
You can get really creative with workout partners of all kinds – even pets if their cool with it. A heavier strength workout is as simple as buddying with roommates, husbands, and babies. Here are some examples:
- Leg press: See it for yourself here.
- Squats while holding kids, adults, pets.
- Standing overhead presses while holding kids or pets
- Chest presses while lying down, holding kids or pets.
- Push-ups/Planks: Plank or push-up with someone on your back, or do a stacked plank like this one.
7. Get upside down
With hands on the ground, walk your feet up a wall for an upside down shoulder press (aka handstand push-up). While you’re here, you can walk your arms away and toward the wall, this will engage your core muscles as well. When your arms are walked away from the wall, hold it there for a challenging wall plank. This is a sure way to build a strong upper body and core.
8. When in doubt, rep it out
You can still build strength without the exercise being very heavy – just increase the repetitions. Reps of 15-20 or more will build muscular strength and endurance, but the focus will be endurance. With high repetition exercise, muscles will still increase in girth and grow stronger.
I hope you’ve enjoyed these eight simple ways to make your home workout heavier! Let me know which ones you’ve tried and find me on Instagram to follow my home workouts. If you love creative workouts, check out these posts: