When we’re exercising on our own outside of group training, it can become difficult to spend any more energy creating new routines that’ll keep us motivated. Sometimes there isn’t always the time to explore brand new exercises, so we can begin to get into a rut doing the same circuits or running the same route on a weekend. Conventional thinking is that the only way to alter exercises is to increase weight, sets, or reps – but there’s soooo much more fun you can have! Here are a few ideas that can make your workouts more effective & less boring (both inside and outside of the gym!)
1) Lever length: The human body is a series of levers and, like any other lever, the closer the load to the fulcrum, the easier it will be. You can use this principle to make exercises harder or easier. Think about doing a lateral raise – you start with your arms at your side and raise them with a slight bend until parallel to the floor. To make this exercise easier, you would bend your elbows 90 degrees while performing the exercise. This can be applied to almost any exercise as an upgrade or default.
2) Balance: The gym that I work at used to do group classes that specifically focused on unilateral exercises to challenge our balance. Even now sometimes when I do these exercises, I recognize how I could use some additional work with it. The more balanced you are, the more force you can produce. So when you’re off balance (i.e standing on one leg or doing any unilateral exercise), the exercise becomes more challenging. The easiest way to do this is to stand on one leg, put your feet closer together, or use fun toys like the bosu or stability ball. An added plus is that it ALWAYS gives you a core workout too.
3) Do the opposite: If you’re doing circuits, try switching up the reps & sets. One of my personal favorites is to decrease reps with each set in an elevator format (1st round 20 reps, 2nd round 15 reps, 3rd round 10 reps, and so on….). Another idea is to actually do the opposite. If in total you’re doing 3 sets of 10 reps of goblet squats in a workout, try flipping that and doing 10 sets of 3 reps with an increase in weight.
4) Tempo: Another throwback from group classes at my gym was when there used to be sessions dedicated to power – accelerating and decelerating our movements. This is awesome because it can be applied to bodyweight exercises too…slow motion pushups? Think about exercises in terms of the both the eccentric movement (muscles lengthening) and concentric movement (muscles shortening). Another example of this would be bicep curls – taking 1 second lift the weights up to the shoulders and 3 seconds to descend back down. This can also be used for you runners – sprint 40 seconds/walk 20 seconds.
5) Grip: Notice the difference between doing a bicep curl and a hammer curl or a chin up vs. a pull up. Different grips force the body into different positions so we’re required to use different muscles. Going along with grip, you can also alter your stance while doing an exercise. An overhead press while holding a static lunge is going to throw you off balance just as kneeling while doing the same exercise will also engage the core.
I hope you find these tools helpful for creating your own workouts outside of group training and also keep in mind that we’re always a resource & full of ideas when you need it!
Enjoy your weekly workout challenges featured below!
– Nora Lynch, ACSM CPT & Creator of Luminously Fit 12 Week Fitness Guide