I might be writing this for my purposes only because I can’t imagine there are many
nutters people out there who are after tougher workouts, but you never know.
When you’re training you’ll invariably get to a point where an exercise that was challenging only a few weeks ago, has suddenly become really easy. So what do you do?
In the last blog post I wrote about how you can progress your home workouts even with light weights but this time I’ll show you how to individually take each exercise further, to enhance your strength from exercises you enjoy and want to develop further.
Because let’s face it, we’re too quick to hop from exercise to another and sometimes it’s best to keep to an exercise and just vary it slightly to add another twist to it and make it more challenging.
Changing the angle
Increasing the range of motion of each movement makes it more challenging, putting further stress and demand on our muscles. Changing the angle means we’re changing how our body moves that load through space and those small and subtle changes can drastically change the tension and the range of motion through the muscles.
Take a split stance squat for instance. Lifting the back leg up, to make it a rear foot elevated split squat increases the range of motion through the front knee. This extended range of motion then increases your central nervous systems (CNS) neural drive meaning your quads, glutes and hamstrings recruit more muscle fibres. And of course, the more muscle fibres you can recruit, the more damage to that muscle. Similar can be said for raising your front foot up on a step too.
Have a look at the three variations below and see if you can spot the difference of depth, and angle of movement in the front standing leg:
Alright, this is fairly obvious but by increasing the reps or sets with a given exercise will of course, place more stress on your body and therefore improve your strength. But only if you work to an amount of [volume that stimulates it.](https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6303131/#:~:text=The present study indicates that,highest versus lowest volume condition.)
What I mean by that is if you’re doing 3 sets of 10 squats with an 8kg kettlebell and you’ve been doing those same sets and reps for months, it’s time to switch it up. Aim for 3 sets of 12, 15, or 20 over the coming months. Volume is sets x reps x load and if we take the above example of squats with an 8kg kettlebell your volume of that exercise will look like this:
3 x 10 x 8 = 240kg
Now if you wanted to get stronger in your squats you’d prioritise increasing your volume to improve your strength, so a small increment in your reps to 12 would have this impact…
3 x 12 x 8 = 288kg
A general rule of thumb would be to aim for a 10-20% increase in volume week on week, small but manageable and not too taxing on your joints.
Alternatively, you could do that exercise more frequently throughout the week, with a slightly different rep range to work different intensities.
If on Monday you complete 3 sets of 12 squats with an 8kg kettlebell and on a Thursday you perform the same exercise, but instead do 2 sets of 15 with the 8kg kettlebell, you’ve effectively almost doubled your volume for the week.
Incorporate mechanical drop sets
When you’re short on time and equipment, mechanical drop sets (MDS) can be a great way to get more volume in, with an added intensity. Unlike normal drop sets where you complete a set, drop the weight, complete another set and then repeat once more on MDS you maintain the same weight but alter the grip, foot position or angle of the movement. With each drop set you perform, you make the exercise easier than before so you can do more work with the same weight.
If we take the exercise above, of a split squat we could use the following 3 exercises:
• Depth RFE Split Squats • RFE Split Squats • Split Squats
Do this on one leg, repeat on the other side with no rest in between then collapse on the floor in a heap and contemplate your life’s decisions…
You can do this as a stand alone workout, if you’re short on time or as a finisher to target more metabolic stress.
These are of course just 3 ways to further progress individual exercises and there are many more I could list, but these are the ones I use most frequently.
I’d say enjoy, but unless you’re sadistic, I don’t think you will. Either way, you’ll get stronger using these 3 variations, keep your workouts fresh and improve your physique over time.
You don’t have to use these all the time, but they’re an awesome way when you feel fresh and feel like you could do a little more than usual.