5 minutes reading time (914 words)

Ways to make light weights feel more challenging


If you're one of the many people who are still stuck at home for your workouts, you've probably hit a plateau. You're probably finding the weights you have (lucky) too easy now or you're finding your routine to be going stale. In other words, it's not working anymore and your progress has stalled.

I get it - it's hard to make progress continually at home with limited equipment (and creativity!). Plus, adding a jump, a pulse, or a booty band to everything is not an effective way to make gains.

But do not fear! I have some solutions for you to make those workouts kick your butt again!

Let's me introduce some strategies to further challenge your body with what you already have.

1. Tempos

What is a tempo? Changing up the speed of certain parts of an exercise to increase the time under tension. Tension = gains. You can only produce so much tension using 30lbs for squats. But you can use that tension under a prolonged period of time to create more muscular and metabolic stress.

 Typically the eccentric or downward portion of a movement, where your muscles are lengthening as they contract, will induce the most stress and therefore more adapation. That's why, in the video, I'm slowing down the movement as I lower myself in a goblet squat.

2. Pauses

Pauses could be considered a tempo, but for clarity, I'm listing them as two seperate variations. A pause can be part of a tempo, but also can be a whole new variation in itself. You can increase the length of the pause for really as long as you'd like. You can also pause at any portion of the movement, not just the bottom!

3. One and half reps

Again, we are increasing the time under tension! One and half reps are another great strategy to increase the difficulty of a movement without more weight! 

Why one and half reps instead of tempos or pauses? Tempos typically emphasize one portion of a movement while pauses work the muscles statically or isometrically. With one and half reps, you are constantly in motion, so the muscles are forced to work eccentrically and concentrically, mutiple times per repetition!

4. Increased Range Of Motion

Increasing the amount of range of motion you can do in a movement is another way to spice up an exercise. However, a word of caution: Just because you can go further in a range of motion doesn't mean you should! Stay within your movement capacity where you can maintain good form (neutral spine, knees in line with toes, etc.)

5. Unilateral exercises

Too easy on two legs or two arms? Use just one leg or one arm! This is one of the simplest and most effective ways to increase the difficulty of your workouts. Change squats to single leg squats or lunges. Change bent over rows to one arm rows. Switch planks to single leg planks. Take away one factor of stabiltiy and watch the exercise get spicy!

 6. Isometrics

"What is the difference between these and pauses?"

Isometrics are done for the entirety of a set for time. Pauses are typically done for repetitions within a set.

Isometrics work your muscles statically. There's no movement but your muscles are working like crazy!

Examples include planks, lunge holds, squat holds, wall sits, etc.

7. Repetitions

Want to break a sweat and get those muscles burning? Do all of the reps.

Again, don't mistake doing more reps for doing the same thing as adding load will. Adding load is always going to be the most effective for building muscle and strength. But if you don't have enough weight to use, you can always turn your workout into more of a conditioning routine by doubling or tripling the amount of reps you usually do for a given exercise!

8. Circuits

A circuit is when you take 3 or more exercises and do them back to back with minimal rest for a certain amount of rounds. You can do each exercise for reps, for time, or do as many repetitions as you can within a given time. Circuits are a great way to get a huge amount of work in with limited time. 

Here's a few circuits for you to try!

21-15-9 (Set 1 - 21 reps per exercise; Set 2 - 15 reps per exercise; Set 3 - 9 reps per exercise)

Goblet Squats



3 - 6 rounds

10 Burpees

10 V Ups

15 Devils Press

10 minute EMOM (every minute on the minute) - complete at the top of the minute, rest for the remainder of the minute. Repeat for 10 minutes!

10 burpees

Happy exercising!

About the Author

Laura Su, BS Exercise Science, Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist, Powerlifter, Entreprenuer

I'm just a girl who fell in love with movement in high school and now wants to bring the freedom that exercise brings to everyone else.

I started working out with the desire to look a certain way but eventually found the sense of accomplishment and clarity that training for performance brought. Now I want to help everyone, especially women, to learn how to train and eat for their health and performance and realize that when you do that, the looks you desire are simply a positive side effect.

In my spare time, I enjoy powerlifting, horseback riding, sleeping, and hanging out with my boyfriend. I hope you enjoy my posts and keep reading along!

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