How to Increase the Challenge of Your Home Workouts


One thing is for sure: home workouts aren’t going away any time soon.

With gyms continuing to be closed in many places around the world due to Covid-19, more people than ever are trying to figure out how to work out using their bodyweight or the few pieces of workout equipment they have at home.

Even when gyms do open up, gyms and workout classes will look much different than before the pandemic. My guess is that a significant portion of the population will continue to work out at home much more than before due to convenience, and for some people, fear.

I’ve been training using my bodyweight and a few select pieces of equipment for nearly a decade now, and my workouts don’t look much different than they did before the world turned upside down.

There is so much you can do using your bodyweight, even if you have strength or mass goals (just look at gymnasts for proof).

In spite of this, I’m still hearing a lot of people say they don’t know how to get the same workout they used to do at the gym at home.

If you feel like your home workouts aren’t challenging you enough, or are looking for ways to increase strength, power, or speed while at home, here are several ways to up the challenge.

Add Weight

When looking to make bodyweight workouts more difficult, the first thing most people think of is to add weight.

A few sets of dumbbells, a kettlebell, or a heavy medicine ball are all great options for making exercises like squats, lunges, burpees, and even push-ups more difficult.

And if you don’t have any actual weights sitting around, you can always get creative and make your own. For example:

-Fill a duffel bag with a bunch of heavy stuff and use it as a makeshift sandbag
-Fill up some milk jugs with water to use in place of dumbbells
-Make a weight vest by filling up a backpack with heavy stuff

Although these options can add challenge and variety to your workouts, I highly encourage you to master the full bodyweight version of the exercise first before you try adding any weight.

I can’t tell you how often I see people adding dumbbells or heavy weights to exercises like squats or lunges when they can’t even do basic deep bodyweight squats without struggling.

A basic rule is this: make sure you can do at least ten clean reps of the bodyweight version of the exercise before adding additional weights.

Yes, there are some exceptions. But on the whole, this is a good rule to follow.

If you can’t do the bodyweight version of the exercise, you don’t need to mix in weights just yet.

Add Plyos

My favorite way to make bodyweight exercises more challenging is to add a plyometric element to the exercise.

Plyometrics, also called jump training or plyos, are exercises in which muscles exert maximum force in short intervals of time to improve power. They’re commonly used in sports such as basketball, martial arts, and sprinting to improve performance.

Plyos significantly increase the difficulty level of bodyweight exercises, and are a fantastic way to increase the intensity and efficiency of your workouts. Since plyos never really become easier, they offer an endless challenge—you can always strive to jump higher, further, or faster.

Here are some examples of how to make basic bodyweight exercises into plyometric exercises:

-Bodyweight squats: Squat jumps, broad jumps, snowboarder jumps, squat tuck jump combos
-Push-ups: Push up hops, clapping push-ups, superman push-ups
-Pull-ups: Explosive pull-ups
-Calf raises: Single leg hops, single leg broad jumps

Slow it Down 

Another way to add challenge to bodyweight exercises is to slow down.

Many people rely on momentum during difficult exercises to help them get through the sticking points. Slowing down movements takes away that momentum, making each rep significantly more difficult.

People are often shocked at how much harder a few reps of super slow push-ups are compared to double or even triple the same amount of fast, momentum-using ones.

Just like with plyometrics, you can use the slow down method for pretty much any bodyweight exercise, from squats and pistol squats, to push-ups, to pull-ups.

Another way to use slow reps is to add them in as negatives at the end of each set or use them in place of the full movement if you’re not quite there yet or you want to build up additional strength.

For example, I often use negatives as a way to build up my clients’ strength for pull-ups if they either: A. Can’t do a pull up yet, or B. Want to break through a plateau. Even just a few super slow negatives at the end of each workout can significantly increase strength.

Keep Challenging Yourself

There are endless ways to make bodyweight and home workouts harder and add variety. If you ever find that your workout is too easy for you, you need to find ways to increase the challenge.

Here are the main ways to add a challenge to bodyweight workouts:

-Increase the intensity
-Up the load (by using weights or switching to unilateral movements)
-Change the speed (go faster or slower)
-Increase the length of your actual workout (increase endurance)
-Get creative and use things around the house as equipment (chairs = dip bars, etc.)

Which one you focus on will depend on your individual goals. Ideally, you’ll do a little of each to keep your workouts challenging for years to come.


Need home workout ideas? We have thousands of HIIT and circuit workouts on and in the 12 Minute Athlete app

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