Exercising with less equipment can be liberating. You can train almost anywhere and you don’t have to spend time on all the details of the session. Lift, move, go! Push, pull, squat!
The challenge is continuing to progress with fewer options. You’ll eventually reach a point where you feel like you are doing the same 5 exercises over and over. That’s ok because 1) the basics work and 2) it only takes a little bit of adjustment to break out of that.
I focus on squats on this article because you’ll find yourself doing squats often. They are bang-for-your-bucks, and universally applicable. Below are some ways you can make your squats more challenging when you’ve run out of home weights.
Also, I love squats. 🙂
Do More Reps
The easiest and perhaps most common way to challenge yourself more is to do more reps. This isn’t always the answer, especially if you have the option to go heavier on the next set. If you have used your heaviest weights though, you can add more reps per set. You can also add more sets if your sets are becoming excessively long.
Shorten Rest Interval
Like adding more reps, you can shorten your rest interval to increase the challenge. This decrease in recovery calls on your body to do more work in a fatigued state. Doing the same amount of work in a shorter amount of time shows progress.
Use Different Implements
This advice typically refers to using dumbbells, kettlebells, bands, and barbells. At home, this takes on a whole new meaning. Need more weight? Have a willing kid hanging around? Pick ‘em up and squat! Hold them in your arms like a baby or piggyback. No children or willing partners? Load up a backpack and squat. Wear it backwards for a front squat.
A tempo squat uses a familiar set and rep scheme, the same form, and even the same implement. However, you will vary your pace by going slower at certain parts of the lift. Tempo is commonly written as 4 digits, such as 1010. This means a one second descent, no pause at the bottom, one second up, and no pause before performing the next rep. I commonly use a 5010 tempo, which means a sloowww 5 second descent, no pause at the bottom, then a regular fast ascent. This will quickly spice up a squat set!
Adding a pause at the bottom of a squat is also a great way to increase the challenge without increasing weight. To properly execute a pause squat, you will do a normal squat and dead stop at the bottom. Keep generating pressure so you aren’t wobbling, dipping or rising. Once you have held your pause as long as you need, drive up from that dead stop position. It is important here to NOT dip then drive.
Using the terminology of the last example, a 5 second pause squat would be a tempo of 1510.
Suitcase Deadlift and Offset Loads
A suitcase deadlift is performed by picking up something that is parked on one side of you, like a suitcase. It is an offset load, so the demand on your trunk is to resist the imbalanced pull while. This can be performed like a deadlift or a squat. You can do a suitcase deadlift with one weight, or with two weights that do not weigh the same. Because of the offset load, your trunk works asymmetrically, which is much more of a real life situation than a crunch type movement.
How to Apply These in Your Training
Identify in your sessions where you feel under worked. You can add in one of these exercises and see how it changes your workload. You can also add one of these techniques to the last set of your training. For example, if your goblet squats have been easy, add in a pause squat on the last set. If it’s a good challenge, you can call it a day or repeat that paused set.
Let me know if you have more questions! Get creative and challenge yourself on those home sessions!
About the author
Kathryn Alexander is a strength coach and personal trainer in Austin, Texas. She loves hiking, college football, and the feel of a perfectly knurled barbell. Read more about Kathryn here.