Seven Ways to Make Your Weight Routine More Challenging (Without Adding Weights)

By Kate Harveston – January 1, 2020

Whether you want to start the new year fresh or shake up your gym schedule, maybe you need a change in the weight room. Luckily, you can increase the intensity factor with a variety of methods.

Want to amp up your weight workout without adding more pounds? It’s possible. Incorporate the seven tips below into your routine, and you’ll enjoy a heavy dose of sweat without grunting over dumbbells.

1. Incorporate Compound Movements
Compound movements require you to engage more than one muscle group at the same time. A classic example is combining a squat with an overhead press to work both your lower and upper body.

Other examples of compound movements include:

-Kettlebell swings: Stand with your feet wide and your knees slightly bent. Grasp the kettlebell in both hands and let it hang between your legs. Swing the weight up to your mid-chest, then gently lower it.
-Lunges with biceps curls: Hold a medium dumbbell in each hand. As you step forward into your lunge, curl your biceps.
-Bridge and chest press: Lie on your back with your knees bent. Press down with the soles of your feet and elevate your hips. With a dumbbell in each hand, press up to perform a bench press.

2. Walk and Stretch Throughout 
Do you separate your cardio and flexibility training from your weights? If so, save time by using rest periods wisely. As a bonus, you’ll decrease your chance of injury by performing recovery movements.

Walking and gentle stretching is key to keeping your back healthy when weightlifting. In between sets, walk a lap around the weight room. Stretch your legs after squats, and open your chest after each round of bench presses.

3. Play with Rhythm and Tempo 
How do you count when you lift weights? If you push for a count of two, change your timing. For an eccentric phase, press for a count of three, then quickly retract. Reverse this to during the contraction on your next set.

Too fast? Try a tempo of four or five, which is slower but offers an excellent burn.

4. Add Isometric Holds 
You don’t need weights to perform isometric exercises. Plus, you’ll get an excellent strength workout. For this technique, you should flex your muscles without moving them away from your midline. Planks are a prime example. You’re not moving much, but you’re blasting your core.

You can incorporate isometric holds into your weight workouts. When performing biceps curls, for example, stop and pause halfway up, when your elbows are at 90 degrees. You can practice stop and hold with nearly any movement.

5.  Incorporate Explosive Movements 
You can perform 20 squats with two 10-pound hand weights — but can you add a hop?  Explosive movements work your fast-twitch muscle fibers, which make you look cut without adding bulk.

When practicing forward lunges, add some power into the mix by jumping when you switch legs. Work your upper body by tossing a light medicine ball a few inches above your head. Catch it as you dip into a slight squat.

6.  Challenge Your Balance 
Perhaps you can perform forward raises with your eyes closed. Yet can you do them while balanced atop of a Bosu ball? Adding a balance challenge to your weight workout incorporates core training. It also engages opposing muscle groups to keep you upright.

You can stand on a Bosu or pillow to lend instability. If you don’t have either, try perching on one leg while you complete alternating biceps curls or overhead presses.

7. Amp Up Your Repetitions 
If you want to work out harder without increasing the weight, try amping up your repetitions. Instead of performing 12 bench press movements per set, move it to 15.

High repetitions allow you to sculpt lean muscle without adding bulk. At the end of your routine, however, you’ll still feel the burn. Does 15 feel too easy? Bump the number to 20 or 25.

Increase Your Weight Room Intensity Without Adding Bulk 

If you want to fire up your weight routine without adding plates to your bar, you’re in luck. Follow these easy tips and you can improve your fitness without adding extra pounds!


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