When exercising at home it can be really difficult to work as hard as you would at the gym for many reasons, but one of the main ones being that we are restricted by the selection of weights that we have access to at home. So here I have some tips and tricks of how you can mix up your training to help tailor your workout around your weight selection.
If your weights are slightly too light for you, isometric holds are a fantastic way to increase the intensity of an exercise. An isometric hold is where the muscle is under a static contraction (ie the muscle is under tension, but it doesn’t move). So for example a wall sit is a fantastic quadricep isometric hold as the quadricep is under constant work, but there is no movement of the muscle. However, an isometric contraction doesn’t have to make up the whole exercise, there can just be moments of holding an isometric contraction. For example you could add in an isometric hold during front raises once your arm reaches the top of the movement (ie holding the dumbbell in line with your shoulder for 2-5 seconds)
Another way to increase the intensity of an exercise if the weight’s are too light is to perform negative reps. A negative rep refers to a focus on the eccentric contraction (where the muscle lengthens) of an exercise such as the downward phase of a bicep curl. You want to aim to perform this negative rep in a slower movement than the concentration phase (ie lifting the dumbbell).
A final trick to help increase the intensity of an exercise without heavier weights is to increase the tempo. The tempo of an exercise is categorised into an A-B-C-D pattern where A stands for the concentric phased, B standard for the first pause, C standards for the concentric phase and D stands for the second pause. So using an example to help put this into perspective, if you saw a tempo of 1-3-3-0 for a bicep curl, this means that you will take 1 second to lift the weight from the hip, towards the chest, followed by a 3 second hold at the top of the curl, followed by a 3 second movement to lower the weight from the chest to the hip and finally a 0 second pause at the bottom of the movement. So the slower you can perform the movements and pause phases, the more intense the exercise will become!
On the other hand, you might find that the weight selection that you have is too heavy for particular exercises that you want to perform; if this is the case then you can increase the rest break (pause) between each rep. So for example when at the studio, when faced with 30 seconds of shoulder presses you can usually complete 12 shoulder presses with 6kg in that 30 seconds without any rest. However, if at home you only have 8kg, you might want to only aim for 6-8 reps in that 30 second period to account for the extra weight. So you might want to add in a few seconds rest at the bottom of the shoulder press movement to give your muscles time to recover between reps
Single arm variations
Another way to give your muscles recovery time between reps is to utilise single arm variations. So for example when perform lateral raises, if you only work one side at a time, whilst the active side is performing the exercise, the other side has a little longer to rest and recover before it needs to perform its next rep
Hopefully this gives you some ideas of how to tailor your training around the weight selection you have at home!