Exercise 101- How to Make an Exercise Harder

January 17, 2017


Progressive Overload is a concept that states to make progress in an exercise you must always be making it harder. Generally, we do this by adding more weight to an exercise or adding more repetitions. What if you can’t add weight though? What if you work out at home and don’t want to buy more weights, or are injured and can’t add weight? Does that mean you are doomed to doing hundreds of squats and pushups to make progress? Thankfully there are many ways to make the same movement harder without adding weight or repetitions.


  • Slow down the movement- If it normally takes you 2 seconds to complete a squat repetition, slow your squat down so it lasts 4 or 5 seconds

  • Add a pause to the movement- Squat down and stay at the bottom for a second or two before rising, if doing a shoulder press or pushup stop halfway up and hold it for a second

  • Take a seated movement and perform it standing- If you normally sit on a bench for shoulder pressing, stand up and do it, if you normally use a bench for rows support your own weight standing instead

  • Take a bilateral movement and make it unilateral- Lunge instead of squat, do a 1 sided bench press instead of using both arms (only works with dumbbells), perform a 1 sided row, or a 1 footed deadlift instead of using both legs

  • Find a harder variation for the exercise- Perform an incline bench press instead of a normal one, do a decline pushup instead of a normal pushup, hold a side plank instead of an elbow plank


There are so many ways to change up an exercise and make it harder other than adding more weight or more repetitions so if you feel you need to go buy yourself heavier weights try changing your routine slightly instead. Save yourself some money.

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Lindsee Mugford

PN Level 2 Coach, Canfitpro PTS and FIS



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