Exercising on your own without the direction of a fitness professional whether you are in the gym or at home can pose many difficulties for the average exercise enthusiast. One obstacle in particular is how to increase or decrease the difficulty of exercises in accordance with your needs. There are plenty of fitness magazines, DVDs, and websites that have amazing work-outs for you to try but with little time spent on how to modify said exercises.
With the following “exercise spectrum” you can easily adapt every exercise to your needs along your fitness journey.
How to make exercises more challenging:
1. Utilizing your full range of motion.
Every joint has a natural range of motion. This range can be influenced by muscle strength and flexibility. You can increase your range of motion (within reason) by beginning each workout with a dynamic warm up. for example, squats, side steps, reverse lunges, walk outs, and calf raises. This gets the body ready for the exercises to come.
Squats for example can be executed in a shallow range of motion depending on fitness level and joint flexibility. As you improve you will be able to move through a greater range of motion. To increase the difficulty of your squats start performing each repetition within your fullest range working towards bringing the thighs parallel with the floor.
2. Increase weight.
To avoid plateaus you will need to increase the weight you are lifting along with increasing the intensity of each exercise. However, it is important to remember as you increase weight you may need to decrease the amount of repetitions you are executing.
3. Add quarter repetitions otherwise known as pulses to your sets.
Once you are in the most difficult position of an exercise you can add in small pulses to increase the difficulty. Lets us the push-up for example. A push-up by bringing the chest towards the floor and slightly pulsing the body up towards the beginning position. Once you have completed your set of pulses you can push back up into the starting position and begin full range of motion push-ups again.
4. Increase explosiveness.
To increase explosiveness you will again need to find your way to the most difficult portion of the selected exercise. Lets use lunges as an example.
You step forward into your lunge bringing the knees to 90 degrees. From this point push off the floor to switch legs through a jump. You land with the opposite foot forward legs at 90 degrees again. Continue with this jumping progression for a full set.
5. Decrease points of stability.
Exercises become more difficult when you also have to balance yourself. For example, performing biceps curls standing on both feet is not very difficult. However, performing biceps curls balancing on one leg on top of a Bosu ball is quite challenging. Decreasing stability while exercising increases muscle recruitment, increases the difficulty and increases calorie burn.
How to make exercises less difficult:
1. Decrease weight.
The less amount of weight you are lifting the easier the exercise becomes. Decreasing weight also allows you to increase the number of repetitions performed increasing muscular endurance.
2. Decrease range of motion.
Depending on flexibility and strength you may not be able to work through a full range of motion for every exercise which decreases the difficulty.Lets use squats again as an example.
A person with weakness or lack of flexibility in the quadriceps and hip flexors can perform a squat in half the range of motion or quarter the range of motion. This would mean you are not activating the muscles as much as when you perform a full squat.
3. Increase points of stability.
By sitting down, standing on two feet, and standing on stable ground you are decreasing the amount of muscles that need to activate to keep the body stable for any given exercise. Performing exercises with secure stability allows you to focus on a single muscle group rather than many muscle groups.
4. Decrease lever length.
The length of your lever increases the difficulty of any given exercise. Push-ups are a good example of this. Performing modified or wall push-ups decreases your lever length. In other words the length of your body you need to push is shorter which decreases difficulty. Contrarily, elevating your feet increases your lever length in the push-up position making the action more difficult.
5. Increase rest time.
The longer you take in between sets the more time your muscles have to recover. Taking longer breaks, sitting down, and drinking plenty of water in between sets will decrease the difficulty of the following sets.
Every person can benefit from daily physical activity. Using these simple steps will ensure you exercise within the confines of your unique fitness level and body. Starting with the modified version of exercises will allow you to work up the spectrum to the most difficult versions of exercises in no time.