• Nicola Dale

5 Ways to Increase the Intensity of Your Workouts at Home

Working out from home can still pack a punch and bring you impressive results as long as you continue to follow the key principle of Progressive Overload (explained here). In short you want to keep gradually increasing the demand placed on your body in order to continually improve.

In the gym, this is frequently done by upping the intensity of exercises by increasing the weight. At home, the majority of us don’t have access to the same kind of weights as we do in the gym, so we need to get a little more creative in how we up the intensity.

Here are 5 ways in which you can do so:

1. Slow Down - Time Under Tension (TUT)

TUT refers to the amount of time a muscle is held under strain during an exercise. To increase this basically means to slow down the movement. When you rush through an exercise you’re unlikely to move through your full range of motion and engage the muscles properly. You also risk your form going bad which in turn can cause injury. Instead slow down and make your muscles work harder to complete each exercise.

You could do this by controlling the tempo, for example, in a squat count to 4 on the way down and then shoot up in 1. Then to further increase the TUT you could add a pause at the bottom. So, count to 4 on the way down, 1 count pause at the bottom and then 1 count up. You can do this with lunges, press ups, hip thrusts, shoulder presses, all sorts. Have a play around with different tempos for different exercises and see how the intensity of your workouts change.

If numbers aren’t your thing, then just think about taking your time with each exercise and avoid rushing through them. The idea is to be control of the entire movement and not just getting it over and done with.

2. Resistance Bands

A group exercise class using resistance bands for an overhead press

Relatively cheap a set of 3 long bands are £20 on Amazon and a pack of short bands as little as £7.99, meaning they an affordable way to really level up your home workouts.

Bands work by adding resistance to your bodyweight exercises, in a similar way to weights, making movements more difficult. This will help you develop your muscular strength and endurance. The pack of bands will have varying resistance levels enabling you to apply progressive overload to your workouts by moving up to heavier bands over time. Even when you’re using the heaviest band you can then start using multiple bands together to increase the resistance even further.

Resistance bands enable you to add greater variety to your workouts. The Pull movement pattern is near impossible without equipment so that alone is a whole group of movements now available to you with just one little band.

Check out my article on the 6 Foundational Movement Patterns here.

3. Increase Volume

Volume can be increased through a higher number of reps, sets or number of workouts. Perhaps you’re currently doing 3 full body workouts a week but you have time to add in an extra 1 a week. Now you could do 2 Upper and 2 Lower to increase the volume of work on each muscle group, both within the individual session and within the week.

Or, perhaps you’re currently completing 3 sets of 8 reps of most exercises. Start by increasing the reps by 1 or 2 or add another set on to make it 4 sets of 8. You don’t need to do this every week for every exercise. For each exercise, you want the last couple of reps to be difficult but not impossible (unless you’re training to failure). Once the last couple reps start getting easier that’s when you want to add 1 or 2 more.

Aim to work up to rep ranges of 12-15 per set. You could even go up to 20reps but that’s down to personal preference and time available. You don’t want to get bored of your workouts or run out time during them. If you start to get fed up with so many reps, this is where you look to incorporate other methods to increase the intensity.

4. Supersets & Trisets

Supersets are where you perform 2 exercises back to back with no rest. There are many forms of supersets such as pre & post exhaustion, antagonistic and same muscle group. Today I am talking about same muscle group and antagonistic supersets.

Working the same muscle group in a superset makes the muscles used work harder and fatigues them quicker. For example, you could superset a Goblet Squat with a Reverse Lunge to really fire up the quads. You’ll find it’s harder to do the same amount of reps you do when perform the exercise in isolation as your placing a higher demand on the body.

Antagonistic supersets are where you work opposing muscles back to back. For example, Bicep curls superset Tricep dips, or Press Ups superset Bodyweight Rows (both of these are push pull supersets – refer to the 6 Foundational Movement Patterns). In the same muscle group supersets above you need to make sure you’ve got enough left in the tank to complete the second exercise using the same muscles. In the Antagonistic supersets you can push the first muscle to its limits and then still follow it up with the next exercise. Using this technique means you can increase the volume of your workouts but still keep them with in a reasonable amount of time.

Trisets are where you perform 3 exercises back to back. Again, you can do this with any muscle group, and either work the same muscles in each exercise or different ones. I like to use Trisets for my core work, my favourite being Russian Twists, Dead Bugs and Plank Shoulder Taps.

5 men and women in a CrossFit class using plyometric training to jump onto boxes

5. Add Jumps or ½ Reps and Pulses

Adding jump training to your workouts (also known as plyometric training) can help you build strength, power, speed and agility without needing any equipment. Plyometric movements are quite intense and ramp up your heart rate so it’s also a good way of mixing in your cardio with your strength training. However, if you’ve got bad joints, an injury, a previous injury that still causes you some trouble or anything that requires you to stick to low impact movement then please consult a professional before trying any kind of plyometric training as it likely won’t be suitable for you.

½ Reps and Pulses are another way of increasing the intensity of movements, without increasing the impact. Adding in these movements will increase the time under tensions (as mentioned in the first point) placing a bigger demand on your muscles. An example of a pulse is; at the bottom of a squat slightly pulse/bounce for a set number of counts before driving back up to standing. A ½ rep would be where from the bottom of the Sumo Squat you come half way back up, back down and then drive up to standing.

And there you have it, 5 ways to increase the intensity of your workouts at home. Let me know which ones you’re going to try.

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