7 Ways to Make Your Workouts Harder

by | Mar 19, 2023 | Training

Are your workouts hard enough? 

Are you doing enough to build muscle? Lose weight? Tone up? 

At Complete Performance most of our clients come to us FINALLY ready to chase their body composition goals.  

They trust us with their nutrition.  

They hold on to our accountability.  

But most importantly, they trust us to make workouts challenging enough to help drive results.  

Let’s look at 7 ways to make your workouts more challenging.  

#1 Add Weight 

This is 1 of the 2 most popular ways to level up the difficulty in your workout.  

If your set of 10 feels too easy, grab the next heavier weight.  

But what’s the right weight to use in a warm up? 

Contrary to popular belief, you do NOT need to go to failure on every set.  

In fact, at Complete Performance, we coach our clients NOT to go to failure.  

When choosing your weights, here are our recommendations:

  • In the first set, choose a weight that allows for you to complete the set with 3 to 5 reps in the tank (meaning you could do 3 to 5 more than what was programmed in your set).  
  • Sets after your first should be more difficult.  Ideally, you select a weight that leaves 2 to 4 reps in the tank.   
  • The final set should be your hardest set.  This is where at the completion of your set, you should have 1 to 2 reps left in reserve.  

#2 Add Sets & Reps 

Adding weight is the most popular way, but adding sets and reps is the second most popular way to make your workouts harder.  

10 was too easy? 

Why not do a few more? 

Just be sure you stay near the target range for your goal.  

#3 Decrease Rest 

In an ideal world, we would perform all of our reps fully rested.  

Buuuut that would ultimately limit our overall growth because there’s a point of fatigue you must get to in order to see growth.   

While fully rested, your body is able to provide the resources it needs during exercise.  If you decrease your rest, you’re stressing the muscles, pulling on stored resources and pushing your body past its limits to encourage growth.  

There are a few ways to decrease rest – 

  • Between Reps 
  • Between Sets 
  • Between Training Days 

There’s a catch with this one… 

Do not compromise form! 

Fatigue often leads to a deterioration of form, so know that it’s okay to push the envelope on rest, but do not let it compromise form.  (That would lead to a LONG rest period out of the gym with little progress!)

#4 Change Variations 

Same old, same old gets boring.  

And it definitely won’t get you results for long.  

Changing variations changes the stimulation of the body and encourages growth in new ways.  

When training, there are 7 foundational movements to target in every program: 

  • Squats 
  • Hinges
  • Horizontal Pushes 
  • Horizontal Pulls 
  • Vertical Pushes 
  • Vertical Pulls 
  • Core 

There are HUNDREDS of variations of each of these exercises, so there’s PLENTY of opportunities to change up the exercise for a more challenging variation.  

Here are a few examples with push ups: 

  • Traditional Push Ups
  • Diamond Push Ups
  • Incline Push Ups
  • Decline Push Ups 
  • Banded Push Ups
  • Weighted Push Ups
  • Blast Off Push Ups
  • Push Up to Down Dog 
  • Push Up to Mountain Climber
  • One Hand Elevated Push Up

So, get creative! 

And if you’re not sure where to start, come try out a Complete Performance session in our space or at home! 

#5 Change the Tempo

WOW – Talk about a game changer! 

If you really want to add a challenge to your workouts, change up the tempo.  This improves the mind-muscle connection (leading to better firing of the muscle) and creates different tension within the muscle (changing the burn).  

There are 3 areas in which you can change the tempo: 

  1. Eccentric – The lengthening phase of an exercise.  For example, slowly lowering (3 to 5 seconds) into a squat.  
  2. Concentric – The shortening phase of an exercise.  For example, slowly standing up (2 to 5 seconds) from the bottom of a squat.  
  3. Isometric – The static contraction of an exercise.  For example, holding the bottom position (2 to 5 seconds) of a squat.  

Changing one of these can REALLY level up the difficulty; however, it is possible to adjust more than one in a single rep in tempo reps.  For example, a squat can have a 3 second Eccentric, 2 second Isometric and 1 second Concentric.  

Start by adjusting tempo in one area, and add tempo reps after some practice.  

#6 Combine Styles of Resistance 

If one is good, two is better, right? 

Adjusting the tempo of your reps definitely adds a challenge, but in advanced cases, you might see lifters combining styles of resistance to add difficulty.  This can increase the difficulty by taking a light to moderate intensity of 2 styles of resistance to make for a greater overall intensity of an exercise.  

For example, a bodyweight squat can be leveled up by combining resistance in a few ways: 

  1. A Tempo Goblet Squat
  2. Squat Jump Burn Out 
  3. Barbell Banded Back Squats 

Now, this does come with a BIG asterisk.  

As I mentioned, this is for ADVANCED lifters.  

Wherever you’re at with your journey, take the combination of resistances slowly and seriously to prevent overwhelm and injury.  

#7 Add Finishers 

Let’s say you get to the end of the workout and you’re wishing you would have pushed it a little bit harder today, what should you do? 

One of my favorite ways to add difficulty to your workout is to add a finisher.  

Finishers can be done in a variety of ways, here are some of my favorites: 

  1. AMRAPs – Pick a few exercises, set a time limit and go for as many rounds as possible in that timeframe.  
  2. Metcons – Utilizing the different metabolic pathways in the body to improve the metabolic efficiency.  
  3. Burnouts – Choose 1 or 2 exercises and do as many reps as you can until failure.  

The best way to guarantee your workouts stay challenging and effective is to outsource your programming.  This helps to: 

  • Ensures there’s a challenge and continual stress on the body to promote growth.  
  • Prevents adding TOO MUCH difficulty to risk injury.  
  • And maintains accountability to yourself and your goals.  

If you’re looking to get in and get out with your workouts with the confidence that it will guide you towards the results you desire, CLICK HERE to find out how Complete Performance can help.  

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