I consider myself very lucky to get to work with people with all different fitness levels, experiences and goals. Because of the online training I do, I also get to work with people in many different locations with access to different equipment than I may have in my gym.
Therefore I constantly have to think of new ways to work the body and challenge people.
And that is AMAZING. Because all too often we get stuck doing things ONE WAY.
Same exercises. Same way of making them harder. Same rep ranges. Same set ranges. Same rest. Same tempos. Same same same same same!
And that isn’t a bad thing. You don’t have to go crazy or try every newfangled thing that comes out.
But as trainers, we constantly have to be thinking and adjusting to make things work for all sorts of people in all sorts of situations. (Or if you travel a lot and work out in different places or with limited equipment this may just help you too.)
Which is why I was excited when I got into a discussion with one of the trainers I mentor about making glute bridges more challenging when she only has very light weights.
So I asked her…How can you make the glute bridge more challenging if the weight you have is no longer difficult for the client?
She looked at me and said, “Add more reps?”
And I agreed that was potentially an option. Increasing or reducing the volume is a valid way to mix up workouts.
But I said, “What else?”
I knew she knew more options, but so often we get stuck thinking about the problem in the same way….Which is exactly what happened to this bright and wonderful trainer.
She was so used to having a full gym with plenty of weights to make her weighted glute bridges more challenging that she didn’t really think about how else to progress the movement.
So I told her to think about different variations of the bridge to make the light weight or the basic bridge more challenging for her client…
Here is the list we then came up with to make a Weighted Glute Bridge (with too light a weight or even no weight) more challenging:
- Single leg without weight from the ground.
- Single leg with the weight.
- Single leg without the weight off the box.
- Thruster with your back on the box.
- Thruster with weight.
- Thruster, single leg without weight.
- Thruster, single leg with weight
- Thruster with feet raised.
- Thruster, single leg with feet raised.
- Thruster with feet raised with weight
- Thruster, single leg with feet raised with weight (although being very careful)
- Change up tempo.
- Slow down the bridge up.
- Slow down the hold at the top.
- Slow down the lower back down.
- Slow down all three pieces. Or just one or two. Or use different tempos on each. Maybe do explosive up, hold at the top and slow down.
- Pulse at the top or bridge up, lower halfway down, then back up then all the way down.
- Try shorter rest between sets so she can’t fully recover and the weight is more challenging.
- Place her feet on an unstable surface.
- Add in other equipment…If you have towels or sliders, try using those for a bridge and curl with or without the weight…
And we could have gone on. (For instance, we could have even added in all the other bridge variations out there….)
And while some of those had weight, they were meant to use the weight she had on hand. They were variations she could do with the client based on what she had access to.
She didn’t need to skip the exercise, especially since glute bridges are ESSENTIAL. She just had to find another way to make it challenging without our normal go to of “add more weight.”
Same goes for so many of the basic moves we do. All too often we think “add weight” or “do more.” But those aren’t the only ways to add variety to our workouts or challenge ourselves…Especially when we don’t have more time or access to weights.
Don’t have heavy weights but love deadlifts? Try a single leg deadlift! You will need lighter weights than with a bilateral movement.
Weights still too light? Or maybe you don’t have any weights at all. SLOW DOWN THE TEMPO. Try hinging over toward the ground for a five count and then quickly coming back to the top. OR try a slow lower over and then an explosive movement back up with even a jump off the ground as you come back up (aka a single deadlift hop).
OR try only loading down one side to make the movement more unstable.
Or try doing as many reps as possible in a set amount of time and then rest very briefly before repeating. Shorting the rest period gives muscles less time to recover meaning they are already fatigued when we begin again….Which can be good if we aren’t going for a one rep max or even trying to increase weight each round.
Sometimes even how you pair exercises together can make an easier exercise more challenging because you can then use that movement as a way to “burn out” the muscle after it is already fatigued.
Also, traditional weights aren’t the only pieces of equipment that make exercises more challenging. A homemade slosh pipe or even a milk jug filled with water can be great unstable weights.
Or if you are traveling and need a way to make exercises more challenging (with something you can fit in your suitcase), suspension trainers, resistance bands, mini bands, sliders/towels/valslides are all easy transportable pieces of equipment to make exercises more challenging.
Anyway, the point is, you don’t need a barbell or dumbbells to make exercises more challenging. Heck, you don’t even need equipment truly (although it can make things more fun).
All you need to do is BE CREATIVE! Explore other options. Change up other exercise variables…that is besides just reps or weights!