8 Ways to Make an At-Home Workout Harder (Without Any Equipment)

Sometimes when it comes to workouts we have an all or nothing attitude. We try to make moving our bodies so complicated that we miss the point all together. The goal is to challenge your muscles to the point that they are forced to build back even stronger, therefore giving yourself a more capable body for whatever goals or aspirations you might have.

But…without a gym, weights, a personal trainer, or any equipment, I hear a lot of people say that they can’t challenge themselves enough to make it ‘worth it.’ Well, if you were to come over to my house for a workout, I bet I could change your mind.

Here are 8 ways to tailor an at-home workout to your specific ability level:

1. Lengthen the Lever

Whenever you bend or twist a part of your body you are creating an axis or a pivot. The arm or arms coming off of the pivot are your levers. The longer a lever is in a strength workout, the more challenging the workout will become.

Most of the time we can lengthen or shorten the levers by simply straightening or bending our arms or legs. If you want an even greater challenge you can hold something in your hands. It doesn’t have to be exercise equipment. It could be a book.

Example: In a hollow hold (like the photo below) your hips are the pivot because that is the contact with the ground. You can place your hands by your side to make the lever shorter or you can place your arms up by your ears thereby extending the lever beyond your head.


2. Limit The Base of Support

Limiting the base of support not only requires you to add balance and stability into the exercise but it also adds more weight on the remaining base. This will not only make the workout more physically demanding, but also requires you to stay mentally present. Just make sure you do both sides of your body.

Example: A simple example would be to make a squat into a single leg squat or even a pistol squat. Instead of the weight being transferred through 2 legs, now 1 leg is doing all of the heavy lifting. Another example would be a plank. In most plank exercises, you have at least 4 contact points with the ground. Lift one hand and now you have 3. Lift a hand and a foot and now you have two. Those variations are limiting and base of support and making the exercise more challenging.


3. Multi-Joint and Single-Joint Exercises

In At-Home Workouts or workouts without equipment you should be focusing on both single-joint and multi-joint exercises. Multi-joint exercises are exercises that require the movement of the body at 2 or more different joints. These workouts are generally considered to be more functional and more adaptable to real-life strength.

On the contrary, single-joint exercises will be more challenging to complete in an at-home setting without equipment. They only strengthen the muscles around one joint which means they isolate that single muscle. They are less functional.

Example: An example of a multi-joint exercise would be a lunge. An example of a single joint exercise would be a calf-raise.


4. Isometric and Dynamic Movements

Isometric exercises are exercises in which your muscles do not shorten or lengthen and you are not moving. These exercises help to form stability within the body and are great to help you catch your breath in the middle of your workout without actually allowing your muscles to recovery. Dynamic movements are exercises in which you are moving. These exercises can help to strengthen and create a cardiovascular response.

Example: A side plank is an example of an isometric exercise and jump squats would be an example of a dynamic movement.


5. Slow Down

Slow down while doing your exercises! I know it’s tempting to blast through each set and rep, but a slower approach will help to create a greater tension on your muscles. This can be especially beneficial on the eccentric phase of each exercise. (The eccentric phase is when your muscles are lengthening.) So the eccentric phase of a push up or a squat is during the lowering phase.

Example: One of my favorite ways to slow down is by counting to 4 on the way down during the push up, counting to 4 at the bottom of the push up, and counting to 4 on the way back up.

Slow Down

6. Super Set

This is my absolute favorite thing to do with at-home exercise routines. While many people like to create super sets with exercises that work two entirely different muscle groups (for example legs and arms) I like to create supersets that target very similar areas of the body. This creates even more fatigue and makes the exercises even harder!

Example: My two favorite super sets are:

  1. 6 x (30 second plank + 5 push ups)
  2. 6 x (20 second flutter kick + 5 V-Ups)


7. Limit Rest

This might sound similar to super sets, but it is not. Limit rest for the entire workout. Write your entire workout ahead of time and see how much of it you can do without stopping! Or, better yet, set a time in which you are going to exercise for and see how many sets and reps you can squeeze into that time frame. Make it a challenge and try to beat yourself each day. Be careful though, don’t let your form suffer with this challenge.


8. Create an Unstable Surface

Every now and then complete an exercise on an unstable surface. This isn’t something that needs to be incorporated all of the time, but it can be a nice added challenge once in a while. While a Bosu Ball or Swiss ball definitely make finding an unstable surface easier, it doesn’t need to be that high tech. Just try completing some squats on a pillow or doing some single leg squats on your bed. You might feel a little bit silly at first, but the balance will force your body to work a little harder to find stability and proprioception.


30 Minute At-Home Workout:

Circuit 1:

  • 30 second plank
  • 6 Squat Jumps
  • 5 x 4 count Push-Ups
  • 6 Squat Jumps
  • 30 second plank

Circuit 2:

  • 20 second hollow hold (10 sec hands by sides/10 seconds hands by ears)
  • 60 second plank (20 sec normal/20 sec left hand/right leg up/20 sec normal)
  • 10 Push Ups
  • 15 Air Squats
  • 20 Calf Raises
  • 15 Air Squats
  • 10 Push Ups
  • 60 second plank (20 sec normal/20 sec right hand/left leg up/20 sec normal)
  • 20 second hollow hold (10 sec hands by sides/10 seconds hands by ears)


See How many Sets of the Following you can do in 3 minutes:

  • 15 Tricep Dips
  • 10 Jumping Jacks
  • 5 V-Ups




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