Weekly column by fitness experts Adam Wright and Jacqui Watson for the Waterford News & Star, in association with Kingfisher Fitness Club
Hi folks, it’s Adam. Muscle growth occurs as a result of mechanical tension, metabolic stress and muscle damage. Let’s call these the 3Ms for simplicity. The 3Ms are created by continuing an exercise until you cannot complete another good quality rep (“failure”) regardless of whether the load being used is “heavy” or “light”.
So how does this relate to home workouts?
Most people don’t have adequate equipment available to them at home to create the 3Ms using heavy weights for low reps. Increasing the number of reps then, in an effort to create the 3Ms, is the most obvious solution and the easiest to understand. And that answers our question… But more reps are not the only way to create the 3Ms when additional load isn’t possible. So let’s talk about ways to increase the difficulty of your workouts (without adding load or reps).
Increased range of motion
For home workouts, performing exercises from elevated surfaces can increase how far you can move before having to stop. Work is force times distance. More distance means more work. However, if moving through an additional range of motion causes instability, or form to break down, it could result in injury. Only move through ranges of motion you can control. Good for lunges, split squats, push ups, deadlifts.
Slow down or speed up various phases of a movement. Often used to describe going slower, especially on the eccentric (or lowering) phase of a movement (for example: take twice as long to go down as to come up). Increased time under tension. More tension, more growth. Can also help with learning control and improving stability. Requires patience. May require lessening loads to get control back. Warning: Slow eccentrics can create a lot of soreness. Good for squats, rows, most smaller movements (arm work, core work, shoulder work).
Partials and pauses
Stop and hold position at the bottom of a rep or during either raising or lowering the load. Change direction part way through raising or lowering a rep (for example a “one and one half” squat). Increased time under tension. Partials are not “bounces/pulses” and pauses are not “rests”. If you relax when you pause a heavy lift you’re risking injury. Focus and stay in control (see Intent). Good for squats, deadlifts, presses. Commonly example seen in arm training e.g. “twenty ones”.
Time your rest between sets, keep them consistent. If you already time your rest, reduce the time spent resting. More, or as much work, performed in less time equals greater efficiency. Can induce a cardio like effect during weight training workouts (which can feel really unpleasant if you’re not used to it). May result in less reps than usual as, obviously, you won’t be as recovered. Good for most things.
Concentrate on what you’re doing. For larger movements (squats, deadlifts, presses) think about the exercise in terms of real world application. For smaller movements (bicep curls, ab crunches, lateral raises) think about the muscle you’re actually trying to work. Performing exercises with intent has the potential to create greater amounts of mechanical tension, improve technique and provide a greater connection between the exercise and the muscle you’re supposed to be working. Good for everything.
Or changing the exercise for one that is just inherently more difficult.
And, if you have the ability to increase the load you’re using during your workouts (safely) and as a result elicit the same level of effort doing 15 reps instead of 45 there is little reason not to. High reps with lighter weight is not “better for toning”, this is a common misconception.
And this is all assuming your goal is to build some muscle. If all you want to do is burn calories then any activity will do. And watching what you eat of course.
If you want some help, message me on Instagram or Facebook @AdamWrightPT. Kingfisher members check out the club’s social media or your app for details of our Live Video classes. Have a great week!