For those of us who workout at home running out of the necessary weight is a reality, and just buying more isn’t always an option. So how is it we can still stimulate the response we need in our workout to  lose weight and get strong without loading up the bar?  Well pull up a chair because today I am going to share with you a couple different methods to help increase resistance without adding weight.

Progressively overloading our bodies with stress is how we get stronger. At some point you will have face this good problem(good because it means we got STRONG) of running out of enough weight to create the stress necessary to challenge us.

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I face this problem as I work out at home with kettle bells and my set only goes so high. Not to toot my own horn,  but I have gotten to the point that I am too strong or efficient with movement to perform some exercises with my bells.

I am sure many others face this problem whether it be at home or when they run out of dumbbells at the gym.

It would be easy to just say hey buy some heavier bells, but that can be expensive and unfortunately I don’t have a money tree in the back yard that I can raid, and most gyms won’t buy equipment for just one person.

So what to do?  Well below are some ways we can still challenge our bodies without increasing weight.

Maximal power out put

This is a great way to build strength with  light weight.  Kettlebell guru Pat Flynn talks about this a lot in his blog and videos  on why this makes the kettle bell such a great strength building tool.

Kettle bells don’t get heavy enough to be as heavy as a loaded barbell. Because they are lighter than our maximal loading we can make up for that and we try to move them quickly and as explosively as possible.

Instead of trying to lift the most amount of pounds, you are trying to exert the most amount of force onto an object as quickly as possible. It requires a lot of strength to create the force necessary to accelerate and then to rapidly decelerate an object.   This makes exercises like jumping for max height/distance an effective strength builder and fat burner as well.

Resistance Bands


Resistance bands are a great way to add more resistance and intensity to a lift.

Resistance bands are affordable and very versatile as they can be used for not just strength, but power and mobility work as well.

Resistance bands are unique strength builders because unlike weights the tension does not stay constant throughout the duration of the lift.  Resistance bands increase in resistance is gradual, providing it’s greatest resistance at the end of the lift (the lock out).

You can add  bands to just about anything to add more resistance.  I have seen them used by themselves, on barbells for squats and dead lifts, and even around kettle bells to increase the force at the top of the kettle bell swing (lock out) as well as the eccentric (negative) part by speeding up us throwing the bell back down to reset causing us to absorb the force.

Even just adding a mini band around the knees during a squat can be effective in increasing resistance.

Decrease stability

Having a solid base is vital to efficiently move the most weight.  Unfortunately when we become efficient at something we don’t get stronger or lose weight because we are not being challenged.

Some ways we can challenge our stability is through our stance.  For example lunging and split squats are great as it decreases our base of support forcing us to work one leg at time.

This requires us to work harder to balance and engage our core so we stay up right and straight.

This is also useful for upper body exercises.  Ever try doing a push up with only one foot on the ground? It challenges your core more to distribute the weight evenly and in doing so distributes more weight on our arms making the movement “heavier”.

(Read more about single side exercises here)

Change Tempo


Tempo is the speed in which we perform an exercise.  Many of us try to perform an exercise as fast as possible.  But have you thought of controlling the movement?

You can control negative, positive, and even hold the positions to add intensity.

Try a tempo squat or push up where it takes you 3 seconds to go down, 3 second hold in the bottom position, and requires 3 seconds for you to come back up.  It makes these movements extra spicy that build a ton of strength and mental toughness.

Shorten Rest Periods

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Shortening rest time between lifts will force you to perform reps in a more fatigued state.  This will make weights feel heavier because your muscles are tired.

Increase Range of Motion

Increasing the range of motion causes us to do more work as the weight or our body has to travel further to complete the lift.  This works great with exercises like the dead lift and push ups.

For the dead lift stand on a platform with the bar lower than usual than lift.  You will find pulling from a deficit to be much challenging as the bar has to travel further to reach lockout.

For the push up put your hands on either boxes or dumb bells so you can drop lower and really have to push more.

Max Reps

Performing an exercise for max reps is a great way to work  your 1 rep max, without using 1 rep max weight.

This is the entire theory behind Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 program.  You max  each each workout by doing as many reps as possible on your last working set.

You don’t have to just follow 5/3/1 to do this.

Simply pick an exercise and perform reps until failure, or set a time limit and try to achieve as many reps as you can given that time.

You can do this with weighted movements or body weight movements.

I love using these for tests for tracking strength gains and work capacity.  It’s easy if you did more reps than last time you got stronger/fitter.

Some examples include:

Dan John’s 30 minute challenge where you see how many times you can dead lift 315 in 30 minutes.

Personally I love testing my clients to see how many unbroken/perfect push ups they can do.

There you have it.  Some ways you can easily add resistance without adding weight. Try some of these out and let us know what you think, or if you attempt some of the challenges let us know how you do in the comments section.

Did we miss something?  Let us know some ways you add resistance to your workouts without adding weight, or hit us with any other fitness related questions you want answered.

Stay tuned to this blog as well as I will be releasing a new easy to follow Intermediate strength program soon.  If you are interested use this link to sign up!  In the mean time visit me on Instagram: @sjg_sports to get a little snipit of what to expect.


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