Lets face it, to get stronger adding resistance will always help, but is it always necessary?
Adding weight to a movement will obviously increase the difficulty. If you are not truly ready for that load it may cause more harm than good. I will use bicep curl as a simple example. Sometimes, people grab more weight to do a curl, than for a deadlift, or front squat. I get it, curling a bunch of weight makes you feel badass, and squatting a bunch of weight is just really hard. You don’t always need to add weight, to get more from your movements. In fact, sometimes having too much weight (despite adding more risk for injury) is actually holding you back from better results.
1) Time Under Tension (TUT)
Often times I see my clients ripping through reps like they are in some sort of race and the loser has tell me how easy the workout was today… :/
Rushing through your movements (unless it is meant to be an explosive, power movement) means you are not fighting gravity. You are likely using joints and muscles that should not be involved for the concentric (“up” part for a curl) portion of the movement and relaxing the muscles that are supposed to be doing the work, during the eccentric (“down” part for a curl) portion of the movement. This causes your weight to drop back down. Stop letting gravity win!
Instead, change your tempo and create more time under tension. Try going “up” with a count of 1-2, flex hard at the top for a count of 1, then go “down” for a count of 3. Slowing down will allow you to engage the proper muscles and creating more TUT will work them significantly harder!
2) Decrease Stability
Having a large, wide stance, gives you more stability than a narrow stance, which will give you more stability than a split stance (like you are balancing on a railroad track) which will give you more stability than just standing on one leg.
Holding one object in both hands (like a bar) will be more stable than holding one object in each hand (2 dumbbells), which will be more stable than holding one object in one hand (1 dumbbell) and nothing in the other.
Take away some stability, and the difficulty is increased just because you have to work harder to maintain your position.
3) Increase Range of Motion (ROM)
This one often links closely with Time Under Tension. Rushing through a movement causes shortened range of motion, because the Golgi Tendon Organ (bodies safety mechanism) kicks in so you don’t hurt yourself by going too far.
Slow it down a bit, put your joints and muscles through full range of motion so you get a full stretch shortening cycle on the muscle.
4) Create Body Tension
Right now, without moving, try this, live as your read it, holding each thing tight as you work through the list. Grip the floor with your feet, flex your calves, squeeze your hamstrings like you are trying to bend your knees and squeeze your quads like you are trying to extend your knees at the same time. Clench your butt cheeks as tight as possible. Tighten your core like someone is about to punch you in the stomach. Flex your chest and pack your shoulder blades down and back. Flex your biceps like you are trying to bend your elbows, and triceps like you are trying to extend them at the same time. Make a fist and clench as hard as you can.
Okay okay, please stop, the person next to you thinks you are about to have a heart attack or something.
Could you feel how much tension you were able to create just sitting here reading a blog. Imagine how hard that would have been to maintain, if I had not kindly asked you to stop. You can create tension like that on every rep, every exercise. You just have to be present enough during your workout to remember to do it.
4.5) Adjust Fulcrum
Moving the load further from your body, will increase demand on your body. So instead of letting your elbows shoot back as you curl your weight up, lock your elbows slightly forward of your ribs, and curl the weight up in a big ark.
For video examples of what you just read go here: https://www.instagram.com/fit4newton/
Remember, I used a curl as a simple example, but one or all of these techniques can be applied to every exercise.