What happens when an exercise becomes too easy? Not only can you lose focus and effort, but in order for the body to respond and adapt an adequate stress must be applied. If a person does not continue to challenge the body, it has no reason to get stronger, build lean muscle or increase performance. Although the most common way to increase the intensity is to add more weight, there are other methods to make an exercise harder.
Change body angle: This is another way to increase the resistance or loading of a given exercise without needing to add external resistance or use equipment. Basically you can change your body angle to make an exercise harder or easier as needed. The steeper your body angle from your base of support the harder an exercise will be.
The classic example would be a push-up. Start with your hands on something high like a kitchen counter and slowly as you get stronger, move to something lower like the bed and eventually with to a position with both hands on the ground. As you get closer to the ground your body has to resist more gravity and more body weight, thus making it more of a challenge. Finally, elevating your feet above your hands will make it even that much more intense.
Reduce the base of support: Standing on one leg is more challenging than standing with both because of the reduced level of support. The less contact your body has with the floor the harder it is for your body to stabilize itself during the exercise. The body is most stable when using a large base of support.
For example, a plank with both feet on the ground and both hands on the ground has four contacts of support and is therefore the easiest plank variation to start with. If the person is able to lift one leg off the ground and continue to hold a perfect plank position, the core works harder to keep still. Lifting an arm and a leg off the ground is even more intense as there are fewer points of contact.
Combining multiple movements: Once you have mastered all the basic movements such as squats, rows and presses you can begin to get more complex and combine the separate exercises into one total body exercise. Combination movements are great for fat-burning and conditioning.
I like to combine upper and lower body exercises such as a squat with an overhead press or a reverse lunge with a cable row added in. The possibilities are endless once you get really good at all the basic exercises.
As always, consult your doctor prior to starting any exercise program, and if you are unsure how to properly preform any exercise seek the advice of a trained fitness professional.
— Kyler Crouse, BS, CSCS, FMS is a personal trainer and strength coach that trains at Sierra Athletic Club and a training center instructor at Barton Memorial Hospital. Kyler specializes in adult fitness over 50 and rehabilitation after injury. Visit www.KCstrength.com for more information.