As highlighted in my first post in the #ukinlockdown series, one of my goals to maintain a sense of normality was to try and adapt my workouts so they are near enough to what I normally do at the gym.

This business as usual approach, personally I think is the best approach to help with routine, albeit with lighter weights and less equipment.

What have I got to work with?

My home contains a kettlebell and set of dumbbells amounting to 14kg in total!

Although I can perform accessory movements like side raises and skull crushers with a weight still providing a bit of a challenge, most of my workout I’m used to using something a bit heavier.

Therefore, the first question to address is:

How do you make a workout harder with limited equipment?

Good question! This is the approach I am taking:

Variants (1)

If you can do 10 press-ups, then rather than just doing more reps you might want to alter how you execute the exercise.

For this example, this can be changed to a decline press-up, placing your legs on a raised object.

This adds more complexity than a regular press-up as your weight is less stable and pushed more towards the upper body.

This is an equivalent I’ve implemented to fill in for the incline bench press.

Decline press-up. You can’t see on the image but my legs are elevated using the couch.

Note: for the beginner who struggles with press-ups then I recommend trying an incline press-up (placing your arms/upper body on a raised object) or a cobra press-up.


Do it slower

Another approach is to spend more time under tension, which can be achieved by performing the rep more slowly.

To do this, perform your rep, then on the lowering phase slow this down, maintaining a countdown in your head.

This is called a negative and is effective for increasing muscle size and strength – something I find quite satisfying to cover for the big weight compound movements like deadlift, squat and bench.

To perform this doing a:

  • bicep curl you bring the weight up and bring it down slowly.
  • pressup you move your bodyweight down to the floor slowly, then push yourself back up.
  • deadlift you bring the weight up, then move back down to the floor slowly.
Following this approach using a Romanian Deadlift (RDL) – this also contains a slight pause at the bottom of the movement


Pause your rep

More time under tension can be applied by pausing your reps at the bottom of a movement (I aim for five seconds), then press it back up.

Using 80% of my personal best for three reps, it’s been a really of effective way of improving my gym lifts, helping me me smash a 100kg bench which previously I struggled to achieve.

I figured, it’s a good one to include in home works.

Further benefits are:

  • Kills any momentum you get from moving through your reps.
  • Effective for breaking through personal bests while not exhausting your body with too many reps.
Paused weighted squat – take more or less time depending how difficult you want to make it.


Variants (2)

The second type of variant is to alternate how you perform the move, so you challenge different muscle groups you don’t normally use or require more technique such as balance.

My favourite variants for:

Diamond press-up. I’m not used to this movement so found it hard to execute.


And for the pros…

To make it even harder you can combine two, three or four of these together.

A set of 10 press-ups done slowly with a pause at the bottom can be challenging even for someone who is at an intermediate level of bodyweight training skills!


Advice for converting your gym workout

To adapt your workout to home, you need to think about what you are doing with ever movement, so you can find alternatives to target the same muscle groups.

For example, one of my favourites is the Pendlay row.

I don’t have the benefit of the bar to keep performing this movement, but it’s relatively easy to replicate the movement with dumbbells, which can be made more challenging adding that time under tension going slow and pausing at the top of the movement.

Pendlay row – appreciate this isn’t picking from the floor, I’m used to doing with large bumper plates!


What about doing more reps?

Because my workouts typically have lower rep ranges, I am trying to maintain this by not performing more than 12 reps in a set.

Although the weight is lighter, it’s actually quite easy to pick up an injury as from experience people seem more eager to get through more reps at lighting fast pace, putting pressure on the joints, with technique typically breaking down with more reps being performed.

Personally, if I’m going to do lot of reps I’d rather break these down into more sets to allow me to recompose myself.



It’s useful being able to understand more about how you perform the reps, as lockdown has shown how easy it is to take for granted open gyms with a full range of equipment.

It’s frustrating not to have all that equipment, but this doesn’t mean you have an excuse to stop, if anything use the time to think more about how you execute your reps at the gym.

This will make you a more effective lifter, getting more from your time and more likely to reach your goals.

If you want to see in further detail how I’m performing these techniques using some common workout movements, check out this short video I’ve made to accompany this post, which will help inspire you to apply difficult by:

  • Varying your movement by elevating your bodyweight.
  • Performing movements more slowly.
  • Adding pauses to your reps to make the push outs more challenging.
  • Mixing up your movements to do more challenging variants, working different muscle groups.
  • Thinking about what muscle groups you weight routine was targeting and replicating this at home.

Until next time wishing you good health and the best success!


<<Check out this post: Handling pressure: Lessons from the SAS>>

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