Make Any Exercise Harder

Dec 12 / Build Muscle

If you want to make an exercise harder, add weight. If you want to make your whole body work harder while performing an exercise, change your stance. "Altering the way you place your feet on the ground forces you to use more stabilizing muscles, which compounds the challenge of the move,"says Bruce Mack, co-founder of Thrive Training Systems. Working your stabilizing muscles strengthens your core, which will help you move heavier loads in the future, Mack says. He suggests advancing your stance for standard exercises like the biceps curl. While foot placement won't increase the stress on yo...

If you want to make an exercise harder, add weight. If you want to make your whole body work harder while performing an exercise, change your stance. "Altering the way you place your feet on the ground forces you to use more stabilizing muscles, which compounds the challenge of the move,"says Bruce Mack, co-founder of Thrive Training Systems. 

Working your stabilizing muscles strengthens your core, which will help you move heavier loads in the future, Mack says. He suggests advancing your stance for standard exercises like the biceps curl. While foot placement won't increase the stress on your biceps, stabilizing yourself will strengthen muscles in addition to those in your arms. The result: a bigger calorie burn and a greater total body strength-building effect.

Try these two foot placements to make an exercise more challenging without adding an ounce of weight.

HARD: In-Line Split Stance

To get into a split stance, start with your feet shoulder-width apart, then step your left foot in front of your body and your right foot behind your body. Then move your right foot behind your left so they form a line that passes under your body, like the picture below.

The in-line split stance shrinks your base of support, and is likely to make you feel as if you're about to topple over. "This simple shift challenges the small stabilizing muscles in your legs and core and makes it more difficult to perform any exercise—especially unilateral ones," says Mack.

HARDER: In-Line Hybrid Kneeling

To get into the in-line hybrid kneeling stance, start with an in-line split stance, like the one above. Lower your body into a lunge, but hover your back knee just above the floor—don't let it touch down. Draw your shoulders back and tighten your core for stability.

This is the trickiest version when it comes to stabilizing. "Elevating your back knee forces you to activate the muscles in your lower body to stay in the lunge position," says Mack. "You also have to keep your core tight so you don't fall over." And that's before you even lift any weight.