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NIKAO [verb] to prevail, to overcome, to conquer

3 Ways to Make Any Exercise More Challenging

You’ve started a workout program and you’ve been training consistently for a few months now. We’re talking, at least, a couple workouts per week, but hopefully more. You were seeing progress, strength increases, and maybe even some modest physical changes. But as time goes on, you find that you’re no longer challenged by what you were doing. On top of that, you’ve started to see a regression in those physical changes, even if they were just modest! What gives?


Short answer, your body has done what it does best, it adapted to the stimulus you provided. It may not sound like it, but that’s the good news. As a fitness junkie for a little over 20 years now, I can tell you the adaptation is normal. Not only is it normal, it is necessary in order for you to achieve a fitness level that will leave you less tired, looking better naked, and moving without pain.


So, metaphorically speaking, how do you continue to ride the fitness wave without falling off the surfboard of progress? You have to challenge yourself.


No matter what your fitness goal or life goal, if you’re not challenging yourself, you can guarantee stagnation. Understimulation leads to regression, moderate stimulation leads to maintenance, and a healthy abundance of stimulation leads to progress.


In regards to training, there are three great ways to make any exercise more challenging:


1. Increase the volume

  • Whether you’re a runner, cyclist, powerlifter, or a parent trying to keep up with the kids, an increase in the volume of what you do can provide great stimulation.

  • Increase your mileage, increase your reps, or increase the time you spend doing your preferred activity.

  • For a cyclist, it’ll be more seat time. For someone who lifts weights, it’s going to be more sets and/or reps.

  • Depending on your preferred activity, you may need to change up what this change in volume looks like to best fit your goals, needs, and capabilities.

2. Increase the Intensity

  • I’m specifically talking about the speed and/or weight of an activity.

  • If you have a workout that takes you 10 minutes to do, complete it in 9 minutes. Alternatively, if you can do 30 back squats with a 45lb bar, try doing 30 back squats with a 65lb bar.

  • If you’re a true glutton, you can try both. Decrease your time and increase your weight!

3. Increase the complexity

  • More specifically increasing the level of technical expertise; i.e. improve your form.

  • If you run like a Muppet, flailing your arms and jumping around all over the place, you will get from point A to B, but it will come with a high price tag on your body. If you, instead, choose to run with intentionality and proper running form, you will get a better workout AND you will keep your body further away from injury.

  • If you like doing bodyweight exercises, or you do an at-home program via some social media influencer, it is your responsibility to make sure you’re moving the way your body was designed to move.

  • (Word to the wise, if you’re not sure if you’re doing it right, you’re probably not).

  • Every activity, no matter your goals or preferences, can be done better. There will not come a day where you have everything down pat and perfect. If you don’t believe me, find a post-game interview with any athlete after losing a major sporting event. What do they say? “Well, I could’ve played better and executed more efficiently.” Or something along those lines.

  • Bottom line, if professional athletes are still honing their craft, so will you!


Let me offer you a word of caution before going after the first two options on this list. If you increase your weight, volume, or the speed of a workout, you had better make double dog sure that your form is on point. To increase intensity or volume without mastering the basics of any movement, is to invite disastrous consequences to your body. Moral of the story, make sure you are moving well! If you’re not sure, find someone who knows what they’re doing (it may not be the fittest person you see at your local gym or the most popular influencer online either).


Let’s wrap it up, if you want to take your training to the next level, continue to see those positive physical changes, and suck the marrow out of life by moving pain free and looking better naked, you need to challenge yourself. Go back and review this short list of ways to make any exercise more challenging and see where you need to begin today.


Naturally, if you have a chance to swing by Nikao, we would love to help you get into the best shape of your life. Challenge yourself today by signing up for one of our complimentary classes.


Challenge yourself and move forward, gang.

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