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7 Tricks to Make Light Weights Feel Heavy

Maybe you're working out at home and all you have is a set of 25 pound dumbbells, maybe the hotel gym isn't quite what it looked like online, or maybe you're a little beat up from constantly going as heavy as possible on every exercise and want to change things up by making light weights feel heavy and still get a great training effect.

Try these 7 techniques to make your light weights feel impossibly heavy for your next workout.

The Pre-Fatigue Technique

Tire out the target muscle with an isometric hold at the hardest part of the movement before going into your normal concentric reps.


Barbell bicep curls: Pre Fatigue Set

15 second Iso-Hold at the middle of the rep followed immediately by 15 normal reps.

The Waterfall Rep:Rest Method

Take an exercise for a ride down the waterfall. Start with a set of 10 reps, then 9, then 8, then 7, and so on until you get down to just 1 rep. Here's the trick, only rest that number of seconds between the set.


DB Lateral Raises: Rep-Rest Method Waterfall

10 rep DB laterals, 10 sec rest. 9 rep DB laterals, 9 sec rest. 8 rep DB laterals, 8 sec rest. Etc, etc down to 1 and 1. Bonus... don't drop the dumbbells for the entire set.

The Waterfall Rep:Pause Method

This one is similar to above, but the rest isn't quite as restful. Instead of taking the number of reps for a number of seconds rest, you use the number of reps as the number of seconds of an isometric. Huh? Read the example below.


Band Pull Aparts: Rep:Pause Method

10 reps band pull aparts, 10 second isometric hold with the band against the chest. 9 reps band pull aparts, 9 second isometric hold with the band against the chest. 8 reps, 8 sec isometric, etc all the way down to 1 and 1.


Use a light pair of dumbbells, a band, or an empty barbell for a series of exercises that flow into one another without dropping the implement.


Traps, Delts and Arms Focused Barbell Complex

5 Bent Over Rows

5 Muscle Cleans

5 Overhead Press

5 Muscle Cleans

5 Bent Over Rows

5 Shrugs with 5 sec iso holds

Shorter Rest Periods

Not giving yourself enough time to rest is an easy way to get a harder training effect without having to always just grab the next heaviest weight. Let's say it normally takes you 8 minutes to get in all of your work sets of trap bar deadlifts. You can do your 4 x 6 work sets in 8 minutes. That's great.


Take what you could normally do in 8 minutes and try to accomplish it in 7. Set a timer, manage the rests appropriately, and get the same amount of volume in shorter time. Some call this improving training density; more work in less time.

Extended Eccentrics

Take the slow lowering portion of each exercise to the limit. Not only will this smash the target muscle (as the eccentric component of a movement is most responsible for muscle damage) but it will make that old pair of dumbbells at the hotel gym feel 10x heavier.


Extended Eccentric DB Bench Press

Hit your normal DB bench press with a light weight and a tempo of [10-1-1] where you do a 10 second super slow eccentric (lowering phase), a 1 second pause, and a 1 second fast concentric for each rep. No equipment? Try a 30 second eccentric push up; it's a unique way to train the staple movement.

Mechanical Drop Sets

This is where you will use a series of exercises that target roughly the same area with the same weight or resistance but the exercises keep getting easier. But, since you are tired, they feel harder with light weights (or no weights).


Push Up Mechanical Drop Set

Start on the floor, and do a max set of push ups. IMMEDIATELY put your hands on a bench, step, chair, etc and perform incline push ups for another 10-15 reps. Then IMMEDIATELY put your hands on a slightly higher bench, step, chair, etc for yet another 10-15 reps.

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