How Do I Increase The Intensity Of Common Bodyweight Exercises?

Are you tired of feeling like you’re not getting enough out of your usual bodyweight exercises? Look no further, because in this article, we’re going to explore different ways to increase the intensity of your favorite bodyweight workouts. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned fitness enthusiast, these tips will help you take your exercises to the next level and push your limits like never before. So get ready to challenge yourself, break a sweat, and achieve your fitness goals with these simple yet effective techniques.

Increase Intensity with Variations

Progression with Push-Ups

Push-ups are a classic bodyweight exercise that target the upper body muscles, particularly the chest, triceps, and shoulders. To increase the intensity of push-ups, you can try different variations. One effective progression is the decline push-up, where your feet are elevated on an elevated surface such as a bench or step. This variation increases the emphasis on the shoulders and upper chest, providing a greater challenge to those muscles. Another option is the diamond push-up, where you place your hands close together in a diamond shape, focusing the effort on the triceps. Make sure to maintain proper form and gradually increase the difficulty as you gain strength.

Advanced Squat Variations

Squats are an excellent lower body exercise that primarily target the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes. To enhance the intensity of your squat routine, incorporate advanced variations into your workout. One option is the pistol squat, which is performed on one leg. This exercise not only increases the challenge for your lower body muscles but also improves balance and stability. Another advanced squat variation is the Bulgarian split squat with bicep curls. This movement combines lower body strength with upper body strength by adding a bicep curl while performing the split squat. Be sure to maintain proper form and start with lighter weights before progressing to more challenging variations.

Challenge the Core with Planks

Planks are effective for building core strength and stability. However, to increase the intensity and engage your core muscles even more, you can try different plank variations. One option is the side plank, where you support your body weight on one forearm and the side of your foot. This variation targets the obliques in addition to the abdominal muscles. Another challenging plank variation is the plank with leg lifts. Start in a traditional plank position and then lift one leg off the ground while maintaining a stable core. This increases the demand on your core muscles as you work to stabilize your body. As with any exercise, it is important to progress gradually and listen to your body to avoid injury.

Modify Execution for Greater Difficulty

Slow Down the Movements

Slowing down the movements of bodyweight exercises can significantly increase the difficulty level and further engage your muscles. Take push-ups for example. Instead of performing them at a regular pace, slow down the lowering phase, also called the eccentric phase, and the raising phase, known as the concentric phase. By doing so, you increase the time under tension for your muscles, leading to greater muscle fiber recruitment and ultimately, more strength gains. The same principle applies to squats, planks, and other bodyweight exercises. By slowing down the movements, you challenge your muscles in a whole new way, making them work harder and promoting progress.

Increase Range of Motion

Expanding the range of motion during bodyweight exercises is another effective way to intensify your workout. For example, instead of stopping at a 90-degree knee bend during squats, aim to lower your hips further, reaching full depth. This deep squat engages the muscles in your glutes and hamstrings to a greater extent, resulting in a more challenging exercise. Similarly, during push-ups, focus on lowering your chest closer to the ground, working on increasing your flexibility and strength in the process. By increasing the range of motion, you effectively target more muscle fibers, leading to improved strength and muscle development.

Add Plyometric Elements

Incorporating plyometric elements into your bodyweight exercises can take them to the next level of intensity. Plyometrics involve explosive movements that utilize the stretch-shortening cycle of your muscles, which refers to the lengthening and contracting action. For instance, you can add jump squats to your squat routine by explosively jumping off the ground as you reach the top of the squat. This increases the power output of your leg muscles and enhances overall lower body strength. Plyometric push-ups are another challenging variation where you explosively push your upper body off the ground, aiming to achieve maximum height on each repetition. Remember to start with proper form and gradually increase the intensity to avoid injury.

Utilize Equipment for Added Resistance

Incorporate Resistance Bands

Resistance bands are a versatile and cost-effective tool to increase the intensity of your bodyweight exercises. These elastic bands provide external resistance that challenges your muscles throughout the entire range of motion. For example, you can use resistance bands to make push-ups more challenging by placing the band around your back and gripping it with your hands. As you lower your chest towards the ground, the band stretches, increasing the resistance and engaging your muscles even more. Similarly, you can anchor the band to a sturdy object and perform squats, lunges, or rowing motions to add resistance and further target your muscles. Resistance bands come in different strengths, so choose the appropriate band based on your strength level.

Use Weighted Vests or Backpacks

If you’re looking for added resistance during bodyweight exercises, consider using weighted vests or backpacks. These allow you to add extra weight while keeping your hands and feet free to perform the exercises. Weighted vests are designed specifically for exercise purposes and distribute the weight evenly across your torso. This makes them ideal for exercises like push-ups, squats, and planks. Alternatively, you can use a backpack and fill it with weights such as dumbbells or water bottles. This provides a similar effect, allowing you to increase the intensity of various bodyweight exercises. Remember to start with lighter weights and gradually increase the load as you become stronger.

Try Suspension Training

Suspension training is a form of bodyweight exercise that uses straps or ropes anchored to a secure point. It allows you to leverage gravity and your body weight to perform a wide range of exercises that target multiple muscle groups simultaneously. One popular example is the TRX suspension training system. By adjusting the straps, you can make exercises like push-ups, squats, rows, and lunges more challenging and effective. The instability of the straps requires your muscles to work harder to stabilize your body, resulting in greater muscle activation and overall intensity. Suspension training is a highly adaptable form of training suitable for individuals at various fitness levels.

Increase Training Volume and Frequency

High-Intensity Interval Training

High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is a popular method to increase the intensity of your bodyweight exercises. It involves alternating between high-intensity exercises and short periods of rest or lower-intensity exercises. For example, you can perform 30 seconds of maximum effort push-ups followed by 15 seconds of rest or active recovery exercises like jogging in place. This cycle is repeated for a set duration, usually ranging from 10 to 30 minutes. HIIT not only increases the overall intensity of your workout but also improves cardiovascular fitness, burns calories, and promotes fat loss. Incorporating HIIT into your bodyweight exercise routine can help you reach new levels of fitness and push your limits.

Circuit Training

Circuit training involves performing a series of exercises in sequence with minimal rest between each exercise. It combines both cardiovascular and strength training, making it an efficient way to increase the intensity of your bodyweight exercises. Design your circuit by selecting a variety of exercises that target different muscle groups. For example, you can include push-ups, squats, planks, lunges, and burpees. Perform each exercise for a certain number of repetitions or a specific time duration before moving on to the next exercise. By minimizing rest periods, circuit training keeps your heart rate elevated and challenges your muscles in a different way. Experiment with different exercises and timings to find the circuit that works best for your fitness goals.

Increase Reps and Sets

Sometimes, increasing the intensity of your bodyweight exercises can be as simple as increasing the number of repetitions and sets you perform. By gradually increasing the number of reps, you challenge your muscles to adapt and become stronger. Start by adding a few extra reps to your current routine, and as you become comfortable, increase the number further. Similarly, increasing the number of sets can enhance the overall workload and intensity of your workout. For example, if you typically perform three sets of push-ups, try adding an extra set to your routine. Remember to listen to your body and give yourself enough time to recover between sets to avoid overexertion.

Focus on Time Under Tension

Tempo Training

Tempo training involves controlling the speed at which you perform the different phases of an exercise. By manipulating the tempo, you can increase the time your muscles spend under tension, hence, intensifying the exercise. For instance, during a squat, you can slow down the lowering phase, hold the bottom position for a few seconds, and then explode upward. This controlled movement increases the demand on your muscles and promotes muscle growth and strength gains. Experiment with different tempos and find what works best for each exercise. Remember to maintain proper form and focus on quality movement throughout the entire range of motion.

Isometric Holds

Isometric holds involve holding a static position without any movement. This form of training effectively challenges your muscles by forcing them to maintain tension and stability. One common example is the plank hold, where you maintain a straight body position supported by your forearms, toes, and core muscles. By holding the plank for an extended period, you strengthen your core and improve overall stability. You can incorporate isometric holds into various bodyweight exercises such as squats, push-ups, and lunges. Gradually increase the time duration of the holds as your strength improves to continue challenging your muscles.

Negatives and Eccentric Training

Negatives and eccentric training focus on the lowering phase of an exercise, which is also known as the eccentric phase. This phase typically involves the elongation of the muscle under tension. By emphasizing the eccentric phase, you can increase the intensity of your bodyweight exercises. For example, during a push-up, you can take more time to lower your body towards the ground, paying close attention to the controlled and deliberate movement. Eccentric training places greater stress on your muscles, leading to increased strength gains and muscle growth. Incorporate negatives and eccentric training into your routine by slowing down the lowering phase of various exercises, such as squats, push-ups, and chin-ups.

Combine Exercises for Compound Movements

Bulgarian Split Squat with Bicep Curls

Combining two exercises into one compound movement not only saves time but also increases the difficulty and the number of muscles worked simultaneously. One powerful example is the Bulgarian split squat with bicep curls. Start by performing a Bulgarian split squat, placing one foot behind you on an elevated surface and lowering into a lunge position. As you push back up, curl a pair of dumbbells towards your shoulders, targeting your biceps. This compound movement effectively works your lower body, especially the glutes and thighs, while also engaging your biceps. It challenges your balance, coordination, and overall muscular strength.

Push-Up to Renegade Row

The push-up to renegade row is another compound movement that combines upper body pushing and pulling exercises. Start in a push-up position with dumbbells in each hand. Perform a push-up, and as you return to the starting position, row one dumbbell towards your chest while balancing on the other three points of contact. Alternate rows between each arm with each push-up repetition. This compound movement targets the chest, triceps, shoulders, and upper back muscles, making it an excellent choice for a full-body workout. It also requires core stability and coordination, further enhancing its effectiveness.

Mountain Climbers with Shoulder Taps

Mountain climbers with shoulder taps are a compound exercise that simultaneously engages the upper body, core, and lower body. Begin in a plank position, then bring one knee towards your chest, alternating legs in a running motion. As you perform the mountain climbers, reach one hand across to tap the opposite shoulder, alternating sides with each repetition. This exercise challenges your core stability, works your chest and shoulders, and increases heart rate, making it an effective compound movement for a full-body workout. Incorporate this exercise into your routine to improve cardiovascular fitness, coordination, and muscular strength.

Incorporate Plyometrics and Explosive Movements

Jump Squats

Jump squats are a popular plyometric exercise that targets the lower body muscles, primarily the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes. To perform jump squats, start in a squat position with your feet shoulder-width apart. Explosively jump off the ground, reaching as high as you can, and land back into the squat position with soft knees. The explosive nature of this exercise engages fast-twitch muscle fibers, enhances power output, and increases overall lower body strength. Remember to maintain proper form, land with controlled technique, and start with lower repetitions before gradually increasing the intensity.


Burpees are a full-body, explosive exercise that combines a squat, plank, push-up, and a jump. Begin in a standing position, then squat down, place your hands on the ground, and kick your feet back into a plank position. Perform a push-up, then jump your feet forward, returning to the squat position, and explosively jump up, reaching as high as possible. Burpees provide an intense cardiovascular workout while simultaneously targeting multiple muscle groups, making them a time-efficient and effective exercise for overall fitness. Modify the difficulty by adjusting the speed, adding a push-up, or incorporating a tuck jump at the end.

Plyometric Push-Ups

Plyometric push-ups involve explosive upper body movements that activate the chest, shoulders, and triceps. Start in a push-up position, then lower your chest towards the ground, explosively pushing off the ground so your hands leave the floor. Try to achieve maximum height with each push-up. As you land, immediately go into the next repetition. Plyometric push-ups develop upper body power, explosiveness, and muscle strength. Start with controlled movements and gradually increase the speed and explosiveness as you become more comfortable and confident.

Progression through One-Leg Exercises

Single-Leg Squats

Single-leg squats, also known as pistol squats, are a challenging variation of the squat exercise that requires significant lower body strength, balance, and flexibility. Stand on one leg with the opposite leg extended in front of you, then lower your body by bending the knee and hip of the standing leg, aiming to reach as close to a full squat as possible. Maintain control throughout the movement and use your arms for balance. Single-leg squats target the quadriceps, glutes, and hamstrings of the standing leg, while also engaging the core. Start with partial range of motion and gradually work towards improving your balance and depth.

Pistol Squats

Pistol squats are a more advanced variation of single-leg squats that require excellent lower body strength and balance. Begin by standing on one leg with the opposite leg extended in front of you. From this position, lower your body towards the ground, keeping the extended leg off the floor, until your thigh is parallel to the ground. Push back up to the starting position. Pistol squats target the quadriceps, glutes, and hamstrings of the standing leg, as well as the muscles responsible for balance and stability. Mastering the pistol squat may take time and practice, so be patient and gradually progress as your strength and flexibility improve.

Single-Leg Push-Ups

Single-leg push-ups are a challenging variation of the traditional push-up that targets the chest, shoulders, and triceps while also enhancing core stability. Begin in a push-up position and raise one leg slightly off the ground, keeping it straight and extended behind you. Lower your chest towards the ground while maintaining control and push back up to the starting position. Single-leg push-ups engage multiple muscle groups and promote balance and stability. If you find this variation too challenging initially, you can modify by placing your hands on an elevated surface, such as a bench or step, to reduce the intensity until you build strength.

Focus on Muscular Endurance and Stamina

Plank Variations and Holds

Planks are excellent for targeting the core muscles and developing muscular endurance. To incorporate plank variations into your routine, you can try side planks, where you support your body weight on one forearm and the side of your foot. This variation targets the obliques, contributing to overall core strength and stability. Another option is the plank with leg lifts. Begin in a traditional plank position and lift one leg off the ground while maintaining a stable core. This variation engages the abdominal muscles and glutes even more, adding an extra challenge to your plank routine. Gradually increase the duration of your holds or the number of repetitions for each plank variation to improve muscular endurance.

Spiderman Push-Ups

Spiderman push-ups are a dynamic full-body exercise that targets the chest, shoulders, triceps, core, and hip flexors. Begin in a push-up position, then as you lower your body towards the ground, bring one knee towards the elbow of the same side, resembling a spider climbing up a wall. Push back up and repeat on the opposite side. Spiderman push-ups challenge your upper body strength and stability, while also engaging your core and improving flexibility in the hip flexors. Start with controlled movements and gradually increase the speed and complexity as you gain strength and coordination.

Wall Sit with Leg Lifts

Wall sits are a static exercise that targets the quadriceps, glutes, and hamstrings. Begin by leaning against a wall with your feet shoulder-width apart and your knees bent at a 90-degree angle. Hold this position for an extended period, aiming to increase the duration over time. To increase the intensity and engage your muscles even more, you can incorporate leg lifts into the wall sit. Lift one leg off the ground, hold for a few seconds, then lower it and repeat on the other side. This variation adds an extra challenge to your wall sit routine and further works your lower body muscles. Gradually increase the time and number of leg lifts to improve muscular endurance.

Implement Periodization

Microcycle Training

Microcycle training is a method of organizing your workouts into short-term training cycles, typically lasting a week. By incorporating microcycles into your bodyweight exercise routine, you can progressively increase the intensity and challenge your muscles in a systematic way. One approach is to vary the intensity and volume throughout the microcycle. For example, you can have a couple of high-intensity workout days followed by a recovery day with lower-intensity exercises or complete rest. This variation allows your muscles to adapt and recover while continuing to make progress.

Mesocycle Training

Mesocycle training involves planning your workouts over a medium-term timeframe, usually spanning a month or several weeks. This allows for more structured progress and allows you to focus on specific training goals. For example, you can have a mesocycle dedicated to building strength, where you focus on increasing resistance, range of motion, and intensity. Another mesocycle can be dedicated to improving muscular endurance, where you focus on higher repetition ranges and shorter rest periods. By following a mesocycle training approach, you can systematically progress and achieve your desired fitness objectives.

Macrocycle Training

Macrocycle training refers to planning an entire training program over a longer duration, typically six months to a year. This allows you to break down your training into smaller mesocycles and microcycles, creating a comprehensive plan to achieve your fitness goals. By implementing macrocycle training, you can focus on gradually progressing and periodically deloading to avoid overtraining and reduce the risk of injuries. Periodization within macrocycle training can help you optimize your performance, track your progress, and ensure long-term consistency in your bodyweight exercise routine.

In conclusion, there are numerous ways to increase the intensity of common bodyweight exercises. By progressively challenging yourself with variations, modifying execution, utilizing equipment, increasing training volume and frequency, focusing on time under tension, combining exercises, incorporating plyometrics, progressing through one-leg exercises, focusing on muscular endurance and stamina, and implementing periodization, you can continuously push your limits and make ongoing progress on your fitness journey. Remember to start gradually, listen to your body, and consult with a fitness professional if necessary. Stay consistent, stay motivated, and enjoy the benefits of taking your bodyweight workouts to new heights.

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About the Author: Jonathan Ackerman

Hi there! I'm Jonathan Ackerman, the author behind Best In Home Workouts. Welcome to my site, where I aim to empower your fitness journey right from the comfort of your own home. With our busy schedules and hectic lifestyles, finding time to go to the gym can be a challenge. That's why I created this platform to provide you with honest reviews of various workout products that you can use at home. Whether you're looking for equipment, DVDs, or digital programs, I've got you covered. Get ready to transform your fitness routine and achieve your goals effortlessly with Best In Home Workouts.