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5 Ways To Make Light Dumbbells Feel Heavier

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How To Make Dumbbells Feel Heavier For Home Workouts

On today’s episode of Live Lean TV, I’m showing you 5 ways to make light dumbbells feel heavier for home workouts.

With so many gyms being closed, more and more people now have to transition to working out at home, me included.

Affordable Home Gym Equipment Set Up Ideas

One of the main problems most people face while working out at home is the lack of weight.

So today, I’m showing you 5 ways to make dumbbells feel heavier.

Before I do, make sure you tap the social media buttons at the top of this post to share these tips with your friends.

This small gesture really helps us reach more people so we can teach them how to Live Lean, 365 days a year.

5 Ways To Make Light Dumbbells Feel Heavier For Home Workouts

Alright, here’s tip number 1 on how to make light weight feel heavy at home.

#1. Increase The Time Under Tension With Slow Eccentric Lifts

We indicate tempo counts inside our workout programs.

The tempo of a lift is simply defined as the time, in seconds, it takes to lift and lower a weight.

what does tempo mean in working out

The most effective way to make your dumbbells feel heavier is to slow down the lowering of the weight.

For example, the first number in the 4 digit tempo references the eccentric portion of the lift, which is typically how many seconds to lower the weight.


If you only have access to light weights, and the tempo in the program tells you to lower the weight for 3 seconds, increase that time under tension.

Rather than lowering for a 3 second count, lower for a 5 second count.

This will help increase the time under tension for the targeted muscle, thus making the light dumbbell feel heavier.

#2. Add An Isometric Hold At The Beginning Of The Exercise

Similar to the first tip, adding an isometric hold at the beginning of the exercise will increase the time under tension and pre-exhaust the muscle.

Depending on how light the weight is, complete a 10-20 second isometric hold, at the most difficult range of the exercise, prior to completing the indicated number of reps in the program.

The bigger the discrepancy of weight, the longer you should hold the isometric hold.

For example, if you only have access to 10 pound dumbbells, the isometric hold on a dumbbell front squat will be longer than a standing dumbbell bicep curl.

#3. Complete Unilateral Variations Of The Exercise

If you only have access to light dumbbells, but the program calls for a dumbbell flat bench press, use only one dumbbell at a time.

An example of this is the single arm dumbbell flat bench press.

This loads up one side of the body, which makes the exercise less stable, thus causing your muscles to work harder to stabilize the movement.

Another unilateral variation is the alternating dumbbell flat bench press.

Again, this alternating movement creates more instability thus requires more muscle activation.

Finally, if your weights are really light, you could keep one dumbbell in an isometric hold at the most difficult portion of the range, while the other arm completes it’s reps in full range of motion.

Then switch sides.

#4. Complete 1 And 1/2 Reps

This is another way to increase the time under tension.

Rather than lowering the dumbbells then raising them back to the top, complete a 1 and 1/2 rep.

For example, with the dumbbell squat, lower into the squat, then raise half way up, drop back to the bottom of the squat, and then come back up to the top.

That’s a 1 and 1/2 rep.

Click here to watch how to do a 1 and 1/2 rep.

#5. Add Resistance Bands Or Wear A Weighted Vest

Adding resistance bands to your dumbbell exercises is a great way to increase the weight of the lift.

Resistance bands are also very affordable.

Here’s a link to the resistance bands that we use.

For the dumbbell flat bench press, simply place the resistance band around the back of your upper torso, then loop the sides around your thumbs.

Grip the dumbbells and complete your reps.

Watch how I add resistance band to the dumbbell exercise here.

You’ll notice adding resistance bands makes it harder at the top of the lift, once the bands stretch.

Another way to add extra resistance is wearing a weight vest.

Here’s a link to the weight vest that I use.

This is great for bodyweight exercises, but also standing exercises as the added weight challenges more muscles in the body.

You Can Also Combine Any Of Those Tips Together

To really challenge your body, you can combine any of those tips together.

For example, try a set combining all, or some of these together:

  • slow eccentrics + isometrics + 1 1/2 reps + unilateral movements + resistance bands

Lastly, to increase the difficulty of your light weight workouts you could also:

  • increase the number of reps
  • increase the number or sets
  • decrease the rest periods

I hope you found these 5 ways to make light dumbbells feel heavier for home workouts helpful.

Consider Investing In An Adjustable Dumbbell Set

An adjustable dumbbell set is a good space and money saving option compared to buying 10 different pairs of dumbbells.

Here’s an Amazon link to get the same adjustable dumbbell set as I use.

This set gives you a lot of options as it goes from 5 to 50 pounds.

Our 6 Week Afterburn-DB Program

We’re also super excited that our most effective ever, dumbbell only, at home workout program is ready.


This program design works amazing and will get you insane results, and we’re so excited for you to try it here.


Start by taking our FREE Live Lean Body Quiz to get access to the best program specific to your goals, current fitness level, and access to equipment.

Take the Free Live Lean Body Quiz


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Question For You:

  • Which of these 5 tips was your favorite?

Be sure to share your answers in the comment section below.

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