How to Make an Exercise Tougher

About the Author: Eric Cressey

Q: Hey Eric, let me start off by saying what a great job you’ve done with Maximum Strength. It is a wonderful book that I’ve enjoyed reading and am looking forward to starting in a few weeks. I have a question regarding the book, though. For certain exercises, like the DB Bulgarian Split Squat, DB Lunge, and DB Step-up, can I use a barbell across my back instead of dumbbells, as I find that variations harder and more challenging on my core and balance?

A: These drills feel harder on your “core and balance” because you’ve moved your center of mass further up and away from the base of support. It’s one way to make an exercise harder.

I’d prefer, though, that when starting the program, you simply load the dumbbell version more in the “lower center of mass” position. The barbell stuff would come later on. There are several key benefits to holding dumbbells early on in a training program, including strengthening of important postural muscles as well as those involved in gripping.

I actually go into a lot of detail on all the progressions you can use to make exercises harder in my new e-book, The Truth About Unstable Surface Training.