This 75-Year-Old Fitfluencer Revealed Her Trick for Making Gym Workouts More Effective At Home

Joan MacDonald shared how she keeps her workouts challenging when she doesn't have access to all that equipment.

Photo: Luis Alvarez/Getty

Take one look at Joan MacDonald's Instagram and it becomes pretty obvious that the 75-year-old fitness icon loves a good weight training session. From safety bar box squats to dumbbell deadlifts, MacDonald's fitness journey has involved seemingly every weighted workout move in the books.But MacDonald also has a strategy for fitting in an effective and challenging workout when she doesn't have access to machines, and she's shared her philosophy with her followers. (

In a new Instagram post, the fitfluencer (aka @trainwithjoan) shared two videos of herself doing rows, an exercise that mainly targets the large back muscles (such as the lats and rhomboids) while also hitting the shoulders, biceps, and triceps. In the first video, MacDonald performs the exercise on a chest-supported row machine, an option that the average person likely wouldn't have access to at home. In the second clip, MacDonald performs a more at-home-friendly version of the exercise. This time, she sits on the ground, holding onto either end of a resistance band looped around her feet, and pulls the band back to performs the rows. (

In her caption, MacDonald explains that doing the rows with her medium-level, looped resistance band is still "hard," and that she'll typically adjust her rep scheme when she's using a band for resistance rather than weights for load. (FYI — you could also use a single, longer band with two ends, such as a TheraBand, and feel the same burn.)

"The key to making home workouts effective is to make sure you do as many reps as it takes to really exhaust your muscles," writes MacDonald. "I might do only 10 reps in the gym with heavy weight, but with bands and limited dumbbells I might do 16 or 20 reps. Basically I'll do as many reps as need to get a good burn." (

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Medium Resistance Band

Gymshark Medium Resistance Band

And her strategy checks out. Yes, using a heavy weight for a low number of reps is ideal for increasing muscle mass and power. But it is possible to build muscle strength and endurance with just light resistance or bodyweight alone. Continuously challenging your muscles is key, but adding increasing amounts of weight isn't the only way to do so. When using lighter weight or none at all, you can increase the number of reps you perform — and/or decrease the time you rest between sets — to achieve similar results as you would in a gym with big equipment. MacDonald specified that she'll do as many reps as necessary until she feels "a good burn," which is in line with a popular training rule of thumb: If you don't feel like the last few reps are hard, it's time to increase your reps or add more weight.

Moving heavy things at the gym can feel amazing and can be helpful in reaching many fitness goals, no doubt. But as MacDonald demonstrates, it's also possible to fit in a challenging workout using simple and small tools right at home.

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