Getting into a routine is great for sticking to a workout, and it’s the way I’m able to keep my butt in the gym and my head on straight (kind of ;)). BUT, there are downsides to falling into a pattern because, sometimes, your routine and workouts can become TOO predictable. If you can create a pattern or routine to work out daily, EVEN if it is the same thing every day, you should, because something is better than nothing. But keep in mind that, over time, our bodies do adapt to the physical activity we are doing.
Consider this: If you’re just starting a new routine, you might start by doing 3 strength training sessions a week, and you will see results since this is something new and somewhat shocking to your body. But, over time + by doing the same thing over and over again, the following can start to happen:
- Your heart rate will not get up as high as it once did.
- Your calorie expenditure will naturally decrease.
- Your muscles will become stronger, but that rate of strength gain could slow down.
This is still all great, right? Because it means you’re improving your fitness levels. But it also means that what worked 2 months ago is just not enough today. Why? Well, you are MUCH stronger now.
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When this happens, I suggest you play a card from the FITT Principal. Change only ONE of the following:
- Frequency (instead of 3 days a week, up strength training to 4)
- Intensity (instead of working out at low intensity weight, increase to moderate)
- Type (instead of 3 total body days, maybe try 2 lower body days and 1 heavy upper body day)
- Time (also interchangeable with “Volume” when it comes to strength—instead of 20 total sets combined, lengthen your workout and do 25 total reps, which will increase your muscles’ “time under tension”).
In addition to our body’s adaptation to the workout, our minds need changing too! By adding in new moves and giving our workouts a little variety every now and then, we are making it more fun and challenging—BOTH factors that help us adhere to a workout plan.
How to tell when your routine needs a refresher
The answer to this is actually pretty easy. The first true sign of needing a routine refresher is if your results have come to a halt. Once this happens, a change needs to be made. On the flip side, maybe you are seeing results, but excitement for hitting the gym and pumping iron just isn’t there! There’s nothing worse than dragging your feet day after day and not listening to what your mind and body are telling you, and this is a sure-fire way to get into a slump. We don’t want that.
Ok, so maybe you’re ready for a change, but now you’re thinking, “How often should I change up my strength training routine?” This is different for everyone. Some people need change workout to workout. There are plenty of people who DO NOT like doing the same thing twice. If this is you, keep it fresh and fun. For others who can handle the same thing over and over, I use the rule, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!!” If you are still seeing results, keep on moving! Once the results seem to slow or taper, or (with bodybuilding) once you start to see a muscle imbalance, change it up.
Top ways to change up + simplify your workouts
Strength workouts do not need to be complicated. If they are, you are either under the wrong impression that it needs to be complicated, or you are just wanting to add more of a fun factor—which is okay!! Like I said, some people like variety! However, basic moves repeated over and over, with increased intensity over time, will still get you phenomenal strength results (oftentimes better results and in a safer manner) than those overly-complicated acrobatic moves you see so many people doing.
Leave the trendy workouts and fancy machines behind
Ok, new workouts, trends, and machines can be super fun, and there are incredibly unique benefits to each of those fancy pieces. But, they can also add a level of complexity that leaves you feeling exhausted or with analysis paralysis. No one wants that. Instead, streamlining and using minimal equipment when it comes to your workouts can be a great way to stay focused and ensure your routine is sustainable.
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Think about it this way: There are incredible benefits to 10 different high tech vacuums if you line them up, right? But that doesn’t mean you need them all to get the job done! Just buy a vacuum that works and start vacuuming! With a little hard work and determination, your floor will become as clean as it needs to be. The same goes for workout equipment. They are all great for their own reasons, and if you have the money and space, why not buy them all for fun and convenience? But the reality is that they just aren’t all necessary to achieve the body of your dreams. The more complicated you make it, the harder it is for you to stick to it!
Use minimal equipment (and your body)
Our own bodies alone are like FREE pieces of gym equipment! We so often underestimate the power of body weight. By adding bands, a stability ball, and a couple of dumbbells, we can create an at-home gym for very little money that allows us to do more than enough! With minimal equipment, we never have an excuse NOT to work out. Bands and dumbbells can be packed along in our car, and our body weight follows us around whether we want it to or not.
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I’ve also realized that I can mimic almost ANY move I’ve seen with whatever little equipment I have available. If I see a trainer using a heavy barbell to create a weighted hip thrust, but all I have available is a band, you better believe I know I can create resistance on my hips by attaching that band to something stable, putting it around my waist, and mimicking the same movement pattern to engage those muscles.
Chose simple moves over complex
Every movement has its very own unique and beneficial purpose—KEY: depending on your skill level, so there isn’t always a possible solution. BUT, there are plenty of places to start from. Arnold Schwartznegger said something to the tune of—and forgive me if I butcher this quote, “You have no business doing a bench press until you can do a push up.” I wholeheartedly agree with this philosophy and approach.
Until you can master the BASICS (think push ups, air squats, and pull ups), complex or heavily weighted moves are completely 100% unnecessary. Honestly, you have no business doing complex and creative plank variations if you can’t master the basic plank!!! And you have no business doing weighted crunches if you can’t vacuum regularly and with ease on a daily basis. Doing more than you are ready for will only risk injury and frustrate you in the process. Once you have the basics down pat, start very slowly adding in some more complex moves.
Increase HR with cardio bursts, supersets, or adjusting rest time
In addition to complex moves and complex equipment, there are other parts of a workout that people make more complicated in order to keep their heart rate up. Three ways to easily change it up: cardio bursts, supersets, and increase/decrease rest time.
Cardio bursts are actually amazing to add between sets if you are trying to train cardio and strength/muscular endurance together. However, when I lift, I actually prefer supersetting moves to keep the intensity high and my heart rate up and to work as many muscles in as little time as possible. I like to start my workouts with a big strength move or two, NOT supersetted. Then I will throw in one or two supersets for the core of the workout, and then I’ll finish off with accessory work with a big giant set. You’ll see these a lot in the app for that reason.
Keep in mind, rest IS important when you are strength training. But there is a difference between the recommended 45-60 seconds rest between sets and a 10 minute gab session. 😉 When it comes to building, sculpting, or strengthening your muscles, you DO NOT want all of your work to be heart rate heavy, cardio-based circuits. You must give your muscles recovery time to maximize muscle break down at each set.
Obviously, this year has given us a lot more change than we anticipated….especially when we’re going through big life changes. But that doesn’t mean that change is a bad thing or that you need to hone in on a routine to stabilize the rest of it. Enjoy a little bit of the beautiful chaos and control what you can, but remember, change is good.
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