No matter how great of a workout plan we follow, eventually we are going to hit a fitness plateau. We will see our progress towards our fitness goals come to a complete halt and our strength or mass gains will become harder and harder to come by. At this point the best strategy is to entirely change our workout routine. In this article we will talk about how we can introduce variety in our workout.
In the strategy of progressive overloading, where to make strength and mass gain, we continuously make our workout difficult as our body adapts to more and more stress. This is a great way of increasing our strength and mass. However, eventually we will notice that no matter how hard we try; we will just not succeed in progressively overloading our workout any further. At this point we would have hit a fitness plateau
In such a situation the best strategy is to completely change our workout by introducing different sets of exercise or different training regimens. These changes put the load on our body in new ways, which gives a jolt to our body to adapt to a completely new set of stresses. We then break out of fitness plateau and start to make progress again.
To be more efficient in sustaining our strength and mass gain, we should never wait to start to see fitness plateaus. We should change our workout much before that. The general rule of thumb is to never follow the same training routine for more than 12 weeks. Ideally we should change our routine every 6-8 weeks, so as to never let our body adapt to a specific routine. This is also beneficial in improving the overall conditioning of the body as our body is being exposed to different types of stresses. Moreover adding new exercises and routines to our workout keeps our workout fresh and exciting.
Following are the changes we can incorporate in our workouts to completely change the workout routine
1. Change the exercises one is doing in a workout. Although we have mentioned that we should include the exercises corresponding to the functional movements of the human body, there are a lot of things that can be changed in those exercises, such as grip, feet placement, orientation, equipment etc. As an example, for bench-presses one can do incline, decline or flat bench-press. In terms of grip one can do wide-grip, close-grip, regular grip or reverse grip bench press. In terms of equipment, one can use barbells or dumbbells. By changing such parameters we can target the same muscle group in different ways with different amount of emphasis on the supporting muscles. This is a great technique of getting out of plateaus, as most plateaus arise due to inherent weaknesses in these supporting muscles.
2. We can add new exercises to our workout which essentially target the same muscle group, as an example instead of doing sit ups for bending push, we can add leg raises, which is a similar movement but performed in a different way, or instead of bench press, we can include push-ups.
3. We can change the number of reps and sets we are doing for a particular exercise, as an example instead of performing 3 sets of 8 reps we can perform 5 sets of 5 repetitions. We can also change the amount of rest we take between the exercises. By changing these parameters we can change the amount of weight we can lift, which can drastically change the stress on our body and hence help us break out of plateaus.
4. The order in which we do the exercises can be changed to change, which muscle is tired and which is fresh when we are doing a certain exercise. If we are splitting our days by the muscle group, we can change that. For instance if we were training our chest and arms together one one day previously we can change it to back and arms together in the new workout. All these changes will significantly change the load on our muscle groups.
There are many other ways by which a workout can be changed such as adding super-sets or drop sets or performing explosive exercises. However these are more advanced techniques, which we will cover in our later posts. For this post we just want to emphasize that changing the workout every 6-8 weeks is critical if we want to continue to make progress and avoid fitness plateau.