Even the most dedicated exercisers get bored with their workouts. And you can imagine that if your mind is getting bored with your workouts, so is your body. It is important to continue to mix things up by using different pieces of equipment, training techniques, tempos, sequences and more. Follow the ten suggestions below to maximize your workouts and keep your exercises fresh.
1. First and foremost: continually switch up your exercises. It's easy to get comfortable doing the exercises you are most familiar with but it's important to try new ones. After about four weeks of doing the same exercises your body adapts and you begin to plateau. Another option is to take your workouts outdoors. After all, we do live in sunny Southern California!
2. Second: try different equipment. Don't get in the rut of using exercise machines all the time. Try exercises using barbells, dumbbells, resistance bands, fitness balls, kettlebells and others. You may also want to try different equipment and exercises by attending group exercise classes such as spinning, Pilates, yoga, TRX/Kettlebells, and other resistance training classes.
3. If you’re accustomed to doing straight set training (doing one exercise for several repetitions, resting, and then doing another set of the same exercise) then try circuit training. Circuit training requires you to perform a series of exercise moves targeting different muscle groups one right after the other with little to no rest between exercises. Circuit training maximizes your workouts by allowing you to train another muscle group while you’re waiting for the others to recover instead of just sitting and waiting. Ultimately, it allows you to burn more calories, keep your heart rate elevated, and incorporate more exercises in a shorter amount of time.
4. For the more advanced, try a superset program. Supersetting is a workout technique in which you do two exercises, one after the other, with no rest in between. The exercises can be for the same muscle group or two different muscle groups, depending on your goals. They can even be completely different activities (e.g., a strength exercise followed by a cardio exercise). An example of this would be leg curls (for your hamstrings) followed by leg extensions (for your quadriceps) or doing chest presses followed by pushups (both work the chest). Supersetting can save time, add intensity, and help you bust through weight loss plateaus.
5. An additional option is altering the order of exercises. Simply changing which exercise you do first, last and in the middle can have big results on the effectiveness of your routine. Or you can combine different muscle groups that you usually don’t do together on the same days. For example, say you usually do agonist and antagonist (opposing muscle) workouts, meaning you work out your chest and back on the same day, you could switch to doing primary and secondary workouts. Primary and secondary workouts are when you work out the primary muscle. For example you can work out the chest and then do an exercise that would work out the chest’s secondary mover, your triceps. This way you give that secondary muscle an extra workout. You can also apply this to the back and biceps, where the back is the primary mover and the biceps are the secondary.
6. Next, change the intensity. If you normally push yourself to lift weights that fatigue you quickly (less than 8 reps), try lowering the weight size and increase the number of reps. Every four weeks you can switch your intensity level back and forth, going from heavy weight and less reps to lighter weight and more reps. However, always keep in mind you should be selecting the correct amount of weight so that you are barely able to finish your last two reps of whatever your rep goal is without breaking form.
7. Alter the speed of your training technique. A typical exercise might require 8 seconds to perform a rep. To change that up you may try 15 seconds per exercise. By changing the tempo you allow your muscles to focus on different stages of contraction, concentric, isometric, and eccentric. Concentric, when the muscle shortens and contracts, isometric, the peak of the contraction where you hold stable, and eccentric, decelerating a weight, or lowering a load gently rather than letting it drop.
8. Change up your workout frequency. Try increasing from 2 to 3 days per week or even the days and times you do your workouts. It may sound strange, but your body will respond to a change in the time of day or day of the week. Overall, it's about constantly confusing our bodies so we never hit that plateau we all hate so much, this is also known as muscle confusion. If that means switching the days and times you do your workouts then try it.
9. Don't ignore your rest and recovery time. Sometimes you'll want to keep your rest time between sets to a minimum and other times you may want it to be as much as 1-2 minutes. Also, some weeks you may want to allow for several days of recovery between workout sessions and others may only need 48 hours.
10. Most importantly, ask for help. To push yourself to your potential, you may want to occasionally try the assisted training technique. This requires you have a spotter who assists you to perform an additional 2-4 reps when you think you have reached your limit. Feel free to ask any personal trainers or weight room attendants if you need a spotter, that’s what they are there for.
If you are unsure of what exercises you should be doing to continually challenge your muscles and reach your maximum potential I encourage you to enlist the help of your local gym.
~Written by Personal Trainer Jacque Scaramella