For many of life’s endeavors, routines can help you reach goals. Having a routine at work can minimize wasted time and allow you to get projects done faster. Following a routine in sports can put you in the right frame of mind to perform at your best.
But when it comes to achieving health and fitness goals, a routine can be the quickest way to stall progress and keep goals out of reach.
If you continue to do the same exercises, with the same weights, for the same number of reps and sets over and over, week after week, month after month, you’re not forcing your body to adapt to change. And bodies that don’t have to adapt don’t usually improve.
Think back to the first day you started your current workout routine. It was probably very challenging that first week. You felt your muscles burn; the next day you were sore. The next few weeks you continued to make progress, but the workouts became less challenging. A few months later the plan was no longer a challenge. The progress you had made early on was halted. And now you’re wondering how you can get your swagger back.
Along with changing your routine altogether, you can keep the same routine and simply make a few tweaks.
First, consider changing the number of reps and sets you perform. If you typically do 3 sets of 15 reps for a given exercise, try doing 2 sets of 10 reps and then two sets of 20 reps.
Hand-in-hand with changing reps and sets is changing the amount of weight you lift. When reducing the number of reps, you’ll need to increase the amount of weight. Conversely, when adding more reps, you’ll need to decrease the weight. Trying both of these techniques will tax your muscles, force them to get stronger and give them more endurance.
While changing your reps, sets and weights may be the easiest way to change your routine, it’s certainly not the only way.
Another simple tweak is to change the amount of time you rest between sets. If you’re used to resting a minute between sets, try reducing the rest time to 30 seconds. This minor adjustment can lead to major improvements as your body struggles to recover from the shortened rest periods.
Timing changes can even be done with each individual rep. For example, if you’re used to taking 1 second to descend on a bench press and about a half-second to push the weight up, try taking 2 seconds to descend and then push up as fast as you can. You’ll be amazed how much more difficult your sets become by making this small change.
Besides those relatively small changes to your routine, you can employ some advanced techniques like supersets, drop sets and rest-pause sets to extend the life of your routine.
Supersets involve immediately following your primary exercise (say a bench press for the chest) with a second exercise, either one for the same muscle group (like a dumbbell fly), or one for an opposite muscle group (like a bent row for the back).
Drop sets involve immediately lowering (or dropping) the weight for an exercises once you’ve done as many reps as you can, and then continuing at the reduced weight without breaking.
Rest-pause sets are similar to drop sets, but instead of lowering the weight, simply rest for about 10 seconds once you’ve done as many reps as you can, then continue with the exercise at the same weight for a few more reps.
There are hundreds of other techniques you can use to keep your body challenged. But eventually, you will find that even a plan that’s constantly modified will have to be completely changed if you want to keep making progress.
So, get out of your routine, make some changes, and watch your body respond.