When it comes to exercise, many of us are creatures of habit, we want to keep some old standby exercises in our routine, we head for the same class at the gym, log the same workout on the elliptical trainer … etc.
If you've ever lifted weights, you've probably heard of the dreaded plateau, which is the moment your body stops getting stronger or losing fat because it's adapted so well to your workouts.
So, we need to continue challenging our bodies if we want to see results.
Here are six tips for tweaking your exercise routine:
1. CHANGE YOUR FREQUENCY
Try a total body program: It’ll boost your metabolism and it is a good option as rehabilitation training after injury. I suggest 1-2 exercises per muscle group. You’ll need at least a day of rest between workouts. For that reason, you may lift 2-4 times a week.
Try a split routine: It will allow you to do more exercises and focus more on each muscle group. For example:
Alternate upper body and lower body workouts
Alternate push and pull exercises
Work opposing muscle groups on different days
Mix it up: Do a total body workout one day and then an upper body workout and a lower body workout later in the week.
2. TRY THE SAME MOVES DIFFERENTLY
Look for ways you can change your position to make moves a bit different.
If you usually do regular squats, try taking the feet wide and the toes out in a sumo squat or taking the feet narrow to fire different muscle fibers.
Change your arm position during push-ups and try a staggered version.
Bored with planks? Try a suspended version on a suspension trainer.
3. CHANGE UP YOUR TEMPO
One of my favorites to tweak up some of the exercises. Usually, we tend to try to get the move done as quickly as possible, but that’s not the most effective way to challenge muscles.
Try taking 3 seconds to do the eccentric or lowering part of a split squat or a pushup, and then 1 second to come back up.
Or take 5 seconds to go down and 5 seconds to come back up in a pushup.
Even better: lower yourself down and pause before you push back up. Yummy :)
4. MANIPULATE SETS AND REPS
Changing up your sets and reps is another simple way to stimulate your body. Of course, how many sets you choose depends on your goals and your fitness level.
If you’re usually doing 3 sets add a fourth set to your routine, why not?
If you’re working with 10 reps in 4 sets, and the last set is still not challenging, it means your load might be undershot. Consider your first three sets as warm-up sets, then take a heavier weight (minimum +50%) and do the work till failure (reps must be less than 10) in the fourth set.
Or if you usually do 3 sets of 10 reps, try doing 10 sets of 3 reps, but don’t forget to change (up) the weight accordingly. However, give your body a week or two to get used to the new loads.
5. SHORTEN YOUR REST TIME
Lots of times, people aren’t so good with sticking to a rest or NO REST schedule, they often find themselves spending minutes chatting with a buddy, getting a drink of water, or scrolling through Instagram instead. So if you’ve been taking long rests, shorten it up: Set up a timer and hold yourself accountable.
6. DEVELOP MICRO GOALS ON THE WAY TO YOUR BIG GOAL
Within your larger goal, you should schedule smaller, confidence-building goals that are achievable in a shorter time period, so you’ll be rewarded by yourself mentally.
It could be a date, your next vacation date you want to feel more comfortable in your skin
Do 20 pushups at the end of your workouts
Does your training plan say 10 reps? Do 11!
Set a timer for your whole workout … do the same exercise routine next time, and shorten your workout time by 5 minutes
Learn and include new types of training: HIIT, Tabata, Circuit Training, TRX-Suspension Training… anything! Having an objective will focus your workouts and change them systematically so you reach your goal.
As you can see, there is more than one way to spice up your workouts and you can apply these methods to your training right away.
Pro tip: If you’re a beginner, you better start out with total body training and stay with that for a couple of weeks, you may want to be more conservative with changes. You need time to master the basics first and foremost.