We like to think that if we just “show up” at the gym, we will make progress. But that’s not true. It turns out that “plateauing” is a real phenomenon and something that can take a wrecking ball to your physique goals.
The best way to deal with this issue is to continually switch up your training routine, but hardly anyone does. Instead, they go through the same motions, hoping for a different result. In this post, we explain why sticking to a routine is actually a bad idea when it comes to exercise – and what you can do instead.
Why Changing Your Exercise Routine Is So Critical
Common sense says that the more you practice a specific exercise, the stronger your body will become. But that’s not quite how it works in practice. If you keep training your muscles in the same way, you will eventually hit a plateau and your strength gains will come to a screeching halt (not something any of us want).
The reason this happens comes down to a concept called “adaptive resistance.” After a while, the body gets used to a specific type of training and no longer responds to it in the same way as before. Eventually, progress stalls and injuries begin to creep in.
The trick here is to create variation that keeps the body guessing. Rotating exercises changes the activation of muscle fibers which, in turn, switches up how the body operates.
How Much Variation Do You Need?
Researchers think that there is a “variation sweetspot.” Too little variation, and you’ll run into the problems described above. Too much variation, and you may not target muscle fibers sufficiently to get them to strengthen and grow.
Ideally, you’ll want to change your exercises every month or so. Try switching between free weights, resistance loop bands, body weight exercises and machines. A combination of exercises will make it much less likely that your body will adapt. You can also try changing the length of your workouts and, perhaps, adjusting the weight.
How To Create More Variation In Your Training Routine
So what can you do to mix up your training more specifically? There are many options.
The first is to use more supersets. These are great because they put your body into a pro-growth hormonal state. To do a superset, choose two, three or four different movements and then perform one set of each without any breaks in between. At the end of the superset, you will feel much more tired. But, at the same time, you will activate more of your body.
You can also create more variation by adding compound movements to your training routine. Compound exercises, such as squat and deadlift, recruit multiple muscles throughout your body, again changing its internal chemistry. Try joining opposing muscle group exercises together, such as squats and straight-legged deadlifts or chest press followed by barbell rows.
You can also try giant sets. This is where you do four or more different exercises on the same muscle group. Generally, you will perform just one giant set per muscle.