Have you ever found yourself getting bored with an exercise routine or program? Or are you one of those people that reverts to the same kind of routine or program? Either way, you will benefit immensely from changing up your normal workout.
Much like beginner’s luck, “newbie gains” are really a thing! People who have never resistance trained or who have taken a long break will typically see results very quickly. But, if you have been exercising for a long time, you know that it’s challenging to make improvements. You have to be more disciplined with your program and track carefully to make sure you are increasing volume and/or concentrating on the right lifts to meet your goals. Even, then, it’s a struggle.
The average person doesn’t track their workouts and typically follows the same exercise modality or program day after day, week after week. Not only can this get boring, but it can also stunt your growth. This is why personal trainers who understand good programming will “periodize” the training, meaning the program will move through different types of training to help maximize your muscle building potential.
Basic programs typically start with two to three sets of about 15 reps each, moving to 8 to 10 reps, 6 to 8, and even lower. Each phase causes different adaptations in your muscles. For example, 15 to 20 reps and higher typically give you a “pump” and are excellent at stabilizing and priming your body for heavier lifts and more complex movements. The 8 to 12 rep range is typical bodybuilding style, known as hypertrophy. This is where I personally like to live most of the time! We all gravitate to something! Anything lower than 8 reps is more of a strength building style, or even powerlifting depending on the type of movements selected for the program. With strength you often don’t see an immediate pump but it is a powerful way to send strong signals to your muscles to grow!
To successfully change the look of your body, you need to be working in each of these modalities. When I program, I typically spend about 4 weeks in each phase but I have gone as high as 8 weeks in the past, if I am still seeing results and feeling good about it. I also tend to play with frequency, too. Right now, for example, I am lifting three days a week in a strength phase. Other days I will do a Peloton ride with some stretching or foam rolling. In my heavy hypertrophy phases, I have worked out as many as 6 days a week in a split type of training where I focus on legs one day, arms another, etc. There are so many ways to change things up.
The key is to be intentional about it and not change up too often. If you don’t spend the time allowing your body to adapt to a particular training type, it won’t work. That being said, if something isn’t working for you, you experience pain, or you don’t have enough equipment, then stop. There’s no sense continuing just for the sake of getting a 4-week phase completed!
Should Anything Stay the Same?
Changing up the workout periodically is important but there are some protocols that should remain constant. For example, if you are trying to build muscle, it’s essential to keep compound, main lifts a part of your routine. For me, those exercises are: squats, deadlifts, hip thrusts, chest press, bent over row, and military press. Sometimes I will also incorporate pull-ups depending on what else I have going on. Those exercises work multiple muscles at the same time, maximizing your growth potential. All the other exercises you pick should complement those main exercises and help you build strength and stability for them.
You also should keep your personal goals and condition in mind. For example, if you are looking to build your shoulders, incorporate shoulder exercises more often to emphasize them. Or, if your mobility prevents you from doing squats, work on it, and consider starting with a box squat or similar regression until you are able to do squats.
Exercise programming is a science and there is a lot to consider! While you can put together a decent program on your own, consider hiring a personal trainer who can fully assess you, your abilities, goals, and situation. Everyone is different! So, an off the shelf program is a good starting point, but everything can and should be customized for best results.