Change Your Workouts to Grow
Every week it's exactly the same.
On Mondays it's chest. Tuesdays the legs get a workout. Wednesdays mean it's time for some arm work. Thursdays are cardio and Fridays it's a back workout.
I've been watching someone at the gym, we'll call him Mr. Smith, and the workout he does today is the very the same one he was doing the first time I watched over seven years ago.
It's a common mistake people make when they start exercising. Their bodies experience tremendous gains the first 6 to 12 weeks of a workout program. Many people take the approach that, "if it's not broke, don't fix it." They continue doing that same routine, unchanged for months or years.
The results aren't good. While I've been watching, Mr. Smith has slowly gotten fatter. Every year he's lost muscle tone and definition. If you don't change your workouts on a regular basis, the same thing could happen to you.
What's happened to Mr. Smith is called adaptation. When your body's constantly exposed to the same environmental conditions, in this case the same workouts, your muscles learn to adapt and growth stops. Muscles must be stressed to grow. Mr. Smith's muscles stopped getting that stress and haven't really grown since.
Adaptation isn't the only problem, there's also the risk of injury.
When you workout you create microscopic tears in the muscle tissue. Resting, by taking "off" days or working different body parts, allows the muscles to heal and grow bigger. But if you're one of those people who do the same workout program for long periods of time, you're constantly tearing the same muscles the same way. Your body simply becomes exhausted and it can no longer resist the stress. Growth stops, injuries start and you may actually find yourself getting weaker. It's called plateauing or over-training.
Here are some simple rules to follow to see if you should change your workout, plus a few ways to do it.
Start by writing everything down. If you keep track of your workouts, it's easy to see when you're making progress and when you've stalled. If you've reached a plateau and are no longer seeing progress, it might be time to change. The same is true if you start getting weaker or if you stop seeing physical changes.
Don't fall into the "more weight means progress" trap. There are several ways to change your exercise routine, increasing weight is only one of them. You can also change how long you're resting between sets, the number of reps performed, how many sets you do or how many days a week you workout. Changing from a free weight workout to machines (or vice versa) can also stress muscles in new and positive ways. Variations in any one of these things individually or in combination may be all your body needs for a boost.
Don't change just for the sake of change. If you're still seeing progress, keep doing what you're doing. The idea is to evaluate where you're at every 3-4 weeks and see if it's worth continuing or time to try something different.
When you start a new program, stick with it for at least 3 weeks. Muscles grow by being broken down and then rebuilding. It can take 2-3 weeks for you to see the results of that process.
Generally the longer you've been working out, the more frequently you need to change. If you're new to exercising you may see tremendous progress following the same workout for 6 or more months. But if you've been working out for a few years, you may need to change as often as every couple of weeks.
No matter what program you're on, always leave time to recuperate. Your muscles can't grow if they're not given time to heal. Now that you know what to look for in your workouts, when was the last time you made a change?
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