It’s tempting to design a workout routine and adhere to it for months on end without any alterations. A regular workout is calming and you get used to the same machines, movements, weights, reps and sets.
Like you become accustomed to your workout over time, your muscles gradually acclimate to your routine and, over a period of weeks, exercises stop having the same effect as they did when you first started doing them. Indeed, your muscles becoming used to a routine is the primary cause of plateaus in your progress.But plateaus can be avoided by following a few simple guidelines for long term fitness.
One of the first things that you can do to prevent plateaus and keep your muscles guessing is to change the number of reps or sets that you perform every few weeks. For instance, if you regularly perform exercises of four sets of four reps each, change your workout to four sets of five or six sets of four. Do this every two weeks or so and you’ll notice that your progress is continuous. Of course, it isn’t just a matter of how many of each exercise you do, it’s a matter of how you do the exercises themselves.
One factor to change is the speed with which you perform certain exercises. It’ll keep your routine fresh and challenging if you perform certain exercises like pull-ups or sit-ups more slowly on certain days of the week than on other. Speed can be changed with all sorts of exercises in order to increase their challenge and maintain their efficacy.
If you primarily do cardio workouts, try changing the incline as well as the speed or duration of your runs. If you use an elliptical, change the resistance each week.
Simple measures such as these will make sure that your exercises stay challenging and that your results are consistent. That being said, you should also considering abandoning some exercises entirely and replacing them with more efficient ones.
For instance, certain machine exercises that isolate particular muscles (tricep presses, bicep curls and calf machines to name a few) lose efficacy over time and should simply be replaced altogether. Rather than perform isolate exercises that work one or two muscles, try performing bodyweight exercises instead.
Bodyweight exercises like pull-ups and sit-ups work multiple muscle groups and don’t lose their efficacy as quickly as single muscle machines. Using bodyweight exercises, you’ll notice faster progress that doesn’t plateau as easily. These bodyweight exercises should still be changed every few weeks and it’s easy to do so by varying the speed with which you perform each rep.
Plateaus regularly disrupt progress for many people because they get into a habit of using the same machines, in the same way at their gym each and every day. But plateaus can be easily avoided by mixing up your workout every few weeks.
By changing the number of reps or sets you perform, altering the speed in which you perform the exercise or changing machines altogether, it’s possible to keep your routine fresh and your progress constant.