In this weeks weekly reader question, I bring you a question from Kayt Render:

 “I’m on a program of deadlifts, squats, bench press, and arms/shoulders with interval cardio, but after 8 months of this, I’m curious as to if/when I should be switching it up. How often do you change up your workouts?”Kayt Render  

 

Great question Kayt!  The answer, as with everything in fitness, is… it depends.

In my experience I seem to find two extremes:

  1. People who bounce from routine to routine and activity to activity claiming that nothing ever “works for them.”
  2. People who do the same stuff over and over again, expecting to continually make progress.

As you can imagine, both approaches are less-than-ideal.

First things first however, let’s make sure that you understand the importance of progression within your workouts.  You’ve probably heard that it’s important to make sure you’re always progressing in your workouts.  That is, every time you perform a work out, you should be trying to improve.

 

Progress can come in the following ways: 

1. LoadYou increase the amount of weight/resistance you are using.

An example of this would be using doing split squats for 3 sets of 10 reps using 75 lbs. and resting 90 seconds between sets one week, and the next week, keeping all other variables the same, doing 3 sets of 10 reps with 80 lbs.

 

Adding weight is one of my favorite ways to progress on a Romanian Deadlift.

 

2. VolumeYou perform more total reps either via more sets or more reps per set (at the same or close to the same weight as before).

An example of this would be using doing split squats for 3 sets of 10 reps using 75 lbs. and resting 90 seconds between sets one week, and the next week, keeping all other variables the same, doing 4 sets of 10 reps with 75 lbs. or 3 sets of 12 reps with 75 lbs.

 

3. Density Perform the same amount of work in less time (shorten rest periods).

An example of this would be using doing split squats for 3 sets of 10 reps using 75 lbs. and resting 90 seconds between sets one week, and the next week, keeping all other variables the same, doing 3 sets of 10 reps with 75 lbs. and only resting 60 seconds between sets.

 

4. Range of MotionIncreasing range of motion is a great way to make an exercise more difficult.

An example of this would be using doing split squats for 3 sets of 10 reps using 75 lbs. and resting 90 seconds between sets one week, and the next week, keeping all other variables the same, doing 3 sets of 10 reps with 75 lbs., but using more range of motion/doing a deeper split squat.

 

5. Stability – Decreasing stability can make an exercise much more challenging.

An example of this would be using doing split squats for 3 sets of 10 reps using 75 lbs. and resting 90 seconds between sets one week, and the next week, keeping all other variables the same, doing 3 sets of 10 reps with 75 lbs., but elevating your back foot on a bench (also known as a Bulgarian Split Squat) to decrease stability and make the exercise more difficult.

P.S.  Don’t take this one too far.  There is definitely a point of diminishing returns on decreasing stability (i.e. an offset DB overhead press while standing on one foot on a Bosu ball is kind of ridiculous, and yes, I have seen that done before. ::::facepalm::::)

Using a medicine ball as a base for your push-up definitely decreases stability and makes the movement more challenging!

 

6. Tempo/TUT – Slow the tempo, increase time under tension with same weight/volume/rest.

An example of this would be using doing split squats for 3 sets of 10 reps using 75 lbs. and resting 90 seconds between, and using a 1011 tempo (1 second down, 0 seconds in the bottom, 1 second up, 1 second at the top) one week.  This means it took you 3 seconds for each split squat, or ~30 seconds to complete a set (per leg).  If you perform 3 sets, then you spent approximately 90 seconds per leg performing split squats.

If you slow things down a bit, and use a 2111 tempo (2 seconds down, 1 second pause in the bottom, 1 second up, 1 second at the top) it is now taking you 5 seconds to perform each split squat, or 50 seconds per set per leg.  If you do 30 sets, that’s 150 seconds per leg.  You just increased your time under tension by 60 seconds per leg, or 67% using the same weight.

Keep in mind that there is definitely a point of diminishing returns with increasing time under tension, but it is a way to progress.

(Coaches tip:  Increasing time under tension and/or using static holds are also a great way for beginners to “practice” and ingrain certain movement patterns.  We love to have new clients just hold split squats statically in the bottom position.  It’s easier for them to learn how to control their body if they don’t have to worry about moving up and down, it helps them “feel” what the correct position feels like, and it makes them feel like they are working very, very hard without actually beating them up.)

 

 

Pausing at the top for 1-2 seconds and contracting my glutes is one of my favorite progressions to use for barbell glute bridges.

 

These are 6 of my favorite ways to progress within my workouts.  Keep in mind they can occasionally be combined, but slow and steady progress is the key to long-term success, so don’t get too crazy with the progressions.  Also keep in mind that certain exercises lend themselves to certain methods of progression.  For example, you can’t always be adding more load to smaller, more isolation-type movements like biceps curls.  You may be better off slowing the tempo down or using more range of motion, where adding weight/load to a back squat might make more sense.

 

In part 2, I’ll explain how long you should stick with a particular routine (hint: it depends), how to know when to switch it up, and just exactly what you should be switching up when you do switch routines.  Stay tuned!

 

P.S.  If you’re a trainer or bootcamp owner and don’t want to have to think about sitting down and doing a bunch of programming using these progressions, check out my product with Mike Robertson and Jim Laird that includes 6 months of DONE-FOR-YOU programming!  It’s called Bootcamp In A Box and you can read about it HERE!

 

 

6 Responses to Weekly Reader Question # 7: How Often Do I Change My Workouts? Part 1

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