I have had a pretty steady workout routine in the gym for about 8 months now. I work out with weights either 2 or 3 days a week and hit all the major body parts at least once during the week. I saw some good gains when I first started out, but I have had a couple of months where I didn’t see any gains at all. Then almost suddenly I started to have major gains again. What is the secret?
Changing things up…
Whatever your workout routine is, your body will eventually adjust to it. If you lift the same amount of weight all the time you will never get bigger or stronger. If all you ever do is run 3 miles a couple times a week, then you won’t get faster or be able to run longer distances that well.
As far as weight lifting goes I was making steady progress in the big 3 powerlifting moves (bench press, deadlift, squat). I didn’t change up my routine at all and after a few months my squat started really lagging behind my deadlift. After reaching a max on my deadlift that I was proud of I went back and worked on my squats. Better technique, using lighter weights to go lower to the ground, focusing on positioning, etc. After a few months of work there I finally hit a new max in the squat.
What is interesting is that the exact opposite happened to me in the bench press. I reached a max I was proud of and stopped working on it. Instead I worked a lot on my shoulder press and some other complementary movements. What happened? I came back and increased my max by 20 pounds overnight!
What I have noticed is that 3-4 months is the optimal time to try something new. Nothing too drastic, but just something that might have a big impact on your performance.
Weight lifters often focus on the big movements, but forget that some of the complementary movements can help them increase the amount of weight they can move in the big movements. Power cleans help the deadlift, shoulder presses help the bench press, lunges help the squat. Sometimes it also pays to lower the weight and increase your reps while working on your form.
Runners can benefit from sprint intervals and hill running. Runners also benefit a lot from doing pace work. Running their race pace in shorter distances.
Athletes in every sport can benefit from cross training. Swimming is a much more intense cardiovascular activity than practically anything out there. Volleyball or basketball can improve the power of your legs as can biking and hiking. Various activities can help your performance in your chosen sport, but it pays to learn about what can benefit you and what really doesn’t help.
No matter what, whether you play a sport or just practice an activity for your health, it pays to mix things up a bit. See what works and what doesn’t. It is better than constantly wearing down your body in specific areas and not improving at all. A balanced workout routine will keep you healthier in the long run.
This is our 26th challenge in The Personal Health Challenge Series…