If you’ve been training for a while and have been following a tried and tested traditional routine like the three day, push, pull and legs split then you might be starting to think about mixing things up a bit and exchanging some of your existing exercises for some new moves. The reasons for this can vary but most people tend to start thinking about mixing things up a bit with the aim of adding a bit of variety to their workouts. This is done in a bid to prevent their workouts getting stale which in turn could have a negative effect on their motivation levels causing them to start missing planned trips to the gym for a workout.
Disadvantages of Sticking to the Same Routine
Once boredom at the gym sets in and a feeling that you are simply going through the motions becomes the norm then it isn’t long before you start to lose interest and begin finding excuses to miss the gym. Shortly after this your progress in terms of increasing your strength, losing weight or adding muscle mass begins to slow down and then for some people they actually give up working out and taking regular exercise.
One problem that can arise if you stick to the same routine for weeks and months on end is that your body and its muscles soon become accustomed to those exercises and are no longer challenged in the same way. What was once an explosive workout that taxed your muscles in new ways, forcing them to grow and get stronger is now just part of your weekly routine much like walking up some stairs or lifting up your kids. These activities were tiring the first time but are now just part of daily life. As your body gets comfortable with a routine it is important to change around some of the exercises to shock those muscles out of their state of complacency and get them working like the first time you stepped into the gym. The best way to do this is to look at your existing routine and either tear it up and start again or keep the same basic structure and just exchange a few of the existing exercises for new ones.
Options for Varying Your Routine
As we have covered why you might want to change things around a bit and introduce some new moves in the gym you probably want to know about how to go about doing this without getting it all wrong and ending up with a messy routine that doesn’t really help you achieve your goals.
Getting a Completely New Routine
One option you have when it comes to shocking your muscles and getting them growing again is to change to a completely different routine. If you were initially doing a three day split of push, pull and legs you might want to go for a full body workout three times a week. But if you are happy with your split you might not want to do this. If this is the case don’t worry as there is still a way to spice things up a bit while still following your existing framework.
Exchanging Existing Exercises for New Ones
If you don’t want to go for something completely different and want to stick to the same structure for your workouts then removing some exercises from your routine and adding some similar but different ones is a good option. Doing this means you still exercise the same muscle groups on the same days as before but instead of doing dumbbell flies you might do dumbbell pullovers instead, for example.
Examples of Exercises to Change
If on the days you exercise your chest muscles your routine includes starting with the flat barbell bench press, then moving on to some incline dumbbell bench presses, which you follow up with some dumbbell flies before moving onto the dip station you can easily change things up quite a lot while still following the same structure. Here are some ideas on how to change your routine to prevent boredom setting in and reduce the chances of your muscle development slowing down:
- Exchange the flat barbell bench press for flat dumbbell bench press. While this is essentially the same movement, using dumbbells instead of the Olympic barbell really puts new stimulus on your muscles and gives the traditional bench press exercise a new lease of life. When working out which weights to use make sure you include the weight of the barbell which is usually 20kg when calculating the weight you usually lift. For example if you were lifting two 20kg plates on either side of the barbell the total amount you were lifting would be 100kg which breaks down as 4 x 20kg plates (80kg) + the 20kg barbell. This means you would have to use two 50kg dumbbells to be lifting the same amount. But please note that on the first few times you try the flat dumbbell bench press you won’t be able to lift as much as you could on the barbell bench press as your muscles won’t be used to this new exercise. If you train at home and don’t want to have to buy a whole new set of weights to allow you to make this exchange of exercises look for some adjustable dumbbells as this will give you more options and also save you money and storage space in your home gym.
- The next change to make is to swap the incline dumbbell bench press that you were doing for the incline barbell bench press. To do this exercise you will most likely need to move the incline bench into the power rack so you can use the Olympic barbell. Set the incline to an angle of about 45 degrees which is halfway between flat and straight up.
- Swapping dumbbell flies for overhead dumbbell pullovers is a great option and a good way to work the secondary chest muscles once you have finished doing the big compound moves of the barbell and dumbbell bench presses. Overhead dumbbell pullovers can be quite tricky to master the first time you try them so start with a light weight. After a few sessions you should get the hang of them but it is recommended you still take it easy with the weights due to the unique positioning of this chest exercise.
- If you are doing dips using a dipping station then you might want to swap this exercise for something that utilizes the cable machines. You can do a decline cable press for something different as this will give your chest a further workout that focuses on the decline movement which goes well with the flat and incline positions of the first two exercises recommended above.
As you can see there are lots of ways to breathe new life into your workouts and make them effective and fun again. The above examples cover how to revitalize your chest workout but the same principles can be applied to all the other muscle groups of the body such as your legs, back and shoulders. Although you might have the perfect routine at the moment if you fail to change things around a bit and add some variety then it could quickly cease to be the perfect routine.
How Often Should you Change your Routine?
There is no set interval for how often you should change your routine. When you start to feel your body getting used to the exercises you do and progress has slowed down it is usually a good time to make that change. If you want to change your routine before you start to experience the negative aspects of sticking with the same program for too long then a good schedule to follow is every 12 weeks or three months. This gives you time to get used to a routine in terms of performing the exercises correctly but ensures you change things around before it gets stale. After the 12 weeks you can either go back to your old routine or switch to something new entirely. The more new exercises you can add to your training regime over the years the better as it will lead to a well balanced physique.
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