For long gym friends who’ve been hitting the temple for years. You probably noticed what I’m about to share with you to an extent.
There’s no such thing as a planned work out.
Don’t get me wrong, you can craft your own plans for weeks and months to come with the exact exercices you’ll do. Predicting repetitions, how tired your body will be and recovery fences. This is possible.
What I’m talking is the overkill effect of ALWAYS practicing the same workout. Ever and ever again.
Let’s say your a barbell bench press enthusiast and decide to spam your favorite movement ad nausea… Soon enough will come a point where your body stops improving. Your body will build an habit of hitting the same exact movement. With the same weight. And the same repetitions. And you’ll take time to notice it…
Improvement will become stagnant. No heavier weights. No more repetitions.
Your body will be used to the movement, and from an habit will stop growing.
Now, the solution is straight forward. Hopefully you already figured it out reading these words.
You need variations. Let’s dissect all the variations you can add to your monotone exercice so you keep grabbing the best gains you can.
Change repetitions and weights.
Strength is a universal characteristic. Endurance is part of strength. While there’s a lot of will required to lift heavy weights with only a few repetitions, swapping the system is another way to increase your strength. Aiming for high repetitions – 20 to 30 – with lower weights will definitely help crushing plateaus.
Instead of building pure strength with heavy weights, you build endurance and movement mastery through countless repetitions. Thus increasing the maximum weight you can lift.
More than this, building endurance is a vital skill. Being big is great. Being lean and mean is way better. You get the best of both worlds. Pure strength. Pure endurance. Not so long ago, endurance was way more useful than strength. And to be fair with you, there’s no better running animal on earth than humans. We aren’t the fastest for sure. But we are those who can run the most kilometers without stopping.
If you are having trouble increasing your stamina, let’s play a game. There are many sports who are great to build this characteristic into you.
– Swimming. It imposes a specific breathing rhythm you must follow. If you can’t? You won’t be able to swim long. Master the breathing pattern and you’ll crush your own endurance.
– Running and biking. Both in the same point as they are very similar. If your great at one you’ll at least be decent at the other one. Again, instead of focusing on pure strength you add more miles to your counter – which is similar to adding more repetitions.
– Climbing. Most people believe it’s pure strength. Sure it helps. Far from it. Endurance makes a great climber. Imagining running out of energy in the middle of a mountain. What happens? You die. Climbing is super taxing on your energy as it requires all your muscles to move toward the same goal.
If your having trouble adding more repetitions to your workout, give these sports a try as they are definitely worth it. They’ll help you climb new heights in your gym quest.
Tweak the movement.
Again, your à big fan of the barbell bench press. You do it every day you are training your chest. Because you’ve started with it, felt improvement as they you trained and decided to keep the movement with you for life.
Everything’s great. Until one day… You see no more progress. You decide to go harder. More chest workout in your weeks. Higher protein intake. No changes. You keep lifting the same 80kg barbell for 12 reps for 4 sets.
No improvement. And you know that if you try to add more weight to the bar, you’ll significantly reduce your repetition score. Progressive overload ain’t the solution here.
Desperately you decide to read as much gym content as you can, hoping there’s something you missed that’ll help you grab new heights. Or maybe did you max your movement?
Hopefully, there’s something you missed. And no, you are still far away from your peak performance – at least I hope for you!
You aren’t throwing in any variation. Thus your body decide it’s not worth to adapt as the stimulus is always the same. Why do anything?
There’s a quick tweak to make here. And thousands if you read what follows.
Tweak the movement. Not by reducing repetition like in our first sample.
Choose your movement, and tweak it.
What’s the closest movements to your barbell bench press?
With these ideas you craft new movements. From inclined barbells bench press to declined dumbbells bench press.
And while the movement do not seem to be very different, that’s those small tweaks which will tell your body he needs to keep adapting to these newly found pressures.
Variations adds up to ALL movements. Just like in calisthenics you don’t have just one standard push up. Reduce the distance between your arms and you get tight push ups. Increase it and you get spider push ups. Both of these variations changes the way your muscle work… Thus making sure your body *needs* to adapt to new changes.
Completely new movements you never performed before
Fitness world is so vast. There are thousands different exercices you can practice and learn. While it’s easy to do it in the gym with difficulty being switched by the weight you put on the bar, it’s not the same deal when it comes to calisthenics. You need to learn completely *new* movements you never done before which requires different type of strength and equilibrium than the one you are used to.
Let’s dive deep into the handstand. You know, standing straight with your hands. It’s quite the deal and it looks super cool to perform. It’s one of these movements I’m learning right now, just like how to do some muscle up.
Adding new exercices you never performed makes sure you are ALWAYS learning new things. Even if you are an “expert” in the gym. Now, when you want to learn how to perform the famous handstand, you first need to learn how to balance your body using your two arms. It requires an insane amount of strength in your shoulders, triceps and core to lift your body in the handstand position.
Before even trying the position, it’s recommended to try it with a wall, to master half-levers and other movements making sure you have enough strength to execute the movement.
Just by adding a new calisthenic goal to your weight lifting program, you are changing the way you train. Now, you must decide which exercices will help you build muscles you need to do your first handstand.
That’s only for the calisthenics part of the game – I’m talking about it because calisthenics and gym are two parts of the same world. Strength becomes useless without mobility and agility.
Now that I piked your curiosity, I’m sure there are dozens exercices you heard about but never tried to incorporate in your workouts. Am I right? Of course! We all have a long list of these. But we have some habits, always performing the same exercises…
If your struggling to break a plateau or you are just willing to learn new movements, give your try-this-later list a try. You’ll be surprised by how many of these movements will help you reach new heights.
And if you can’t pull one of them off… No big deal, ask one of the gym guys, he may know how to help you.
Other variation to break your boring gym days
Some days you aren’t in. You are there, present at the gym. But your mind is somewhere else. You feel tired. Bored. Just like hitting the gym is worthless, will not bring any result. I feel you.
These days are unbearable. And to be fair with you, they happen because you add no variation to your exercices. I did this mistake too. For way too long, I only had two different workout per week. It looked like this:
- Bench press variations – inclined, declined, dumbbells or barbells
- Triceps pull down
- Another bench press variation
- Random chest machine
- Military press with barbells
- Wide grip pull ups
- Bicep curl and its variations
- Chest pressed rowing
I would hit the gym 6 days a week. Alternating between day 1 and day 2 during the week. And while this sounds light years away from optimal, it actually brought me some decent results. Imagine what could have happened if I had added more diversity to these? Better results.
This part isn’t all about me, that’s your website after all. Here’s more tweaks you can add to your workout so you never run out of *new* ways to train:
- Half calisthenics half weight lifting programs – Grab the best of both worlds in a single workout
- Gym with a friend. Different ideas matching together means different workouts. Plus it’s incredibly fun when you go there with someone who’s into weight lifting with some knowledge. Bonus: increased motivation and consistency
- Change the way you eat. Try out new diet. Here’s my complete macronutient guide
- Add in different sports – especially to change your cardio. The way you breath is so important I can’t over-stress this one! Try one of these: climbing, biking, running or swimming. Bonus point: swimming will help you relax your muscle after an epic workout
- Tweak your recovery schedule
- Change your recovery day activity. Try walking a lot during your recovery day. It burns loads of fat while still enabling your body to recover correctly