‘If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got’; you may have heard that said many times in the gym or even seen it on the wall of your training venue, and as clichés go, it’s actually spot on!
Muscles require stimuli in order to grow, and if this fails to be progressive or remains unchanged, then gains will stagnate, motivation will wane and time spent training will ultimately become a chore and non-productive. When we begin training changes in strength and muscle size occur relatively quickly, but over time these begin to slow and plateaus are reached.
So what can we do? Well, variety is not only the spice of life, but also the gym, with changes made to a routine doing wonders to kick start new growth and commitment. These could involve changes to a current programme or the inclusion/addition of another form of exercise such as a class or a run. A circuits class for example will engage the cardiovascular system whilst working the muscles in a different manner, or perhaps try a yoga class to improve flexibility, relax and distress and also aid recovery.
Other classes may offer similar benefits whether social or physical and are certainly worth giving a try. Simple changes within a resistance programme might include varying the weight used, number of reps or sets and/or rest times each of which will help to overcome plateaus, whilst more advanced techniques such as super sets, drop sets, eccentric training and the like will take improvements still further. “Whether it’s high volume to low volume, shortening your rest period, or using different techniques, alter aspects of training every three to five weeks to continue breaking through plateaus” – Phi Heath six-time Mr Olympia winner.
In addition to the physical gains change can induce, varying exercises and techniques is also great from a mental standpoint and may prevent the onset of boredom and hence maintain enthusiasm.
The word exercise encompasses many disciplines and so deciding what to change may well prove more difficult than purely deciding that change is required. However, as long as the activity chosen is somewhat taxing on the body, then this new stimulus will be appreciated by both the body and mind whether undertaken for a week, a month or on a permanent basis and can only be good. So take a step outside of your comfort zone and enjoy the benefits that change can bring.