Fitness Articles

Plateau Busters - Part 3

Add Variety to Your Workouts

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Add Variety to Your Workouts

Incorporate variation into each workout. Variety is critical because your muscles become very efficient at the exercises they are accustomed to doing. Switching things up or doing something radically different during each workout session is more challenging to your muscles. This concept should be applied to both aerobic exercise and strength training.

An individual who always does the same exercises will usually plateau sooner than someone who continually makes changes. If you don’t feel comfortable doing a different workout each time you hit the gym, try to change your exercise routine at least every 6-8 weeks. Changing your routine is crucial to keeping your body/muscles surprised. They'll have to work harder, you'll be challenged, and you'll burn more calories and build more lean muscle in the process.
  1. Change your cardio activity:
    • Change the type of exercise you usually do. The possibilities of aerobic exercise are endless. If you walk, try cycling. If you take kickboxing, try the elliptical. Consider adding some of these possibilities to your routine: running, jogging, walking, elliptical machine, swimming, cycling, indoor exercise, outdoor exercise, hiking, fitness videos/DVDS, group fitness classes like kickboxing, aerobics, spinning, stair steppers, etc.—anything, just change it up!
       
    • Change the duration of your workouts. Try to increase your minutes as you become fitter, and occasionally, try a shorter (but more intense) workout.
       
    • Change the intensity of your workouts. This is something you can play with on a daily basis. This includes working at an incline or harder level, sprint work, distance work, maintaining intensity, or interval work (shifting between fast/hard and easy/recovery intervals).
  2. Change your Strength Training Routine:
    • Change the mode of exercise. If you are using machines, move to free weights. If you are using body weight, try resistance bands. If you are doing free weights, add a stability element like a BOSU ball or stability ball. Try doing exercises while balancing on one foot or switch between any and all of these.
       
    • Change the exercises you actually do. If you have been doing chest press, change to a chest fly or use the pec deck machine. Think of an alternative exercise for each muscle group and you’ll have an entirely new workout! Check out SparkPeople's Exercise Demonstrations for more ideas.
       
    • Change your resistance level and/or number of repetitions. Be sure to increase your weight regularly. Make sure you are lifting to fatigue with each set. If you typically lift 12-15 reps, try doing 8-10 (with a higher weight) or vice versa. Play with your weight and reps in each set. Try lifting (as an example) 25 pounds for 15 reps, then 30 pounds for 12, then 35 pounds for 10 reps on your third set. You can also do it backwards, starting with high weight/low reps and working the weight down. Continued ›
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About The Author

Nicole Nichols Nicole Nichols
A certified personal trainer and fitness instructor with a bachelor's degree in health education, Nicole loves living a healthy and fit lifestyle and helping others do the same. Nicole was formerly SparkPeople's fitness expert and editor-in-chief, known on the site as "Coach Nicole." Make sure to explore more of her articles and blog posts.

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