If you have lifted weights or spent much time working out, you have likely heard that you need to 'keep the body guessing' by regularly switching up your workout routine. For those just starting out, it’s much easier to follow the same plan day in day out. However, doing the same workouts for too long will bring your training progress and gains to a slow crawl.
The biggest problem of not altering your routine is simply boredom. There are certainly people out there that would do the same thing every day for years if they thought it would help them accomplish their goals. There is a certain segment of the population (Type A Personalities), that will do whatever necessary to succeed…even at the cost of being bored. But the truth is, you will at some point plateau and no longer adapt to your training. Not to mention the risk of injury from overuse. Nagging injuries could be a sign you’ve reached a threshold pattern called pattern overload—an injury to the soft tissues resulting from repetitive motion in one pattern of movement.
Your training should be physically challenging and mentally stimulating. If you are constantly progressing, it's highly likely that you will remain motivated to keep training hard and progressing. But if your body starts feeling sluggish, fatigued, or it's taking you longer than usual to recover in between workouts, a change of pace might be what you need.
Even slightly altering your routine every so often will lead to the best results. Just switching your grip position is enough to create a different stimulus. For instance, a different stance in your squats, or changing from front squats to back squats. Doing narrow grip versus wide grip bench press is an easy way to switch things up as well. And it doesn’t need to be just new exercises, either. Trying a new sport or even a new kind of workout class—say spin or bootcamp if you never venture out of the weight room and treadmill.
The next obvious question is, how often should you switch up the routine? A good general rule is every 4-6 weeks for most people.
As with most things, you can overdo it. You do have to be careful not to bounce from program to program too regularly, as your body is not going to know what to adapt to and you will never get the results you want because you are not sticking to anything long enough to see measurable progress.
All that being said, you can keep a few key exercises or lifts as part of your routine even if you change up other parts of it. Complex lifts such as deadlifts, pull-ups, squats, bench presses and rows are worthy enough to always have a place in your program. Mobility exercises are also a key part of staying injury free.
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Wishing you optimal health and peak performance,