HEY SAM: You mentioned “shocking” the muscles when you work out and doing different exercises. Does that mean that every time you work out, it’s good to always change your workout, or should you be consistent and change your workout routine every couple weeks? -Joseph, Los Angeles
The body responds rapidly to any weightlifting or exercise routine. Yes, it’s important to continually challenge your muscles by “mixing it up.” When I train clients, I make sure to change up their routine (on average) every 4 weeks (or every 8-12 workouts).
The theory behind this is called “periodization” which means that workouts should be periodically changed to make them effective.
You can “periodize” your weight workouts by trying these 6 steps, in order:
- CHANGE THE ORDER. Do your current workout backwards. For example, if you generally finish by training abs, on your next workout, start with abs and work backwards.
- CHANGE THE REP PATTERNS. If you generally lift in four sets of 12, consider changing your rep pattern to an inverted pyramid (i.e., 12, 10, 8, 6, then 12) or change the number of repetitions for a given set from 12 to 15, or 20.
- PLAY WITH THE WEIGHTS. If you’ve become accustomed to a certain weight on an exercise, try reducing the weight and working with higher rep patterns with extremely strict form. Or if you’re using light weights, try “upping” the weights to heavier amounts and doing fewer reps (again, with very strict form).
- CHANGE THE EXERCISES. Probably the most obvious thing to do is to do different exercises to hit the same body parts. For example, if you’ve been doing squats, try lunges or the leg press instead.
- CROSS TRAIN. Remember that the goal of weight training, for most of us, is not to become a competitive bodybuilder, but for “real life” strength. Cross train your muscles, using circuit training, “boot camp” like classes, “core” classes, and other types of training that brings resistance work to a new level.
- TRAIN YOUR WEAKNESSES. I’m a sucker for a good pull-up, because they are by far my worst exercise. But I manage to do several pull-ups every day in my quest to improve. What are your body’s weaknesses? Be honest about them, then hit those areas in the gym with rigor and fierce dedication.