Are you stuck in a workout rut? You could be without even realizing it. When is the last time you challenged your body in an entirely different way? If you cling to the same routine for too long, your body adapts to the point you stop seeing changes. If you’re just going through the motions, it’s time to add some novelty to your workout and rekindle your passion for moving your body. Fortunately, there have never been more ways to do that even with minimal equipment.
Signs That You Need to Change Your Workout
One indication you need to change your workout is you’ve reached a plateau. You’re no longer gaining strength or muscle mass or you’ve stopped losing body fat – but that’s not the only reason. If you’ve lost your enthusiasm for what you’re doing and are finding it hard to stay motivated, it’s definitely time to try something new.
Ways to Add Workout Variety
If you’re doing steady-state cardio, high-intensity interval training like my Afterburn video is a great plateau buster and a way to zap boredom. Pushing your body hard for short periods of time and then recovering improves aerobic capacity (V02 max) more than training aerobically at a steady pace, so you’ll see improvements in your aerobic capacity. Plus, interval training is more stimulating mentally since you’re regularly changing the intensity at which you work.
If you’ve reached a plateau with resistance training, you can change the number of reps, the amount of rest time between sets, the type of exercises you do, the speed at which you do each repetition or add isometric holds for a few seconds with each set. Even small changes like this can help break through a plateau. Other ways are to do supersets, drop sets or pyramid sets. With pyramid sets, you increase or decrease the weight and the number of reps in a step-wise fashion with each set so your muscles are exposed to high reps with a lighter weight and lower reps with a heavier weight. You’re essentially building strength and muscular endurance with a single workout. You can find nearly all of these muscle building techniques in my STS workouts.
Circuit training is another way to add variety to resistance training. Rather than doing multiple sets of the same exercise and resting between sets, do a series of exercises one after another with no rest between sets. Since you’re moving quickly from exercise to exercise, you’ll get some cardiovascular benefit while improving muscular endurance. For even more, alternate a resistance exercise like squats with a cardiovascular exercise like jumping jacks. My new XTrain Super Cuts video is a great example of this method.
For different challenge, try a Tabata-style workout like my new Tabatacise video– eight rounds of 20 seconds of work followed by 10 seconds of recovery. Rest for a minute and repeat the cycle 2 or 3 times. You can do almost any exercise during the 20-second work intervals as long as you push yourself hard. You can do the same exercise during each interval or cycle through a series of exercises. Research shows that Tabata cycles are better than steady-state aerobics for improving aerobic and anaerobic capacity.
Don’t forget about kettlebells. This type of dynamic training works your entire body, especially your core, while activating hormones that give you an after-burn for hours afterwards. It’s a full-body conditioning workout that offers a new challenge to muscles that have grown accustomed to strength-training.
When Your Body Needs a Break
If you’re finding it hard to get through a workout due to fatigue, you may be overtraining. In that case, taking a break from strenuous training and try a ballet-style barrework routine like my Turbo Barre workout to tone, a yoga-style workout like my Yoga Max or Yoga Relax or a stretching and flexibility workout like my Stretch Max for a few sessions. These are also a good way to work out when you aren’t feeling “up to par.” This type of lighter workout could be just the mental break you need to get your enthusiasm for working out back. Doing one of these workouts weekly will help to balance out your workout and prevent overtraining and injuries.
The Bottom Line?
It’s easy to become limited by your routine. Once we feel comfortable doing something, it’s easy to keep doing it – but that can also lead to boredom and stagnation. Plus, varying your workout keeps you from working the same muscles over and over in the same way, which can lead to an overuse injury. With so many ways to work out in the comfort of your own home with minimal equipment, there’s no reason to ever experience stagnation or boredom. Don’t be afraid to try something new. It’ll give you a different perspective – and different results as well.
Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2007 Apr;39(4):665-71.