Are you seeing improvements in your fitness level or is your fitness routine on cruise control? Routine is good because it means you’re working out consistently, but you also have to shake up your routine to keep your body guessing. “Shocking” your body with a new cardio routine can further your fitness level and help you break through a weight loss plateau. Resistance training plateaus are common too, but even subtle changes in the way you train can restart the growth process. You don’t have to completely revamp your routine to see new gains.
Breaking Out of a Cardio Fitness Rut
Some people never vary their cardio routine. Ask them what they do for aerobic exercise and they’ll tell you they pedal an exercise bike or walk thirty minutes a day – and never vary the intensity or the distance. How effective is that? They may notice some improvement in their fitness level during the first few months but their bodies have now become efficient at doing those movements and no longer expend the same amount of energy to do them. It’s stress and progressive overload that forces your body to change both from a strength and a cardiovascular fitness standpoint.
Even if you’re doing an intense cardio workout, a high-intensity step class or a kickboxing routine, you’ll eventually reach a plateau if you never vary what you do. In addition, doing the same routine over and over increases your risk for overuse injuries and eventually leads to boredom. One reason people don’t like to exercise is that they find it boring. Boredom wouldn’t be such an issue if they varied their routine!
With so many ways to get a cardio workout, step training, mixed martial arts, spinning, circuit training and interval training, varying your routine is easy. If step training is your “go to” cardio, try spin training for a change. Devote one day a week to doing a different routine so your body never has a chance to get into comfort mode.
If you’re doing steady-state cardio, switch to high-intensity interval training one or two days a week. High-intensity intervals not only improve aerobic fitness, but they also tap into your anaerobic energy system, creating a metabolism-boosting after-burn. That’s what you need to further improve your fitness level. Circuit training is one of the best boredom busters. Moving from exercise to exercise with minimal rest doesn’t give you time to get bored and it challenges your whole body.
Resistance Training Ruts
When you stop seeing gains in strength and hypertrophy, you don’t need to completely revamp your workout. There are lots of ways to change the volume or intensity of your workout to stimulate new muscle adaptations. Something as simple as changing the order in which you do exercises or the speed at which you do them can help break through a plateau. If you’re using hand weights, switch over to resistance bands for a change. Resistance bands allow greater range of motion and let you work your muscles in all directions.
Other ways to “shock” your muscles, relieve boredom and trigger new adaptations are: supersets, giant sets, forced sets, super-slow lifting, negatives, cheat reps and partials. Periodizing your training to vary the intensity and volume is also a good way to bust through a plateau. You can also increase your percentage of compound weight-training exercises.
In summary, here are the ways you can change a resistance workout to create a different stimulus for muscle growth: type of resistance you use (bands, free weights, body weight), exercise selection, the order you do the exercises, number of reps, number of sets, amount of weight, rest interval between sets, tempo and the periodization plan you use.
The Bottom Line?
Don’t get into a workout rut. Shake things up and work your body in new ways to avoid a plateau and keep training stimulating and fun. Don’t be afraid to “shock” your body by doing something to enhance your fitness level or boost muscle strength and growth.
IDEA Health and Fitness. “HITT versus Continuous Aerobic Training: Battle of the Aerobic Titans”
IDEA Health and Fitness.” Secrets of Successful Strength Training”
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