You know that feeling you get when you first start a new program? No matter what kind of training you are about to embark on, the novelty of it just seems so exciting. However, slowly but surely, the excitement wanes and after completing a round or two of the program, you feel apathetic towards your training again. Now of course this doesn’t happen to everyone. Some people get charged up at just the prospect of going to the gym, but for others, the thought of doing another session with the same routine is just plain boring. That’s why it is essential to have a program that fits the needs of each individual. Some people like boring. Others need some variety to spice things up. In fact, most people need a little variety in their training to stay motivated and satisfied. So, if you find yourself being turned off by your training as of late, it would be worth learning some new tricks. Let us dive into some of the best strategies out there for sprucing up your training program.
Mix Up Your Rep Scheme
A lot of times, people get stuck in a certain rep range. This probably comes from trying to make sure their training plan is most ‘optimal’ for a given goal. Some prioritize getting strong by lifting in the 1-5 rep range. Others lift in the 6-12 rep range to maximize hypertrophy. While it may be true that certain rep ranges are better for certain adaptations (lower reps for strength), it doesn’t mean that all other rep ranges are useless.
Sometimes, it can be fun to get a sick pump even if your goal is to get as strong as possible. Just because something isn’t the most optimal scientifically, doesn’t mean it isn’t the best for you. In reality, the most ‘optimal’ training program is the one that you can adhere to the most. So if you’re feeling a bit turned off by those 5×5’s, take a few sessions and train like a bodybuilder. Not only will you still make gains despite the higher reps, you may find you enjoy the heavy stuff a lot more upon returning to your normal training.
Try New Movements
The squat, bench press, deadlift, overhead press, barbell row, and pull-up seem to make up the core of every training program. There is no doubt these movements pack a big punch if your goal is to get jacked, but constantly filling your training with only these six movements can get a bit old. The first thing you can try is swapping those core movements for a modified version. Instead of a barbell squat, try a dumbbell split squat. Instead of a standing overhead press, try a seated Z-press. There are literally thousands of different variations of the core movements that will get the job done.
Additionally, you can start adding some fun accessories to your training. You don’t always have to train exclusively in the foundational movement patterns. Adding some flies, shoulder raises, and bicep isolation work can help you stay sane. And hey, who doesn’t like a pair of well sculpted biceps!? Just make sure you accommodate for the extra workload in terms of recovery and you’ll be golden.
People often overlook the fact that the speed with which you perform a movement can change the feeling entirely. We are usually focused on lifting a weight as fast as possible when it comes to getting strong. That way, we can get more reps and thus practice the lift more. However, sometimes it is beneficial to slow things down. Implementing pauses or slow eccentrics are great for many reasons. First, they expose weaknesses in your movement pattern. Second, they fire up metabolic pathways and help build connective tissue integrity. And third, they offer a nice break from the norm in terms of movement variety.
Sure, a back squat with no tempo is already challenging. Maybe you don’t want to apply tempo to your main sets, but what about doing a couple sets of heavy squats and then a couple sets with tempo? You could use a 3 down, 3 up tempo to really burn the hell out of your legs to finish off the squat session. Or, you could use some pauses to really que explosive movement out of the bottom. Either way, you work some new angles while also breaking up any unwanted monotony. Here’s an article on tempo.
Change Your Training Split
We all have a preferred way of breaking up our training throughout the week. Upper/lower, push/pull, full body, body part split, you name it. However, if every Monday for the past 3 years has been chest day, staleness can set in. Sure, your brain likes routine. But when it knows what to expect out of your workout on any given day of the week, that routine works against you. The changes don’t have to be major either. Maybe you could think about changing the order of your workouts for the week, or perhaps switch from a body part split to a full body split. These little tweaks can be enough to breathe some new life into your motivation to train. And as a bonus, the new stimulus might actually boost your ability to make some gains in the gym.
People can get tired of the monotony of weight lifting, like the typical thirty seconds of hard effort followed by perhaps several minutes of rest. What do you do with all that wasted time? Check your email, talk to other people in the gym, snap a few selfies? Seems like a lot of wasted time to some people. So, what if we eliminated some of that rest by combining a few exercises into one? Whether you call it supersets, circuit training, giant sets, or a metcon, stringing a few movements together in a row can be a welcome break from the norm.
The key with supersets is knowing how to construct them. If you are going to superset exercises that hit similar body parts (like pull-ups and hammer curls), then you’re still going to need to rest enough to let the biceps recover. On the contrary, if you combine complementary movements (like pull-ups and shoulder press), then you can continue moving without taking big breaks between supersets. Either strategy is fine as they both represent a change from straight sets. Just find which one jives well with you and use it as necessary.
Okay, I know most of you treat cardio like the plague. So, if the thought of doing some aerobic exercise makes you want to throw up, just skip this section, but for those who are not opposed, adding some cardio to your routine can be a great way to change things up. I think the issue is that most people think of cardio as just running on a treadmill, but there are so many alternatives. Get on a bike and explore new parts of your town. Jump in a kayak and row through the lake or river. Take in an amazing view from the top of the nearest mountain. Join a sports league. I guarantee that these activities won’t feel like normal cardio. However, you’ll definitely get a great workout for both your cardiovascular system and your arms/legs. So, find a new activity you enjoy and make some room for it in your training routine.
Let Someone Else Write Your Program
Making up your own training program can take a bit of the magic out of working out. You get used to the movements you know and trust, which makes it difficult to try new things. Even worse, you tend to second guess everything you write down and stress over the specifics of your own plan. The best way to make sure you try new things is to remove your own bias from the equation.
Letting someone else program for you is a great way spice up your training. Most of the time, they’ll give you different exercises and modalities that you might not have otherwise tried. Of course, the best way to do this would be to hire a professional coach, but that’s not your only option. Handing the reins over to a good friend or significant other can help as well (if they have some experience). Or, perhaps consider following one of the many workout templates that have been written by top tier coaches. They may not be 100% customized to you, but they will at least break up the monotony and take the guesswork out of programming.
In the end, adherence is most important when it comes to your training. No matter how effective a training plan is in theory, it is worth nothing if you don’t stick to it. Finding ways to add variety and enjoyment to your training is key in creating long term adherence. For some, that simply means lifting heavy stuff on a consistent basis, but for others, new bells and whistles are needed to stay engaged in the workout. If that sounds like you, consider giving a few of these seven strategies a try. If you do, you are bound to find something that catches your fancy and leaves you coming back for more.