I always seem to see the same people in the gym who do the same routine with the same exercise and never seem to know how to progress. Your body is very good at staying the same so it is vital that you keep trying new things and look at what things you could change.
I think the problem is most people like routine and like to do the same things which make changing up their programme or showing them new exercises very difficult. Nine times out of ten they will slowly revert back to their original program.
I have done this myself as I will usually pick exercises I enjoy and that I’m good at rather than the ones I’m not so good at. I think everybody can relate to this problem to some extent.
So I thought I would come up with 10 ways you can change an exercise so you can continue your old routine with the same exercise layout. However at the same time you can learn 10 ways you can make each individual exercise slightly different every time you do them.
Here is my list of ‘’easy to do’’ changes that should help you keep progressing and keep your body guessing,
1. Grip/foot position change
Alternating your grip or foot position slightly will change the way your muscles are used to doing a specific exercise. The same muscles will be working but more emphasis will be placed on different parts of the muscle. For example on the leg press one of the major muscles working are your quadriceps, which consists of four muscles. If you change your foot position you can make any one of the four muscles work slightly harder depending if you take them further apart or closer together as well as pointing your toes slightly outwards or inwards.
2. Control the weight slowly and press/push the weight fast
Tempo changes can really make an exercise more challenging, when your muscles are used to moving a certain weight at a certain speed they will find the movement easier. Changing this will alter the time the muscles are under tension and give your muscles something to think about. So if you slowly control the weight (3 seconds) down and explode up all with good technique your muscles will have something to adjust too.
3. One and a quarter Reps
This is one of my favourite techniques to use in order bring up weaker muscles in a certain movement. Basically while doing your repetitions you will first complete a partial rep followed by a full rep. You can choose which part of the movement you would like the partial rep to be in. For example on the chest press, as you bring the weight towards your chest you would then press the weight about 5 inches away before coming back down towards your chest and then completing a full rep. This technique can be done on any exercise and at any part of the movement just make sure your technique is spot on throughout.
4. Paused Reps
A paused rep is when you would pause at a part of a rep where there is the most tension on the muscles. I really like to use this on all my back exercises so you can focus on the contraction rather than just pulling the weight towards you. If you were doing a set on a seated row machine you would slowly pull the weight towards your chest before pausing a squeezing your upper back muscles for a second or two before slowly bring the weight back to the start. This will help you emphasize the contraction and make sure your working your back muscles fully.
5. Super Slow Reps
This is another tempo change but this time you would lower your normal weight slightly and try to complete every rep in 10 seconds! So 5 seconds bring the weight down and 5 seconds bringing the weight back up. This will up the time under tension (set time) and really push your muscles to the limit. It is important to really focus on the working muscles and squeeze hard to make sure you get a full contraction.
6. Drop Sets
The point of a drop set is to fatigue a muscle with a weight until you can’t do anymore reps and then drop the weight down so you can complete a few more reps to completely fatigue the muscle. You can drop the weight as many times you like until you can do no more. Warning, you should only use drop sets a few times per month with the same muscle group as this technique will cause a lot of stress to the muscles, remember you grow when you rest not in the gym.
7. Super set with different grips/foot position/seat position
Similar to number 1, but you would do two sets back to back with two different positions. So you could do a free squat with a wide stand (ATG) and then bring your feet closer together and do a set of box squats at a higher range of motion.
8. Change the reps regularly
This is probably the simplest thing to change, different rep ranges work different systems with higher reps aimed at improving endurance and lower reps aimed at strength. It’s important to have both so try to change your reps all the time. Do 6 weeks aiming to get 5-8 reps then do 6 weeks of 12-20 reps! Mix it up!!!!
9. Up the volume of sets and decrease the amount of rest
By upping the amount of sets and having smaller rest times will create a circuit type training sessions and push your cardiovascular system to the limit while lifting weights. This is great way to build muscular endurance and completely shock your body.
10. Get yourself a personal trainer or training partner
You will be surprised at how much you can be pushed when somebody is there to help you telling you not to give up and complete another rep. Also your partner can help you with a few forced reps where they would slightly assist you through a couple of extra reps.