Far too many people are slaves to a routine. For the beginning bodybuilder that is perfectly fine. You need to learn the basics, master movements, and generally learn how your body responds to training. As you train and move to the intermediate level you are allowed more freedom to adjust and change your routine to ensure that you are always surprising your body.
Yet some people chose not to.
Many people just get into their happy little routine and don’t venture outside of it. Sure, they work hard when they are at the gym and give it 110%, but yet get upset when the gains are happening as quickly as they want or even at all.
It is because your body is now adapting to you.
One of Joe Weider’s many good principles was called the Muscle Confusion Principle. The basic idea was to switch things up to always keep your body guessing. This is a very good idea for the intermediate and most certainly the advanced student of the iron game.
You should do something different in each workout at the very least. Ideally you might do a completely different workout all together. That way you have the greatest chance to surprise your body and force it to react by growing stronger and bigger. The motto should be ‘shock and grow’.
Here are some ideas on how you can and should change things:
- Exercises – There is absolutely no good reason to do the exact same exercises over and over. Mix it up! Work from different angles, attack with dumbbells, include machines, and find new exercises.
- Order of Exercises – People get really stuck on doing things in a certain order. Just because you always start with bench press or squats doesn’t mean you have to. Heck on leg day train hamstrings first followed by calves and then quads.
- Sets per Exercise – What is the right number? The answer is that it can be anything. Really after a proper warm-up and that first exercise you can skip additional warm-up sets. From there you can do anywhere from 1 set to absolute failure to 4.
- Reps per Set – Everyone knows that 4 to 6 reps is best for building strength and 8 to 12 is best for building size, but that doesn’t mean it is the only way. Throw in some heavy singles and massive 20 to 30 reps sets to hit the fibers you don’t normally stress; they can grow too.
- Volume – Mix up the total volume you give a muscle. Sometimes, do very limited total sets and other times do double your normal load. In a sense it is like cycling less endurance or more.
- Rep Speed – You can go fast, medium, slow, and super slow to make the muscle work in different ways. Use one speed the entire routine then switch to a different gear the next workout.
- Intensity Techniques – You can add drop sets, rest-pause, burns, negatives, and forced reps to crank up the intensity.
Keep Track of it All
An important aspect of working out in this manner is to keep a very good journal of your workouts. A key concept of training is to work harder than the last session in the manner of moving more weight. If you don’t have detailed records then it can be hard to measure your progress properly.
By switching things up you not only stimulate your body but also your mind. Enthusiasm and excitement add a level of energy to a workout. Usually people are more excited about new things so switching things up is a great way to get rid of boredom and increase focus.