Monday, November 17, 2014

Is Your Training Program Losing It's Luster?

Frustrated at the Gym?  Maybe it's time to change up your routine.
Every training program can lose it's luster after time.  And if you are feeling a bit bored, are beginning to lack motivation or are no longer seeing steady gains, read on.

That waning interest in your current routine is not a black mark against your dedication or level of effort.  It's human nature to want variety and if your programming is starting feel a bit mundane, maybe it's time for a change.  Imagine eating the same exact foods every day?  At some point they lose their ability to satisfy.  The same goes with exercise.  At some point, if you've been doing the same thing over and over again, not only will it be harder to motivate yourself to see that training day through, it will have diminishing effects on your body.

Even the very best training routines need a new twist every so often to keep us progressing and interested.  And even if you change rep schemes, combinations or weight, using the same grab bag of movements will eventually stir up a desire for something new.  It does make sense to practice and pursue certain movements on a continuing basis - true.  If we only ever dabble in something, we'll never master it and some movements require a certain foundation of strength to move on to more challenging exercises.  But, keeping variety in our exercise, if those new movements are closely related to our goals, can help us break through plateaus and can keep us interested in training.

Remember the first time you tried a new movement, a new piece of equipment or started following a new training plan?  That newness can really keep us motivated and challenged.  And if you've found lately that your workout includes just the same handful of exercises and the same old tools maybe it's time to shake things up a bit to give you that spark back.

Some of the most foundational movements are also the best.  The squat and the deadlift, for instance, are arguably the top two strength exercises out there.  And there isn't too much that we can do to change those up nor should we steer too far off course with what has proven time and again to be effective.  It's not about a complete overhaul of you program as much as it is about adding in a few new twists.

Here's a few ideas that won't take a ton of investment to incorporate into your current routine and many of them you can start immediately.  Before we show you these four great tricks to keep you on your toes and excited about training, here are two pieces of advice that are key to progress.  Both are crucial to seeing real results and without them you will miss out on your true potential.

MAKE A WRITTEN PLAN

Ever taken a vacation?  If even for the weekend, vacations always go better when you've got a plan;  how to get there, how long it will take, sights you want to see, restaurants, and so on...  The same goes for training.  If you don't write down a plan, you won't have a road map to follow.  Writing down a plan is smart and keeps you on track.  Keep your plan short.  Any plan longer than 4 weeks is harder to stick to and perhaps more importantly, a shorter schedule is important to allow for feedback on success and the ability to make timely changes.  You'll notice in 4 weeks what is working and what is not.  If one of your lifts is stagnating after 4 weeks of effort, change something.  Not to give it away early but read below for some ideas...

WRITE DOWN A GOAL

While you are writing your training plan is the best time to think about what goals you want to accomplish.  Maybe it's a limited number of absences or maybe a personal record on a lift.  Write it down and review that goal every time you look at your plan.  If you smash that goal early, write another one.  Goals are another great motivator that both push us to succeed and are fun to celebrate.

If you've committed to writing down a plan and a few goals for the next few weeks, congrats!  Here's a few twists to add into your routine to keep those foundational movements you can't live without spiced up a bit as well as giving you some new ideas to try something different.

Vary hand spacing.  For many of the static barbell lifts such as presses, deadlifts and rows, even a variation in hand spacing on the bar can be all your body needs to push past your current PRs.  Make note in your training log where you gripped the bar so that next time you train that movement you change things up.  And that $2 roll of athletic tape can do more than protect your hands or provide extra wrist support.  The next time you're in the gym, roll three pairs of marks on your pull up bar.  One for narrow grip, one for neutral and one for wide.  Every time you jump up on the bar, grab it a different way.

Learn a new movement.  Nothing adds interest more than trying something you've never done before.  And since it's something new, you can also have fun looking online for instructional videos, too.  If one of your current lifts isn't progressing, look for a similar movement and swap out the old for the new.  One movement that you may not have tried is the Kettlebell Turkish Get Up.  It's a bit out of the mainstream but it is a complex movement that isn't easily mastered, and can challenge even the most skilled athlete.  Learning and incorporating a new movement will add interest to your programming and will keep the gains coming.

Get a new piece of equipment.  Along with a new movement, you may want to try a new piece of equipment.  If your current routine only uses three different pieces of equipment, it's time to change things up.  Gymnastics rings are a great upper body trainer and are easy to keep in your gym bag.  Gym Rings are one of the most interesting strength tools on the market that can fit instantly into any training program for any level athlete.  And there are an abundance of movements that you can try right out of the box.  Even static holds above the rings are incredibly challenging for first time gym rings users.  And ring dips, ring pushups and ring rows all hit your chest, arms, shoulders and back like nothing else.  You'll find that the investment you make here will never be regretted.

Use a different tool for the same movement.  Want another way to add some flair to your dulling routine?  Change up the tools you are using for a few of your current movements.  Either single handed or double handed, kettlebells are a perfect accompaniment to barbell work because the movements are so similar.  And that similarity means you've already got a head start on technique.  Now it's just getting used to the new feel and balance.  And if you've been predominantly working with barbells, the kettlebell adds an instability that you will find challenging.

At the end of the day, it's all about getting your body stronger and more fit so don't hesitate to step out of the box to find a new weakness.  Now grab a pencil and paper and write that 4 week plan and your next goal.  Let's do this.