This is a common place to end up, usually after a few months on the same exercise routine. In the beginning your body responds to your routine with lost pounds and gained muscle tone, then one day all results screech to a stop.
Why does this happen? And, more importantly, how can you prevent it?
Your muscles adapt quickly to any repetitive routine. Remember that the definition of 'insanity' is to do the same thing over and over while expecting different results. This holds true for your workouts.
When your results stop, it's time to do something new.
- The problem: Your muscles have adapted to your routine.
- The Solution: It's time to apply the concept of muscle confusion.
I have good news - the following 4 strategies are guaranteed to crank your workouts up to the next level and to deliver better results.
Strategy #1: Use a Drop Set
Drop sets are often used to fight off exercise plateaus. This technique is great for increasing muscle strength, endurance and for adding to the cardiovascular benefit of your workout - which results in more fat burn.
This is how to do a drop set: When you perform an exercise to exhaustion, don't stop there. Drop the weight by 80% and do another set.
You could take it a step further by dropping the weight twice, making it a double drop. Or drop the weight three times for a descending drop set. Use this technique only once or twice per workout, on the final set of the exercise.
Strategy #2: Focus on Negatives
Each time that you do a weight lifting repetition you are using three types of strength.
- Positive strength: lifting the weight.
- Static strength: holding weight in a contracted position.
- Negative strength: lowering the weight.
Focus on the negative portion of each repetition by lowering the weight very slowly. Concentrate on the negative contraction, and make each repetition count.
If you are advanced, then use a training partner to assist you in moving heavier-than-normal weight into a contracted position, then lower it very slowly.
Another way to utilize negative repetitions on a machine is to lift the weight using two limbs but then lower it with just one. For example, use both legs to lift the weight on a leg extension machine, but then lower it back down slowly using only one leg.
Strategy #3: Use Active Rest
Every minute of your workout is an opportunity to increase intensity and to burn more fat. Don't waste precious minutes with long rest periods.
While it is important to catch your breath if you feel winded, most of the time you would benefit more from an active rest. Do one of the following activities for 30 seconds between exercises and turn your regular workout into High Intensity Interval Training.
- High Knees with Alternating Punches: Alternately bring each knee high to your chest in a quick jumping movement while alternating forward punches at shoulder level.
- Burpees: Start in a sanding position and bend at the waist. Once your hands hit the floor, push your entire body back, extending your legs until they're straight and you're in the push-up position. Go down for a push-up, and when you push yourself up, jump slightly to bring your feet back near your hands. Finally, jump in the air with your arms fully extended over your head.
- Side-to-Side Jumps on Bench: Stand on one side of an exercise bench. Place the foot closest up onto the bench, jump up and switch feet, then land on the opposite side of the bench.
- Mountain Climbers: Place your hands wider than shoulder-width apart on the ground in a push-up position. Bring one knee to your chest and then back to the starting position, alternate each leg quickly.
- Side-to-Side Ab Twists: With feet close together, jump and twist your legs left to right - holding your abs tight. Keep a bend in your knees and swing your upper arms with each twist.
- Jump Lunges with Pop Squat: Start in a lunge position, lunge down then quickly jump up, switching your leg position in midair, land in an opposite leg lunge. Once you've done both legs, jump straight into a squat.
- Medicine Ball Squat Jumps: With feet wider than shoulder-width apart hold a medicine ball at chest level. Squat down until your knees are at a 90 degree angle. Explosively jump up, raising the medicine ball straight over your head.
The squat. The lunge. The chest press. The shoulder press. The bicep curl. You get the idea...
While you shouldn't throw these exercises out the window, find creative ways to modify the familiar motion in order to challenge your muscles. Try these exercise modifications:
- Squat on a Bosu ball or balance board.
- Place a weighted bar across your shoulders and do walking lunges.
- Use an exercise ball for chest presses instead of the bench.
- Do a full squat between each repetition of shoulder presses.
- Do a shoulder press between each repetition of bicep curls.