Switch Up Your Gym Routine!

Are you bored with going to the gym and doing the same old thing? If so, it’s time to switch things up! Simply by changing the repetition range, lifting technique or body part split, you can infuse your workouts with something new and exciting. If you really want to ramp up your routine, add plyometrics or calisthenics, or perform supersets or giant sets.

If you don’t exactly know how to make the changes I am suggesting, I have broken down different exercise elements so that you can easily make changes to your workout routine which will keep you interested.

CHANGE REPETITION RANGE – If you have a habit of doing four sets of 15 repetitions regardless of which exercise you are doing, how about switching it up? Perhaps you can do a warmup set at the same weight which you usually eke out 15 reps, but push yourself to do 20 really good reps. Then increase the weight and do 3 sets of 8-10 reps, and perform them with intensity.

STACK REP RANGES IN PYRAMIDS – Another thing you can try is pyramids, which basically consist of gradually increasing or decreasing the rep range, while decreasing or increasing the weight lifted accordingly. You can perform ascending, descending, or ascending-descending pyramids.

Ascending Pyramids = You will gradually increase the weight used, and decrease the number of repetitions accordingly, with each set. For example, your first set may be 20 repetitions, the second 15 reps, the third 10 reps, and the fourth set 7 reps. Ascending pyramids are effective for increasing strength since you gradually increase the load on the muscle worked.

Descending Pyramids = You perform your first set at a heavy weight, eking out about 6 to 8 solid reps. Subsequent sets will consist of gradually decreasing the weight used, and increasing the number of repetitions accordingly. For example, the second set may consist of 10 reps, the third 15 reps, and the fourth set 20 reps or to complete failure. Descending pyramids are effective for increasing muscle girth since the gradual drop in weight enables you to perform sets to failure.

Ascending-Descending Pyramids = With this pyramid approach, you gradually increase the weight used, and decrease the number of repetitions accordingly, with the first few sets, then DECREASE the weight used and increase the number of reps to finish out the routine. Because of this, I recommend performing odd numbers of sets. For example, your first set may be 20 repetitions, the second 15 reps, the third 8 reps, the fourth set 15 reps, and a fifth and final set can consist of 20-25 reps.

CHANGE THE NUMBER OF SETS PERFORMED – If you are in a rut because you always perform four sets of every exercise, challenge yourself and do 5 or 6 sets. A great way to shake out the cobwebs in your routine is to go for volume, perhaps performing 8 to 10 sets of each exercise to really work your muscles to exhaustion.

CHANGE YOUR LIFTING TECHNIQUE – Many people tend to perform exercises rather rapidly every time they train, so they don’t really focus on what they are doing. There are a couple of ways in which you can challenge yourself and break through plateaus if you have this tendency. One method is to perform negatives, which basically means that after you lift the weight in the concentric phase (in a bicep curl, this would be the phase in which you curl the weight toward your shoulder), you slowly return the dumbbell to the starting position for a count of 5 or 6 seconds. Another great method is rest-pause, in which you perform a repetition at a normal rate, pause briefly, then go to your next repetition forcefully. When using rest-pause technique, slightly increase the weight used to really challenge yourself.

CHANGE YOUR BODY PART SPLIT – If you always train legs on Tuesdays and chest on Fridays, perhaps you might want to switch things up. If you aren’t seeing enough desirable changes in your lower half, add another leg day and focus on the areas which you would like to improve. If you always train your entire body every time you hit the gym, start splitting up body parts so that you devote more time to getting maximum recruitment in the muscles you train.

ADD PLYOMETRICS OR CALISTHENICS – Adding ballistic movements like plyometrics or calisthenics can serve as the catalyst for rapid body transformation. Just be careful if you have hip, knee, or ankle issues. Try adding moves like jumping jacks, jump squats, mountain climbers, burpees, and X-jumps.

PERFORM SUPERSETS OR GIANT SETS – Try stacking two or more exercises together without resting in between exercises to increase muscle fiber recruitment. You can either stack weighted exercises, or perform a combination of weighted moves and plyometrics.
Examples are:
Leg press machine/jump squats
Incline bench chest presses/pushups/dumbbell pullovers

When You Need To Get Away

california

I am the kind of person who burns the candle at both ends, not necessarily because I like to constantly feel like I am being run ragged, but because I always have an insanely busy schedule which has me switching gears constantly throughout each day. My usual response to the question, “What did you do last weekend?” is that I worked. I am ALWAYS working on something, and there is always something to do in my hectic life.

There is a bit which comic John Mulaney performs which captures the feeling which I feel whenever I get the rare chance to actually relax on a weekend. Here’s his bit:

Kids always want to do stuff, kids get angry. They go, “awww, we didn’t do anything all day!”
You ever ask an adult what they did over the weekend and they say they didn’t do anything, their faces light up. It’s like, “What did you do this weekend?” Ï, uh, (big smile across one’s face) I did nothing. I did nothing at all! Did we do anything? No, we didn’t do anything!”

I am definitely feeling the urge to get away so I can get a break from the constant movement which defines my daily life. I firmly believe that everyone should take vacations and go on weekend getaways every now and then to recharge the spirit and relax the body and mind. Though I won’t be able to take any big trips this year, I know that a weekend getaway needs to occur soon so that I can preserve my sanity! The telltale signs of burnout are showing, such as lack of concentration, irritability, and fatigue. The nice thing about living in southern California is that there are so many options available for weekend getaways, so I will make sure to plan something very soon.

Get Off The Hamster Wheel

hamster-wheelThere isn’t a single person I have interacted with lately who has been able to enjoy a respite from the frenetic life pace which seems prevalent. Honestly, EVERYONE seems to be frazzled, running from place to place, trying to get massive amounts of work done in a limited amount of time. After a while, the days seem to blend into one another and we may feel like we are running in an endless circle, very much like a hamster on a wheel. I know that feeling well and always think that I can somehow catch up. Alas, I never do. Yet the next day I start up again, hoping to finally catch up on every project, all the while knowing that it won’t happen.

What may send ripples of anxiety through people is the concept of stepping off the hamster wheel on a regular basis. I can already hear people saying, “What??? Don’t you know how much stuff I have to get done today?” Let’s be honest: there will ALWAYS be something on the to-do list that we feel must be done. But when we allow ourselves to take a break from the constant movement, we can finally be present and cause our weary bodies, minds and spirits to reset. When this reset occurs, we can tackle projects and work with renewed vigor. And though some of us may not believe this, taking a break will not result in a collapse of all that we have worked on. The work will be there when we are ready to return to it.

You may be asking if I practice this regularly, and I have to admit that it doesn’t happen nearly as much as I would like. But at least now I realize that the coach won’t turn into a pumpkin if I take a little break from the fast paced life I lead, even if the break is longer than a few minutes. Getting off the wheel also opens you up to new ways of thinking and new possibilities so that you can reach goals more effectively. Physiologically, it gives your overtaxed adrenal glands, cardiovascular system and thyroid a rest too, not to mention your nervous system, gut, etc. So give yourself a break!