So I’m not quite sure what the expert consensus is in regards to frequency of varying exercise routines to maximize effectiveness. I have heard different things from different sources and I know that certain programs like P90X are all about varying routines almost constantly. I subscribe to the theory that “muscle confusion” by changing up a regimen can help bring about some great results. When I worked at a gym members asked the staff and trainers all the time why they had started out losing so much weight and had recently just flat lined. The exercise plateau sucks for everybody. I’ve never really worked on a weight loss goal but I have felt the same plateau frustration when I have burned out on running and struggled to get past a certain distance for far too long during race training. I have especially felt it in strength training in the past. I’ve never been very experimental in terms of strength training. I learned a pretty standard set of weight/strength exercises early on and didn’t bother much to teach myself more. Because my body got used to doing these same exercises a long time ago I didn’t see a lot of results so I developed a mild aversion to this type of exercise.
Thankfully I have gotten past my stubbornness and my tendency to be timid around free weights lately. I like learning new exercises and motions that work my muscles in ways they haven’t been worked before. And in terms of how frequently it is worthwhile to change up a routine, I am of the opinion that it can differ from person to person. For me I think there are two indicators of when it might be time to switch it up. First, when I become mentally bored with doing the same weekly routine. If I am bored, it is only a matter of time before I lose motivation to even get to the gym; but trying some new things during a workout and getting progressively better at them for a while is a good incentive to get me there. Second, it seems to be time to try some new exercises when increasing weight amounts for the exercises I am currently doing doesn’t seem practical. For example, in my last routine (which was in my first post), I was doing a great deal of barbell exercises (in particular with free weight barbells don’t allow you to add plates). After about 5 weeks it got to the point where using perhaps a 30 lb barbell wasn’t hard anymore and didn’t make me sore but 40 lbs was going to be way too much. So it seemed ideal to do some new exercises, a lot of them using dumbbells so I can go up 2.5 or 5 lbs at a time, and maybe come back to the old exercises or that old routine after I have gotten even stronger. Those are my parameters – they may change over time and I’m sure they’re a bit different for everyone. Like everything else in physical activity it’s all about what is practical for you as an individual as well as what keeps you motivated and successful.
That being said, I have changed my routine (obviously). This one is also from bodybuilding.com but from a different trainer, Jamie Eason. I have made changes like I did with the last one in order to personalize it. The actual plan has 6 days of exercise (though one is just a 20 minute cardio session) and I like to keep it to 5 days of exercise and 2 rest days to keep from burning out. I also added more running into the mix like last time in order to keep myself in decent racing shape. Here is the link to the original plan. My version of the plan is basically…
Day 1: Legs
Day 2: Push (all of these are exercises that utilize a pushing motion but work various muscle groups)
Day 3: Pull (all exercises that utilize a pulling motion)
Day 4: Shoulders, biceps, & abs
Day 5: Long run & abs
**During any three of days 1-4, I also run 2 or 3 miles on the treadmill**
WRITER’S NOTE: I would like to take this opportunity to personally congratulate my best friend and work out buddy for an epic display of gym junkie badass-ness today. She worked out so hard she had to pause to vomit in the gym trash can… and then immediately resumed her workout. Wow. Thank you for proving that it actually is possible to fit our heads far enough through the trash can covers to use the receptacles for barfing (a question that had long before remained a mystery).