Updated: Sep 20
Within todays media, there are numerous sources of information floating around that can lead individuals to view their workouts, and exercise programs as routines that should be subject to constant change. This article is to provide you with clarity on why changing up your workout frequently could possibly be preventing you from attaining your goals.
The science. The human body is designed with the ability of adapting to the imposed stress demand it may encounter. Please recall recurring situations in your life when the initial onset may have carried a stress load you felt you couldn't bear very long (think of speaking to large groups, or lifting a weight for the first time). Now, because this was a recurring situation, recall over time how you slowly began to adapt to this stress. Whether there was a major transition in stress adaption or not, none the less, there was an adaptation. Some situations tote more stress than others, especially when we consider the individual variables. Our bodies inherent response to stressful situations is known as a 'Sympathetic Nervous System', or SNS. The SNS is the response that prepares our bodies for the "fight, or flight" our bodies may experience (think of encountering a grizzly bear). When in the state of SNS, our body begins producing a larger volume of hormones such as cortisol, and catecholamines to support this stress response. The opposite of SNS, is PSNS, or Para-sympathetic nervous system. This is the contrasting response that allows our body to relax, and enter a state of "calm" (think of escaping the grizzly bear). In the PSNS state, our body is able to function as "normal" with bodily functions as digestion, and reproduction. Without this ability to adapt to our environments throughout the SNS, or PSNS, we wouldn't be where we are today as a human race.
Application Let's transition this knowledge of adaptation over to the realm of exercise, and resistance training. Let's say you've begun a new resistance training program in your gym that you're excited about. You're enjoying the workouts, and look forward to hitting the gym when scheduled. One afternoon, you're scrolling through the endless pit of instagram expertise, or possibly reading similar information in a magazine, when you stumble upon a post advising everyone to change their workout routine often so it "doesn't get boring". This advice is not flawed in its entirety, but it is certainly misleading, and won't help you attain the goals you're out to accomplish. Here's why. When you start a new exercise regimen, or impose a new stress on the body, you need to allow your body to adapt. This does not mean you need to stay with the same exact exercises you started with months and months ago. However, you need to consistently train those muscle groups for a minimum of 4 consecutive weeks before considering moving into variations of those exercises. This allows your body to adapt, by improving motor learning skills, getting stronger, building muscular endurance, increasing recovery, improving oxygen delivery, and in some cases if by design, adding more mass. I would like to specify that changing the exercises, and substituting with variations is the most appropriate method to increase, and improve your bodily response of adaptation. An example would be substituting a barbell bench press with a flat dumbbell chest press, or a standing cable chest press. Notice how they all train the primary muscle groups (pecs, & delts), but all have differences within them that can add value other than just being different.
If you still struggle to find enjoyment in your gym routine, try these few tips;
Set a goal. This is critical, you need to have something to pursue.
Restructure your workout program with exercises you know you enjoy, to start. Then aim for the consistency previously stated
Push the intensity on these exercises
Add more weight, and create a target to hit with these weights
Reduce rest periods. If you find yourself checking your phone, or just floating around, stay focused by reducing rest periods and keeping on task.
Add in supersets, or circuits (2 exercises back to back with one another, or clustered)
Time your entire workout. Set a time you need to be done by, this can aid with promoting intensity, and reducing rest periods.
There are numerous opportunities, or modifications that can be implemented into your training that can create a fun and invigorating atmosphere, which is what we all want. Give these a try and see what works best for you.