In one of my recent articles, I spoke about the fact that you must alter your training variables that make up your workouts if you want to continuously get good results, whether it is losing weight, building muscle, or toning up -- Exercise Variables for Breaking Plateaus.
While changing your training variables is an integral part of the success of your training program, your workouts shouldn’t be drastically different every single time. If you are all over the place on each workout and never try to repeat and improve on specific exercises for specific set and rep schemes with specific rest intervals, then your body has no basis to improve on its current condition.
The best way to structure your workouts to get the best results is to be consistent and try to continually improve on a specific training method for a specific time period. A time period of 4-8 weeks usually works best as your body will adapt to the specific training method and progress will slow after this amount of time.
At this point, it is time to change around some of your training variables as I described in the "exercise variables" article, and then stay consistent with your new training program for another 4-8 weeks. To refresh, some of these variables are:
- the numbers of sets and reps of exercises,
- the order of exercises (sequence),
- exercise grouping (super-setting, circuit training, tri-sets, etc.),
- exercise type (multi-joint or single joint, free-weight or machine based),
- the number of exercises per workout,
- the amount of resistance,
- the time under tension during each exercise,
- the base of stability (standing, seated, on stability ball, one-legged, etc.),
- the volume of work (sets x reps x distance moved),
- rest periods between sets,
- repetition speed,
- range of motion,
- exercise angle (inclined, flat, declined, bent over, upright, etc),
- training duration per workout, training frequency per week, etc.
For example, let’s say you are training with a program where you are doing 10 sets of 3 reps for 6 different exercises grouped together in pairs (done as supersets) with 30 seconds rest between each superset and no rest between the 2 exercises within the superset. If you are smart, I’m sure you are tracking your progress with a notepad (weights used, sets, and reps) to see how you are progressing over time. Let’s say that after about 6 weeks, you find that you are no longer improving with that program. Well, now it is time to change up your variables, and start a new program.
This time you choose a classic 5 sets of 5 reps routine, but you group your exercises in tri-sets (three exercises performed back to back to back, and then repeated for the number of sets). This time you decide to perform the exercises in the tri-set with no rest between them, and then recover for 2 minutes in between each tri-set to fully recoup your strength levels.
There you have it…a couple examples of how to incorporate both consistency and variability into your training programs to maximize your results.
Source: Mike Geary - Certified Nutrition Specialist, Certified Personal Trainer