3/20/2014

Do You Need To Change Your Workout?

Whether your goal is to improve performance, slim down, cut-up, bulk-up, reduce risk of injury or work around a problem area, a carefully considered change up in your workout might be just what the doctor ordered.  In this issue, the signs that your fitness program needs a change and the changes that can take you to the next level.  

If any of these statements are true, a change in program is overdue.

You've been doing the same exercises for more than 6-8 weeks, the only change has been to increase weight.   Your body adapts to the exercises, you will experience a diminished return on investment in terms of muscle development, and changing body composition (gaining or losing weight). Planned changes, or periodization, can help you break through the plateau.   What's more, continually performing the same exact movements makes you more susceptible to repetitive motion injuries.  Read more here Machines vs. Free Weights

You're taking up or increasing participation in a sport or activity (running, cycling, hiking, basketball, soccer, and so on).  Your fitness program can complement and enhance your activities and sports participation, or it can conflict with them.  You may have noticed a particular problem since increasing your new activity, small adaptations to your workout can make a big difference.

Your goal or timeline has changed, you may want to get into shape for a vacation or wedding or the beach.  Simply doing more of the same thing may not be the optimal solution;  in fact, you're more likely to see diminished return and experience some sort of injury that prevents you from reaching your goal.

You've got a new health issue, to name a few common ones: back, neck or shoulder pain; blood pressure; broken bones; cancer; depression; diabetes; GERD; hernia; plantar fascitis; pregnancy; surgery; tendinitis.   Programs can be modified to achieve results and help deal with most issues. In some cases, exercise can be part of "the cure" or recovery.

You're bored or having trouble sticking with an exercise program.  A new routine can be just the thing to motivate you. Of course, it should also be relevant to your fitness goals and level.

Ten Changes to Make Today

1.  Get off the Machines They're a great place to start and can be an important part of the program... but if you've gotten stuck in a machines-only exercise rut you're doing more to work the machines than to work your muscle in a meaningful way.  Plus, they may put you at risk of repetitive motion issues.   Read more here Machines vs. Free Weights

2.  Decrease Stability/Decrease Weight/Increase Repetitions Strengthen your core and burn more calories as you workout. Performing exercises standing, on an exercise ball, on balance boards or with suspension training like TRX are a good way to go.  A stronger core can also improve your performance in lifting and many sports and give you a tighter and fitter appearance.

3.  Increase Stability/Increase Weight/Decrease Repetitions
Go heavy at almost any age to increase muscle - since muscle burns more calories than fat, you'll begin losing weight while you rest!  Carefully select exercises and pay attention to proper form.

4.  Change the Tempo  Increasing time spent on the eccentric (negative), adding an isometric contraction to exercises, or simply slowing the overall tempo - and increasing the time that the muscle is kept under tension rather than the weight - can help produce gains in strength, endurance and muscle size and break through plateaus.  Longer negatives increase strength and endurance, isometrics help cut and build muscle size.

5.  Plyometyrics   Increase explosive power, reduce risk of injury and have some fun with Plyometrics.  Participants in a well-designed program of stretching, plyometrics and weight training reduced landing forces from a jump by 20 percent, and increased their hamstrings strength by 44 percent.  Plyometrics can also be applied to upper body exercises and sport specific training.

Click here to learn about how many sets and reps you should be doing and see program examples at programs.caryraffle.com.

6.  Assess, Correct, Emphasize and Eliminate  Bad posture and movements patterns can reduce performance and increase risk of injury.  A movement and postural assessment like the one on my website can identify which muscles are tight and need stretching and which are extended and need strengthening, and help determine which exercises and stretches to add or remove from your program.  You can learn how to assess yourself at assessment.caryraffle.com.

7.  Change the Mix or Timing of Strength and Aerobic Training  As a rule, if you want to get improve your running speed do cardio before strength, if you want to increase strength or build muscle, do cardio after.  The timing change that has personally helped me the most is to alternate days so that I can go all-in every day.

8.  Work One Side of Your Body at a Time  One side may seem weaker or smaller than the other, but that's only the beginning. Unilateral exercises can help improve core strength, and improve your overall strength by improving "neuromuscular efficiency" - the way your brain "recruits" muscle fibers.  This is time consuming, so you may not do it every time or for every muscle.  Read my article The Brain Train.

9. Superset and Circuit   Combine two or more different exercises for the same muscle group, with no rest in between, such as a chest press followed by pushup, and you can work the muscles longer and harder before tiring or risking injury.  Alternate between front and back of body or upper and lower body so that you don't have to rest in between, you will buirn more calories and increase the number of exercises per session.

10.  Interval Training  Alternating between higher and lower intensity in your cardio workout could be right for you if you have a good cardio base and want to improve performance or increase weight loss.  You'll also burn more calories for a few hours after exercising with interval training.  Read my quotes in this article The Best Interval Training Technique for You, on fitbie.com, from he publishers of Men's health

Still Stuck?  Get a Partner.  Join a Class,  Hire a Trainer  If two weeks or more pass by and you've skipped your exercise appointments, your plan isn't working.  Do you need an appointment with a friend or trainer so you don't cancel? Maybe a class? Or a written program to follow and log? Can you keep the commitment to exercise on your own? Do you get bored easily? Will you push yourself hard enough?   Do you need my help?

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