Author: Michael Gear
Does this sound like you? Every time you go to the gym, after a warm up, you proceed to perform your workout consisting of 3 sets of 10-12 reps per exercise, with 2-3 minutes rest between sets. At the end of the session, you do the standard 20-30 minutes moderate cardio on the treadmill or step machine.
Things progress ok for a while. You put on some muscle or lose a few pounds of fat. Then something strange happens, you hit a frustrating plateau and fail to make progress - or even worse, you regress. This happens to most people at one stage or another. If you're looking for ways to break out of the rut, read on. I will give you some ideas on how to inject some creativity into your workouts.
If you do find yourself in an annoying phase where you seem dead in the water with your workouts, it is probably due to the body adapting to the training you have been performing. Most of the time, these plateaus occur because people don't change their training variables over time. If you stick to the same range of exercises for the same number of basic sets and reps with consistent rest periods, your body is no longer challenged to adapt. Most people only think about changing their sets and reps performed, and gradually also increasing the weight. There are many other ways to maximize your fat loss and/or muscle building response to exercise.
Here are a few examples of different methods you might wish to try:
* Instead of the usual 3 sets of 10 reps, try 10 sets of 3, with only 20 seconds rest between the sets.
* Using the maximum weight you can perform for a single rep, perform 10 sets of 1 rep with 20 seconds between sets.
* Using a light weight, perform 1 set of 50 reps.
All of the above are effective as they feature variance in the volume of work (sets x reps) and in the rest periods between sets.
* Full body exercises, such as barbell clean & presses or dumbbell squat & presses, are excellent. Try performing a workout doing nothing but a single full body exercise for an intense 20 - 25 minutes.
* Perform a workout using only body weight exercises - no weights at all. Some examples of these exercises include pull-ups, chin-ups, dips, push ups and body weight lunges. This is especially effective if done in the form of a circuit. Vary the sequence of the circuit from workout to workout.
* Drop sets. Drop sets are an excellent way of overloading your muscles to perform more work than they are accustomed to. This is where you drop the weight between sets, doing the same number of repetitions without any rest until complete muscular fatigue. This usually consists of 4 -6 sets. This is the same as having a training partner who gives you just enough help to complete reps where your muscles have reached fatigue, and cannot complete the exercise on their own. A great example of drop sets is "hitting the rack". Start with heavy dumbbells or a barbell and perform an exercise such as bicep curls. Progressively work your way down the rack without stopping so you finish with the lightest weight.
* Complete five 30 minute workouts one week, but then follow this up with three 1-hr workouts the next week.
* Perform exercises where you have altered your base of stability (standing, seated, on exercise ball, one-legged etc).
* Try altering aspects such as repetition speed and range of motion.
If in doubt about safety, it is good to consult with a fitness instructor prior to performing unusual exercises, especially if you are altering the angle of the rep you are performing.
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