Before you just pop into the gym and start throwing weights around, you should understand exactly how your body builds muscle. I’m not suggesting that you become a biophysicist but a basic understanding of your own body is crucial to building a program that will net you maximum gains.
Muscle Growth 101
This may be a bit simplified, but in a nutshell your muscles get bigger when you place enough stress on them that they need to rebuild and change size in order to function optimally. This muscle growth is known as hypertrophy and actually involves making each existing muscle cell larger.
There are two main reasons that you would want your muscles to be bigger – to increase strength or to increase mass. Maybe you want to do both! The type of hypertrophy you’re looking for is a critical factor in developing your workout plan.
Hypertrophy isn’t going to occur overnight; you need to carefully develop a plan (based upon your individual goals and needs) that addresses each component necessary to achieve your desired end result. A big part of this plan should be regularly changing up your routines.
Why You Need to Regularly Change Your Workout Plan
Your muscles have memory and can actually get used to the same old routine, so you need to keep them guessing. Otherwise, your body will adapt to both each individual exercise and the routine as a whole, and you’ll hit a plateau. We’ve all been there, and it’s not a fun place to be. You’re basically wasting all of your time and effort because once your muscles adapt to a routine, you’re not going to achieve optimum results.
As a matter of fact, you may stop seeing any results at all, no matter how hard you work. If you reach this point, take a hard look at your routine. What exercises are you doing? How many are you doing per set? How many reps? What’s your intensity level? Are you taking enough time off? Are you eating properly? These factors all play a huge part in your end result and are details that you can manipulate in order to keep your routine fresh and working optimally for you.
The best plan is to actually have a plan. Expect muscle adaptation to happen and build change-ups into your long-term workout package. By doing that, you’ll avoid wasting valuable time in the gym and you won’t have to worry about frustrating plateaus as you work your way from skinny to ripped.
Don’t let the fact that you’re getting amazing results now fool you into thinking that you’ll KEEP seeing those results – switching up your routine is the key to long-term, optimal gains!
How Often Should You Change Your Workout Program?
Just like your workout program, there isn’t one set rule to how often you should change your routine or what changes you should make. However, there are a few factors that go into how often you should change your workout program:
Your personal fitness and training goals
Your workout age
Your individual progress
Let’s take a look at each of these factors to get an idea of where you may want to schedule changing points.
Your Personal Goals
If you have a long way to go but don’t mind getting there slowly, then you’re probably going to adopt a routine that isn’t quite as intense as somebody who wants to see results immediately. If that’s the case, then you have a bit more play room regarding how often you change up your workout because you may see results from your initial routine for several weeks or even a few months.
If you’re going full-tilt, your muscles are most likely going to adapt faster so you’ll want to change up more frequently; say every few weeks or even days, as you progress.
Whether you’re working for strength, endurance, or bulk, you need to periodize your workout. For example, you may want to do three weeks of intense 20-minute workouts, then switch to 3 weeks of less-intense, 30-minute workouts. Then maybe you’ll change to a few weeks of 60-minute workouts. Adjusting your intensity levels along with duration is another great way to keep your muscles guessing.
Your Training Age
If you’ve been a fixture at the gym for several months or a year, chances are good that you’re going to need to change your routine up much more frequently than if you’re just starting. The longer you work out, the “smarter” your muscles become, so as you build change-ups into your routine, you also need to build in an increase in intensity.
Your Individual Progress
You may be the same height, weight and age as your buddy and you may both be starting out at the same time, but you’re not going to see the exact same results even if you’re following the same routine. Quite simply, your body is different than anybody else’s and how your muscles develop and grow is going to be unique, too.
For this reason, it’s important that you keep close tabs on your progress. It could be that your muscles will adapt much faster or slower than you originally anticipated. If so, you’ll need to tweak your routine accordingly. That doesn’t mean that you should change it on a whim, but if you’re not seeing the results that you want or if your progress starts to slow, then you need to take a closer look at what you’re doing.
The bottom line is that you need to plan in advance and manipulate your training phases so that you’re addressing every single aspect of your training plan in order to meet your ultimate fitness goals. You can change things up by increasing intensity, duration, type of exercise, or even by starting a totally new program, but there’s one thing for certain: you MUST change it up! That way, you’ll set the stage for continuous optimal gains and will never falter on your journey to the optimum you!