As a young and inspired weight trainer, I was always on the look out for any information about adding more strength and muscle mass. I would try any workout with varying types of repetition schemes and set variations. You name it, super sets, giant sets, pre-exhaust, down the racks, high reps, low reps and every thing in between.
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However, if there was one question that I always had in the back of my mind, it was How often should I change my exercise routine? You see, this question was a critical question because, at the time, I didn't really know when or how to change my exercise routine that would benefit me. I knew that changing up my exercise routine was very important but I just couldn't put it all together.
At the time, I was reading articles and advice from top experts saying that it was absolutely crucial to change up your exercise routine at certain stages for optimal results and not to do so, was an invitation to overtraining. There was all kinds of advice from top body builders the change up your routine every 2 weeks, or 4 weeks, or 6 weeks. One top body builders said that he would change his workout routine every workout!
Well, I tried changing my workouts every 2 weeks, 4 weeks, and 6 weeks and you know what, it wasn't what I was expecting and I didn't get the results I was looking for. You see, the workouts didn't work very well for me because I would start a new routine and just when I was starting to get stronger, it would be time to change up the routine. Now, at the time, I didn't know that this was a bad thing.
You see, what I didn't know, was that the human body needs time to adapt to new movements and the stress that these new movements place on the body. By the time my body got used to the new movements and I started to get stronger, I would keep with the advice from the experts and change up my routine. By doing this, I would basically start the process all over, missing out on the huge opportunity of getting stronger with the original routine. Not good.
Over time, I realized that I was breaking the number one rule in weight training. That rule is:
When one routine was working, I would try and change it up, on the assumption that the change would be better than the results I was getting from the original routine. Wrong thinking. What I should have been doing was to keep with the routine for as long as it was working, and:
Adjust the non compound exercises such as the pec deck and concentration curls or any other isolation exercise to change up the monotony of the routine - This includes super sets and other techniques;
Always keep core compound exercise in my routine and perform them first and foremost;
Add more rest to my routine to match the increase in strength gains;
Add more nutrients to my daily diet to match the strength gains;
Generally, my routine doesn't change and the only adjustments I'll make to my program are for non compound exercises. However, there are times when I will change my routine up when I've completed my main workout cycle or, to throw in a couple of weeks of super sets. However, I will never hang my hat on the assumption that this change will be the core of my routine. I always keep my core exercises in the routine. It all depends on my goals.
For example, let's say I want to add muscle mass and burn body fat. Right away, I'll know that this program will take at least 20 weeks or so to complete, depending on my current condition. What I will do is lay out my mass and strength routine for 12 weeks with a specific strength goal in my compound movements such as the squat and dead lift.
Once my 12 week mass routine is complete, I'll take a 1 - 2 week break and than shift my attention to a cutting program that will take anywhere from 10 to 12 weeks depending on my condition. My weight training program will change up when I start this new program in order to burn body fat and keep the muscle mass I've built up in my strength routine.
So, to answer the question: How Often Should I Change My Exercise Routine?
Here are some points to remember:
Start with a routine that is conducive to your goals and aspirations. Whether it be to build strength and muscle mass or to burn fat, have a routine in place with exercises, sets, and repetitions;
Have a specific time frame in which to reach those goals. For example, let's say I want to add 30 pounds to my bench press. What I would do is lay out a 12 week plan that will help me reach that goal;
Keep a weight training journal and closely monitor your progress with the routine;
If you're just starting out, you're going to be doing some trial and error but remember, keep with a routine that matches your stage of development. Never try and do Ronnie Coleman's routine if you're new to weight training;
In my opinion, the only changes you should be making to your program are exercises that are not vital to your goals. Opting for isolation exercises instead of compound exercises as your main movements in a strength and mass program is not a good idea;
Give the routine at least 6 to 8 weeks before you start making changes. Ideally, a 12 week program is sufficient before you need to take a 2 week break to give your body a rest. Once this is complete, try another routine or program;
Adjust your dietary habits to your program. I'm going to let you in on something. Generally, if a program isn't working, it's because of poor dietary habits (9 times out of 10). Always, and I mean always eat right and according to your goals and program to get the most from your efforts;
Always stop training if you feel anything remotely associated with injury. For example, let's say you feel a little pull in your shoulder and chest from a heavy bench press that doesn't feel like the normal muscle burn, stop training immediately, go to the showers and go home. The next time you're in the gym, never go heavy on that movement and start very light and listen very closely to your body as you add more weight.
Remember these points when you ask yourself: Should I wait or change my exercise routine
All the best,
As the owner of Building Muscle 101, I am committed to providing you the best practical weight training advice. I've been training for over 24 years (and still train to this day!) and the advice and guidance I provide comes directly from my experience and knowledge.
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