When going through one’s fitness journey, there are often times when working out becomes repetitive and boring. When that feeling of monotony starts to take place it’s generally a good idea to find a way to spice up your training. You can do so by varying your intensities during training, which in many cases is a great idea. But another way to add some variety to your training is by simply substituting movements in on a cyclical basis. Let’s discuss why this is helpful and then talk about some ways to change up your routine.
Why would it be helpful to change your routine? Well in terms of preventing overuse injuries, it’s one of the easiest ways to prevent them.1 This can be from a perspective of not just doing one modality of exercise, such as sticking to just running or cycling for cardio, or from a perspective of doing a similar exercise for over a period of weeks and months. Another benefit to changing up your routine, and specifically the exercises being utilized, is that it can help optimize training for strength and hypertrophy.2 In terms of hypertrophy this change of exercise may provide a novel stimulus which can induce greater change in hypertrophy. In terms of building or producing strength, changing exercise selection while keeping intensity the same was shown to be more efficient than keeping the exercises the same or varying both the exercises and the intensity.3 Of course this has its caveats for both hypertrophy and strength, such as a redundancy if there’s an excess of variability in exercise selection.2
So now that you know the why, how are some ways to go about changing your routine? There are some simple but effective ways you change up your exercise selection without going too drastic with the changes.
- Change the angle or range of motion of the movement: An effective way of changing the exercise without doing a completely new movement. For angle, think of it in terms of a chest press. You could either press completely horizontally or you could press it at an incline or a decline. The movement is different in a stimulus sense, but not completely foreign where your new to it. For range of motion, a good example could be a deadlift. Either you could pull it from the floor, you could stand on a platform and have the bar be lower than normal (decreasing ROM), or you could place the bar on pins/platforms (increasing ROM).
- Use a different tool: Another easy way to do the same exercise but also changing up is by using different equipment for the same movement. Think of it in terms of using a barbell or a set of dumbbells for set of shoulder presses. The movement is identical, but the stress placed on the joints and muscles would differ.
- Use accommodating resistance: Accommodating resistance, also referred to as Variable – Resistance, is when you use the addition of other equipment such as chains or resistance bands to affect the strength curve of a lift.