I’m just going to come right out an say it. People are too damn fancy. Calm down. Simplify. Your training will serve you well if you are consistent and train to improve and refine movement patterns, while getting stronger in THOSE movement patterns.
Stop switching shit up every day. STOP IT. It’s not necessary. Build the basics, and follow the pointers in this blog post. If you personally LIKE to switch it all up errday, then you go glen coco. Leave now because this blog post is not for you. Find your local cross fit box and go to town. If you want to hone in on getting stronger + building muscle definition and becoming proficient, I’m about to make your life easier.
I need you to focus on three things, and three things only.
You DO want to switch things up in order to train your muscles from different angles and change up the training stimulus so your body has to adapt.
This does not mean you go from back squatting to standing on an upside down bosu ball with one leg, pistol squatting with a kettle bell in one hand while someone throws medicine balls at you…
This DOES mean you do front squats, goblet squats, or box squats with a slightly wider stance. Small change, same exercise family, slightly different set up, with the weight being loaded in a different manner on your body.
The same could be said for deads. Simplicity is key. Do conventional, sumos, or either of those from a deficit or pull from a higher surface (right below or above the knee – pin pulls). No. Need. To. Get. Fancy.
Let’s take seated rows OR literally ANY upper body pulling exercise. We’re talking seated rows, lat pull downs, pull ups, bent over rows and so on. How can we switch up the training stimulus? GRIP!!! Pull with a neutral grip or supinated grip to get the same group of muscles with a different angle and slightly different demand on those muscles. Do single arm instead of bilateral. The same applies here. You can pull pronated (palm away from you), neutral, or supinated (palm facing you).
In conclusion for the first point – switch up your set up, stance, or grip for the given movement pattern.
I loooooovvveee this one more than anything. If you have ever done one of my workouts, you know every exercise has a tempo to it. As it should.
Quick lesson – tempo simply refers to how much time is spent in each section of a movement (top and bottom positions, and eccentric (muscle lengthening) and concentric (muscle shortening).
So for ONE movement, you can switch up the tempo. Say you had been doing dumbbell Romanian deadlifts on a 1.0.1 tempo (one second down, no pause a the bottom, and one second up). You could go ahead and completely destroy your hamstrings and change that tempo to 3.1.1 (three seconds down, one second pause at the bottom, one second up)…go ahead…do it. Let me know how you walk the next day.
The same can be done for ANY exercise. Any time you lengthen or add seconds to the tempo of a movement you increase the TUT (time under tension). In turn, you increase the stress on the working muscles. This is also a great way to keep your tendons healthy.
Warning: When you spend more time in the eccentric (lengthening phase), you are going to be SORE the next day. It recruits your big daddy x muscle fibers ASAP and it’s terrible. But you’ll get strong AF FAST by spending more time there.
You can also increase the tempo at the top or bottom position – think pause squats or holding at the top of a pull up for 2-3 seconds. This is another highly effective way to get strong and shock the body with a new type of stimulus.
Remember, we did not alter any exercises here, just the time spent in each phase of the given movement (the tempo).
Lastly, and maybe the most obvious, the sets and reps. The sets and reps equal the training VOLUME for that exercise. 4×5 squats = 20 squats. 5×5 squats = 25 squats. This is the volume. Now let’s get math-y.
One of my favorite things to do is make SMALL changes to the volume or set up of that volume. Say you did 5×4 bench press last phase with 115lbs. Now this phase do 4×5 hitting that SAME WEIGHT. Your volume has not changed AT ALL. You’re still doing 20 reps total. But you’re adding the ONE rep to each set. It’s a new demand on your body. So simple.
You can obviously make larger changes to sets and reps as well. Go from 3×12 hip thrusts to 4×12 (simply adding another set), or 7×3 box squats to 8×2 or 6×4. Set’s and reps might be as fancy as we get here. There are so many options. It’s really endless. And let me tell you, 3x8ea dumbbell walking lunges with HEAVY weight will leave you feeling MUCH different than 4x20ea with a medium load. That volume jump from 24 to 80 will leave you feeling some kind of way. I speak from experience.
Again, no actual exercises were changed here, just the volume of which you do those exercises.
So, if you’re still here, go apply it. Play with the simple stuff. Learn it. Feel it. Love it.
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I'm an adventurous introvert from Vancouver, Washington who lives on sleep + "me time." I'm a lover of lifting weights, dinosaurs, real talk and traveling with my husband. I am here to help you move better, lift more, bust the myths of the fitness industry, and inspire you to love the process.
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