As with many things in life, it can be easy to fall into a rut with your workout routine. It's natural to gravitate toward workouts that you know and love, but stepping outside of your comfort zone can help you make major strides when it comes to your fitness goals. The benefit of variety in exercise lies in challenging your body to continually achieve your new personal best, while avoiding boredom, burnout, and injury.
The Benefits of Variety in Exercise
No matter what sport or physical activity you love, it’s important to venture beyond your daily habits every once in a while. There are several benefits to adding some variety to your workout routine, including:
Avoiding the Dreaded Plateau
Your fitness milestone may seem just in reach — and then you hit a plateau. This can feel like a major setback, but it's really just your body telling you to switch things up a bit. If you engage in the same type of workout week after week without adding new challenges, you're likely to stop seeing results. As you grow stronger, continue to level up your workout to match your improvements. This will ensure that your metabolism, strength, and endurance don’t flatline.
Helping Your Body Heal
While it can be tempting to hit your training sessions hard seven days a week, it's important to let your body heal between workouts. Without time to recuperate, you can create muscle imbalances, become excessively fatigued, or overwork your muscles and joints — all of which can lead to significant injury.
Beyond this, muscles need rest to continue growing. While it seems counterintuitive, you may be stifling your progress by training too much.
To combat overtraining your muscle groups, it's recommended that you alternate between upper body and lower body days. Another way to give your body time to rest is by alternating styles of exercise. For example, if you run three days a week, try incorporating low-impact workouts on the other two days.
Physical burnout isn’t the only risk of repetitive training — mental burnout can be just as damaging. No matter what workout you choose, you'll likely get bored if you’re going through the same motions every day.
With boredom, there's a bigger risk of becoming sloppy in your execution. You may also start skipping workouts and eventually abandon your fitness goals altogether. When setting up your workout schedule for the week, try mixing in a few different types of exercise to prevent mental burnout.
Combating Adaptive Resistance
By nature, athletes often love to compete. As a fitness buff, you may be hardwired to perpetually seek better results. While this is a positive quality, it can be aggravating when you hit a wall. Hitting the wall is typically caused by the phenomenon of adaptive resistance, which is when your body stops responding to a certain exercise.
Beyond creating a fitness plateau, adaptive resistance can increase the likelihood of injury. When you repeat the same exercise consistently over a long period of time, you can cause excessive wear and tear on your muscles, ligaments, and joints.
As such, it's important to rotate exercises and activities to minimize your risk of plateau and injury. For example, many avid runners love to hit the pavement daily, but an everyday jog is likely to wreak havoc on your lower body. Instead, consider cycling or rowing as an alternative form of cardio between runs.
How to Add Variety to Your Exercise Routine
Need some inspiration to add variety to your routine? Follow these basic guidelines:
Implement the Right Amount of Variety
While variety is important to your success, too much of it can slow down your progress. When planning your weekly schedule, keep these tips in mind:
- Choose two or three activities or workouts that focus on each muscle group.
- Alternate between high-impact and low-impact activities.
- If you prefer strength training, incorporate one or two days of cardio — or vice versa.
The bottom line is: add variety, but make sure you have some form of consistency in your schedule, too. When you stack too many variations, it becomes challenging for your body to adapt and grow stronger.
Consider Your Motivation
When it comes to planning your workout routine, keep your motivation in mind. If your goal is to put on muscle but you love yoga, think of ways to reward yourself with yoga throughout the week while incorporating strength training into your routine.
At the end of the day, choosing a routine that you can stick with is far more effective than choosing an unrealistic plan that you will eventually abandon.
Tailor Your Workout Style
Creating variety doesn’t always mean choosing new activities. Instead, it can involve mixing up your workload, trying new variations of favorite exercises, or reimagining the way you structure your sets.
Exercise Variations to Try
Whether you’re revamping your fitness regimen for spring or simply looking to shake things up, these techniques can help you keep your workouts fresh:
If you weight train, you're probably familiar with straight sets. These include:
- Completing a chosen number of reps.
- Taking 90 to 120 seconds of rest between sets.
- Repeating the same number of reps.
For example, when completing two straight sets of 10, you would do 10 reps, rest, then complete 10 more reps. If you’ve never experimented with sets, use straight sets to give structure to your workout.
- Choose your starting weight, knowing that you will add weight but cut reps during each set.
- Complete one set at your lowest weight.
- Rest for 90 to 120 seconds between sets.
- Complete the next set by adding weight and reducing reps.
For example, if you start with 10 reps at 10 pounds, you will then do 8 reps at 15 pounds, followed by 6 reps at 20 pounds, and so on.
Supersets can be used to challenge your body within most forms of training. A superset involves completing two exercises back to back as one rep. For example, you might complete 10 squats immediately followed by 30 calf raises. To do supersets:
- Pair two exercises together — either of different muscle groups or in agonist and antagonist pairs (like the biceps and triceps).
- Complete the two exercises back to back with no rest in between. This counts as one set.
- Rest for 90 to 120 seconds.
- Repeat the two exercises back to back.
- Repeat the process for as many sets as desired.
Because of their versatility, supersets work well with a similarly versatile piece of equipment, such as a resistance band, which can be used to tone your entire body.
Compound exercises work multiple muscle groups. If you typically focus on one muscle group at a time, try incorporating compound exercises to help push your fitness to the next level. Consider implementing these compound exercises into your routine:
- Dumbbell squat. Complete a standard squat while holding two dumbbells at your side. Add a dumbbell press at the top of your squat to amp up the difficulty.
- Dips. Use a dip station or power tower to work dips into your weekly regimen.
- Chinups or pullups. Use a full cage kit and resistance bands to help build up your strength and increase the number of chinups or pullups you can achieve.
Another easy way to change up your routine is by adding different equipment to your home gym. Try 5-minute exercises with these accessories to spice up your workout regimen:
- Jump rope. A jump rope is a fun way to switch up your cardio routine from running or cycling.
- Bosu ball. The bosu ball may look unassuming, but it will fire up your core — and other major muscle groups — in new and challenging ways.
- Battle ropes. A battle rope workout can strengthen your entire body while building unparalleled stamina.
- Ab wheel. The ab wheel is a small piece of equipment that packs a serious punch when it comes to strengthening your abs. Adding a few minutes of work with the ab wheel will transform your core.
- Gliding discs. Gliding discs allow for a quick but effective low-impact workout at home.
- Foam roller. Incorporate a foam roller into your cool-down sequence to promote myofascial release and improve circulation in sore or stiff muscles.
Want Help Finding New Workout Equipment?
Finding the right fitness accessories is a good first step if you're looking to add more variety to your exercise routine. The fitness equipment experts at G&G Fitness are here to help. Whether you need a kettlebell to explore new compound exercises or a foam roller to unwind after an intense workout, G&G Fitness can help you find the right equipment for your fitness goals. Contact us today!