You’ve been training religiously for a while and have seen great results so far. However, in the last couple of weeks, you feel that your improvements might be slowing down and your motivation is starting to fail. If this scenario seems familiar to you, you may have reached a dreaded plateau.
Physiologically speaking, the most evident outcomes tend to occur in the first eight weeks of training, especially if you were previously sedentary. This is because the human body goes through physiological adaptations when facing a challenge, and the first few weeks of a new program are always pretty challenging. However, as you get accustomed to the new workout, the challenge is considerably reduced and the adaptations come to an end. The truth is that if you don’t spice things up every once in awhile, your body won’t suffer further adaptations and you’ll stop seeing results.
You can get a renewed challenge through many ways: selecting new exercises, using different tools, or increasing the overload, for example. But if you don’t have the time or money to invest in a brand new workout every month, I have a few tricks for you. The good news is that you can use the exercises from your previous routine. All you’ll need is to rearrange them to shock your body and force it to adapt to the new challenge.
1. Super setting
A superset is composed of two or three exercises performed back to back with no rest in between. For this method, you should choose exercises that work different muscle groups in order to get the best results. This way, while one muscle group is working, the other is resting. In addition, this method allows you to burn more calories in less time, simply because you are working instead of passively resting. For example, you can pair an upper-body exercise with a lower-body exercise such as push-ups and squats, or you can use push and pull exercises together such as chest presses followed by cable rows. You may also use three exercises such as lunges, bicep curls and sit-ups.
2. Timed sets
In this type of workout, you’ll perform each exercise for a set period of time, trying to squeeze in as many repetitions as you can. Your goal is to increase the number of repetitions every set. Write down your scores in order to keep track of your improvements. One thing is fundamental: select only exercises with which you are familiar, so you can maintain proper form throughout the set. Perform between two and five sets, keeping the recovery period to a minimum (from 10 to 30 seconds) in order to increase heart rate and improve fat burn. For instance, you can perform body-weight squats for 30 seconds, rest for 30 seconds, and then, repeat.
In order to create a new challenge, we will reorganize the exercises from your previous routine into a circuit. In a regular program, you would perform each exercise for a number of sets (usually, from two to five sets), resting in between sets and before moving on to the next exercise. In this method, however, you’ll be performing one set of each exercise, switching from one exercise to the next with little to no rest in between. The circuit should be composed of eight to 10 exercises, each one performed for an x number of repetitions (between 12 and 20) or for a predetermined period of time (from 30 to 60 seconds). Once you finish a round, rest for up to three minutes before repeating. Perform from three to five rounds. This type of training will keep your heart rate up, help you burn more fat, and build lean muscle mass.