No one gets out of shape overnight. It’s a relatively lengthy process of consistently repeating a combination of behaviors that result in a physical transformation. And the process of getting in shape is the same—repeating the right behaviors over enough time.
Yet, often when we start exercising, we want to see results immediately. And if it doesn’t happen in a week or two, we start to wonder if we should try a different program. On the other hand, it’s just not that interesting to do the exact same workout forever. Repetition makes you a master, but too much repetition fosters boredom. How do we resolve this?
To answer the question, “How often should I change my workout?” we must the answer two other questions:
1. What do you mean by “change?”
2. What are your goals? Do you have general fitness goals—like the majority of the population—or do you have more ambitious athletic or strength-development goals?
What Do You Mean By Change?
In general, everyone should be doing squats. That does not mean everyone should be performing barbell squats. A squat is a foundational human movement, so everyone who seeks optimal functioning must do it. However, there are truly endless variations of squats, so periodically switching to a different variation while keeping the main movement in your program is a way to vary your workouts without completely changing them, as Nick Tumminello, author of Strength Training for Fat Loss, puts it.
Foundational movements should always occupy a spot in your routine, but there is nothing wrong with periodically using a different variation of that move to provide some variety.
What Are Your Goals?
If you are seeking significant strength and muscular development, then you need to stick with it and get after it. It’s that simple. The first few weeks of a challenging strength-training program results in primarily neurological adaptations. You’ll feel stronger and more fluid in the exercises almost from one workout to the next. By the time you “plateau,” you are probably right at the start of your most significant muscular gain. If you abandon the program at this point and change to something new with new movements, you’ll be starting over at the neurological adaptation stage.
With general fitness goals, however, it is less necessary to keep plugging away at the same routine for longer periods of time. There isn’t as much need to keep attacking muscles with the attitude and ferocity of a rabid MMA fighter. Of course you’ll still need to bring some effort to make improvements, but the sense of enjoyment around your workout routine is just as important as the intensity to help you stick with it long-term.
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