People who ask for exercise advice are usually looking for a simple answer. Do this over it. Do so much of that thing, so long. Get these benefits. In reality, things are never that simple.
That certainly applies to the age-old question of how often a person should change their exercise routine. Unfortunately, there isn’t a single perfectly designed study that answers this question exactly; a lot depends on things like how fit you already are, your goals and how you train.
But if you’re considering changing your routine, here are some factors to consider.
Progressive overload and diminishing returns
The idea that you should mix up your exercise routine probably stems from the concepts of progressive overload (where you need incentive to get continuous improvements) and the principle of diminishing returns (where the more experience you have at something, the less your progress books with a specific purpose). stimulus).
One way people try to incorporate these principles into training is through something called “periodization.”
There you manipulate certain aspects of a training program, such as training volume, intensity and frequency.
Periodization models typically maintain a consistent workout selection for a period of time, usually an eight- to 12-week program.
The two main periodization models are linear and wavy. Linear periodization involves a gradual increase in a variable. For example, during an eight-week program, the loads may increase, but the number of sets or reps you do decrease.
Wavy periodization involves manipulating different variables (usually volume and intensity) on different days. So Monday you could lift some heavy, then Tuesday’s focus would be on higher reps, then have an explosive or speed priority for the next day.
Even if you don’t consciously follow a periodized plan, most exercise programs usually last eight to 12 weeks and include some of the standard linear progressions listed above.
It depends on your goals
How about mixing up the actual exercises themselves? Research has shown that people win comparative or taller muscle strength and size when they choose a variable exercise choice compared to a fixed exercise choice.
Variable workout selection is where you don’t always stick to using the same exercise for the same muscle groups. For example, you can switch between a squat and a leg press the next session. Alternatively, fixed selection means sticking with the same exercise (for example, the squat) for the duration of your program.
And the use of a varied range can improve motivation.
Conversely, excessive rotation of exercises appears to be one negative influence on muscle growth.
When it comes down to it, many moves are skill based; not practicing as much may slow your progress. This probably only applies to complex multi-joint exercises, such as those performed with a barbell (as opposed to exercise machines, for example).
Does this matter? If you have a performance related goal of raising a certain amount of money or something like that, then maybe it is. But if you’re exercising for health and wellness, this may not be a factor for you.
What about running?
Many of us walk the same loop for weeks and years at a time, at the same pace. Is that a problem?
Some researchers recommend increasing your training stimulus afterwards six months persistence exercise, as most of the benefit occurs between three and six months, then tends to plateau without changing exercise regimens.
But is it enough for health? Our current national physical activity recommendations don’t mention the need to progress or vary the exercise. They simply list the amount, intensity and type of exercise for health benefits. Training for performance or continuous improvement seems to be a different story.
When you think about how often we should change exercises, think about the time it takes for the body to adjust to the next exercise.
Adjustments to cardiovascular fitness can already occur approximately a week in a training program, but that has been shown plateau within three weeks if no additional progressive overload is applied.
Even after a longer-term progressive aerobic program, measures of cardiovascular fitness tend to plateau about nine months in training.
Do what you like and what you can stick to
So what do we think of all the above evidence?
Adaptation occurs quickly, but also quickly reaches a plateau without constant stimuli.
Yet we all have a “ceiling” of adjustment beyond which it will take a lot of effort to make progress.
This comes back to the principle of diminishing returns, where the more you train, the less you are able to improve.
All things considered, the traditional approach of changing your program every 12 weeks can make sense to avoid plateaus. However, there is no hard and fast rule about how often you should mix it.
Perhaps the best approach is to do what you will stick to and enjoy the most.
After all, you can’t make a profit if you don’t actually do the work.
- Mandy Hagstrom, Associate Professor, Exercise Physiology. Director of Teaching and Education, School of Health Sciences, UNSW Sydney and Mitchell GibbsLecturer, Exercise Physiology, School of Health Sciences, UNSW Sydney