By Mike Kubas
Here are a few simple tips to get an entirely new experience without changing any of your exercises!
There are a number of slight changes you can make to the exercise itself, or the structure of your routine to completely change the feel of the exercise, as well as help push through any plateaus you’re experiencing.
Train in Different Parts of Your Range of Motion
An old school way of jazzing up your bicep curl is to train in different parts of the range of motion. A rep scheme called 21’s, involves 7 reps from full extension to 90 degrees, followed by 7 reps from 90 degrees to fully contracted, and lastly 7 full reps. This helps in a number of ways, first it’s most likely more reps than you had previously been doing. Second, it’s increasing your time under tension, thus is an entirely new stimulus to the muscle. Lastly, you’re loading different parts of the range of motion, thus using a new recruitment pattern, putting more neuromuscular demand on the body. This same concept can be applied to almost any exercise too. Take a squat for example, start by doing 7 reps from the bottom of your squat to half way up, then 7 from the top of your squat (standing), but only going ½ way down (1/2reps), then 7 squats with a full range of motion. You’ll need to use less weight than you normally would, but the extra reps and time under tension increase the total work being done.
Add in a ½ Rep
Another quick and easy adjustment you can make to change up an exercise is to add a ½ rep to all your reps. For example, if you’re doing a squat, you’ll go all the way down to the bottom of your squat, come up only halfway, then drop back down before completing the rep. This adds a little “bounce” at the bottom of each rep, increasing time under tension and forcing you to better control the movement. This can be applied to almost any exercise as well. Obviously, it’s better suited to some exercises than others. Another exercise that it works great with is the lat pulldown. You set up just like you would normally, pull the bar all the way down to your chest, slowly let the bar come up, but only about halfway (elbows just past your torso), then reverse the motion and pull it back into your chest before returning to a full stretch with your arms straight. This little bounce and the need for increased control lets you really feel and connect to your lats, which can be very difficult for a lot of people.
Change Your Rest Periods
Changing your rest periods between exercises is another simple way to get an entirely new experience from the same exercises. Even if you’re doing consecutive sets of the same exercise, monitoring and adhering to a strict 60 second or less rest period can drastically change the feeling of your workout. If you’re someone who doesn’t really pay attention to their rest period, doing this would not only increase your focus, but most likely make your workout more efficient. A 60 second rest period works best when training for hypertrophy or looking for a good “pump” whereas 30 seconds or less is geared more towards conditioning, and 90 seconds plus, more towards strength. These are just broad guidelines and ways to focus, showing how easily your workout can be altered for a new stimulus.
Restructure Your Exercises
Lastly, restructuring your exercises is another great way to get a new experience with the same exercises. For instance, if you’ve been doing a body part split for years, try switching to full body workouts, or vice versa. So if you typically have a chest day with three pushing exercises, you’re going to split those 3 pushing exercises up over 3 different full body workouts. If you typically do full body workouts, try having a focus area each day and doing something like a push/pull/legs+core split. This is simply reshuffling the exercises and redistributing the volume. Doing this takes the same exercises and creates an entirely new stimulus that your body needs to adapt to without changing or using any new exercises. Of course, switching up the exercises is always beneficial, but this is a way to change your entire workout without needing any new exercises.
These are all simple and effective ways to switch up your workout, without changing anything major. These subtle changes can create a whole new stimulus for your muscles and body, bringing some variety and challenges into your 2021 workout routine because I think we can all agree, 2021 is a good year for change.