Optimizing Your Workout Plan

posted by Tim Birkey on Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Have you ever found a workout that you really liked? A program you did day in and day out, that initially was highly effective and yielded great results, but as of late, no matter how hard or how often you work out, you just can’t seem to continue to make progress and your motivation is lacking?

If you answered yes to the above questions then chances are you’ve done that specific workout for too long. You’re stuck on a plateau. It’s human nature to repeat what works or to do what you are comfortable doing, but performing the same routine over and over is highly ineffective.

The human body is remarkably adaptable to any stress, stimulus, or environment that it is presented with in training. When you exercise a stress is introduced to your body, you may be sore and uncomfortable because of this stress. With adequate recovery time your body adapts to the specific demand placed on it and is able to perform the same routine with greater ease.   Continuously performing this same routine over and over will decrease the amount of positive adaptation and fitness gains your body makes in response.

Periodizing your training is key. Your body occasionally needs a “shock” or “surprise”. Changing your training regimen in a planned, progressive, challenging manner provides this “shock” and allows you to continue to maximize fitness improvements.

Instead of doing the same routine month after month, you change some variable of your training program every 3-4 weeks. These periods of modification keep your body working harder, while still giving it adequate rest.

You can alter your strength training program by adjusting the following variables:

  • Changing the number of repetitions per set, or the number of sets of each exercise.
  • The amount of resistance used for a particular rep range.
  • Changing the types of exercises and the order in which they are done.
  • Changing the rest periods between sets, exercises or training sessions.

Here is an example: Alternate 3, 3-4-week phases. Phase 1 you perform 2 sets of 15-20 repetitions. For phase 2, perform 3 sets of 8-12 repetitions. Finally, for phase 3, perform 4 sets of 4-6 repetitions. Adjust your weight accordingly so you’ll use lighter weights for phase 1, increase the weight used for phase 2, and even heavier weight for phase 3. This approach will help you improve muscular endurance, raise your metabolism and increase strength.

You should also periodize your cardiovascular training for the same reasons – to further challenge your body while still allowing for sufficient recovery time. Rotating periods of low, medium, and high intensity cardiovascular exercise throughout your training weeks is an easy way to do this.

What you don’t want to do is complete the same form of cardio every time. Too much long, steady state exercise such as distance running can be time consuming, boring and can lead to overuse injuries due to the repetitiveness of the activity. Conversely, too much speed or high intensity training will also lead to injury and/or burnout.   

Here is a simple example of what a 3-day cardiovascular program could look like:

  • Day 1- Run for 2 Minutes, Walk for 1 Minute. Perform 10 times for a total of 30 minutes of cardiovascular work
  • Day 2 – Aerodyne Interval Sprints: 10 seconds hard, 20 seconds easy. Perform 2 sets of 10 with 2 minutes of rest between sets for a total of 12 minutes of cardiovascular work.
  • Day 3 – 20-60 minute bike ride or jog.

If you find your exercise routine has fallen into a slump, try periodizing your training, doing so will ensure that you continue to make measurable progress, which will help keep you energized and interested in reaching your fitness goals.

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About The Author

Tim Birkey

Tim Birkey is an exercise specialist with Spencer Hospital’s Athletic Enhancement service. A certified strength and conditioning coach, tim earned his master’s degree from the University of Northern Iowa, where he also served as assistant strength and conditioning coach for UNI Athlet ... read more