Getting Out of Your Workout Rut

How to Change Your Strength Training Workouts

woman bored on a bike
Getty Images/PhotoAlto/Odilon Dimier

If you've ever hit a weight loss or exercise plateau, you already know how frustrating it can be when your body just stops responding.

The thing about exercise is that it works...but then it stops working at some point. Why? Because your body adapts to what you're doing. Each time you do an exercise, your body responds by growing stronger or more enduring so you can do the exercise even better next time.

But what happens when you keep doing the same exercises? You stop getting results.

The Overload Principle

There are some basic principles of fitness, the F.I.T.T. Principle, that guide our workouts - the frequency, intensity, type and time. If you stop manipulating any of these principles every few weeks or so, you risk a plateau.

With strength training, one of the most important changes you can make to get out of a rut is to make these F.I.T.T. changes with one thing in mind: Overload. That means if you keep doing the same exercises with the same weights for the same number of reps, you need a change.

New Training Methods to Get Out of Your Rut


In this type of training, you either increase or decrease your weight with each set. You can go from light to heavy (considered safer since you're warmed up before the heaviest set) or from heavy to light (considered more efficient because more energy is expended on the first set).

Using this training method recruits different patterns of muscle fibers, challenging both slow twitch and fast twitch muscle fibers.


Light to Heavy:
set 1 - 12 reps
set 2 - 10 reps
set 3 - 8 reps

Heavy to Light:
set 1 - 8 reps
set 2 - 10 reps
3 - 12 reps

Try these pyramid workouts for a change:


This type of training system can be very efficient because different muscle groups can be worked by doing 2 or 3 sets without rest in between. You can do the same muscle groups or opposing muscle groups, depending on how intense you want your workouts to be. Examples:


The tri-set involves performing three different exercises for the same muscle group without rest in between sets. Examples:

More Ways to Bust Boredom

Pre-Exhaustion Sets

This is another type of super set in which the first set is an isolation exercise and the second is a multi-joint exercise. This can help build additional strength and endurance in an already fatigued muscle, while increasing the challenge to some of the smaller, supporting muscles.

Chest flies followed by chest press
Leg extension followed by squats


This superset involves working opposing muscle groups so that, while one muscle is working, the opposing muscle is stretching. Many fitness experts feel that this type of training offers the best stimulus for optimal performance. Working opposing muscle groups increases neuromuscular training and coordination and can speed recovery time between sets.

Leg extension followed by a hamstring roll on the ball
Bench press followed by lat pulldown


Circuits involve repeating four to ten different exercises for one or more sets. Each exercise usually lasts a minute or so and the intensity is low-medium. This type of method can be very time-efficient.

Example: Lat pulldown, chest press, squats, pushups, lunges, overhead press, calf raises, bicep curls.

Forced Reps

This training method allows you to fatigue more motor units. You'll reduce the weight after you've reached fatigue and perform three or four more reps until fatigue is reached a second time.

One drawback is that you may need a spotter to help you complete your reps.

Example: 10 bicep curls at 25 pounds, followed by 4 bicep curls at 15 pounds


Performing only the eccentric portion of an exercise will allow you to work at a higher intensity. Note: this type of method is associated with muscle damage and soreness, so you should be an advanced exerciser for this one!

Example: the lowering portion of a pushup.

This list should give you an idea of how many options you have when it comes to weight training. It's up to you which ones you want to use, but always remember to start slow and allow your body to adjust to your new workouts. Schedule in recovery days so your muscle can heal and grow, and don't forget to stretch. As always, your routine should be a balance of weight training, cardio exercise and a healthy diet.

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