Challenge Yourself With Strength Training

How to keep progressing to avoid plateaus

Getty Images/John Fedele

Are you stuck in a workout rut? If you're bored with your routine, hitting the weight loss wall or just plain losing interest in exercise, you might be on the downside of your love affair with fitness. There are ways of changing the exercises you're already doing to make them more interesting and help challenge your body in a whole new way.

How to Change Your Workouts:
The key to continually challenging your muscles is to take the exercises you're currently doing and change some aspect of them every 4 to 6 weeks.

Some simple changes include:

  • Changing the type of resistance you're using - Machines, Dumbbells, Barbells, Cables, Tubing, or just body weight
  • Changing your posture - Lying, seated, standing, split stance, bent over, standing on one leg or using an exercise ball
  • Changing the movement- Using both arms/legs at once, using one arm/leg at a time or alternating sides.
  • Changing the exercise -For example, doing pushups instead of chest press or pullovers instead of rows
  • Changing the weight/reps - When adding weight, reduce the # of repetitions. When lightening the weight, add more reps (don't do more than 20 reps of each exercise)
  • Adding an exercise - If you're doing a split routine, you can do anywhere from 3-5 exercises per body part.

The trick is to do something different to keep the training effect going all the time, which means avoiding weight loss and strength plateaus. Check out the sample workout below for some ideas on how to change your own routine.

Sample Total Body Workout:

Weeks 1-4:
Seated Chest Press Machine
Seated Cable Row Machine
Seated Overhead Press Machine
Barbell Bicep Curls
Dumbbell Tricep Kickbacks, One arm at a time
Leg Press Machine

Weeks 5-8:
Seated Chest Press Machine, One arm at a time
Bent Over Dumbbell Rows, One arm at a time
Bent Over Seated Reverse Flyes, Dumbbells
Standing overhead press with dumbbells
Dumbbell Bicep curls, One arm at a time
Tricep Pushdowns, Cables
Leg Press Machine, One leg at a time

Weeks 9-12:
Dumbbell Chest Flye on Flat Bench
Pushups, on knees
Lat Pulldown, Cables
Bent Over Standing Reverse Flyes, Dumbbells
Dumbbell Side lateral raise, Standing on one leg
Dumbbell Front Raise, Split Stance
Cable bicep curls, Split Stance, one arm at a time
Tricep Pushdowns, Cables, One arm at a time
Squats with Dumbbells
Standing Side Leg Lifts, Tubing

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