I often get clients coming in who have been exercising with machine circuit training and are frustrated with the lack of results. What happens too often is we repeat the same exercise routine for a particular body part or muscle group until the muscles adapt. As a rule of thumb, I always change my exercise routine every month to keep it progressive and making gains. Every once in a while I will do a special workout. I’ll do all my favorite exercises and not the ones I’ve designed into a specific fitness training program. I do this because it is beneficial to mix up exercises and equipment on occasion. If you keep repeating the same things and have done so over time, you have done a good job at maintaining your fitness level and muscles. You certainly have not challenged them and will not get them to make any gains. Even if you exercise for maintenance, I still recommend changing up your exercise routine.
Another way to vary your fitness routine is by changing from exercise machines to free weights/dumbbells or vice-versa. For cardio exercise, move from the treadmill to the stepper, elliptical or bike. With cardio workouts, I like interval training because it does just that, it varies the workout each time. Instead of always walking on the treadmill at the same speed and incline or grade, change up your speed and increase your grade. This will keep your exercise dynamic and prevent boredom. More importantly, it will challenge your muscles, heart, and lungs to work at different levels.
There are many ways to change your exercise routine. Be creative. Try creating a simple six-week training cycle in which you alternate between heavy, medium and light training sessions for each body part. Each time you try a heavy day, push your limit, leaving your medium and light days for building tendon and ligament strength as well as muscle endurance. At the end of your six-week cycle, take 2-4 days off and allow your body to rest. This prevents overtraining and will help your body with improved performance when you start up again. The cycling approach will be particularly effective for preventing injuries to muscle groups and connective tissue down the road.
Your goal will determine the number of reps you typically use. Different numbers of reps serve different purposes. First, know what your goals are in your training. What are you trying to accomplish? The standards are as follows: for strength train at 6 to 8 reps; endurance at 15 to 20 reps; toning at 10 to 15 reps; mass and size 6 to 20 reps.
There are also other factors to training in addition to reps. The number of sets is how many times you do the exercise with rest in between. Intensity is the level of difficulty in performing the exercise usually stated in a percentage of a 1 to 10 rep maximum. Rest is the amount of time you wait until you do another set. All of these factors are controlled variables in an exercise program. Knowing your fitness goals will help you or your trainer determine what the best mix is for you in designing your exercise program.