Ask The Trainer

How do I change up my workout for best results?

January 3, 2015

Q: I sometimes have trouble figuring out how to change up my workout to get better results. I usually add more reps or lift heavier weights, but this technique has become stale and I need something new and fresh. Do you have any suggestions on how to change things up?

A: When most people think about changing up their workout, the first thing that comes to mind is adding more sets or reps, but seldom do they consider doing what I like to call an exercise upgrade. This simply means replacing the old exercises you’ve been doing with new and more challenging ones. Here are a few examples to get you started.

Leg press to squats

Leg presses are a great exercise for beginners, but once you’ve mastered them it's time to graduate to squats. Squats are an excellent upgrade because, unlike leg presses, they work a host of muscles while requiring balance coordination and stamina. Squats are also considered one of the best exercises for quad, glute and hamstring development and would be a great improvement over leg presses.

Seated cable rows to dead lifts

I like to use seated cable rows to teach my clients how to isolate the back without risk of injury, but once they’ve become more experienced I introduce dead lifts. Dead lifts are definitely a superior exercise because they require the entire body to work as a unit and give the back a comprehensive workout that you just can’t get from machines.

Crunches to medicine ball twists

Crunches are great for learning how to isolate the abs and developing basic strength, but if you want to take your abdominal training to the next level, try substituting them with weighted medicine ball twists. Medicine ball twists are one of my favorite abdominal exercises because they force the abs to contract during the entire movement and provide an intense burn and great results. You can even make them more difficult by using a heavier medicine ball.

Pushdowns to close-grip bench press

If you’re tired of waiting in line for the cable machine at the local gym, switch to a more effective exercise for the triceps called close-grip bench press. Close-grip bench press is an exercise you don’t see often these days because it’s not as glamorous as some of the newer fitness machines, but this exercise has always been a favorite of true professional lifters for one simple reason - it works! Try replacing pushdowns with this excellent tricep builder and you’ll quickly see what I mean.

Lunges to glute ham raises

Regular lunges are no walk in the park, but until you’ve tried glute ham raises, you’re still in the minor leagues of leg training. In fact, most people will have a hard time completing more than one or two of these babies without assistance, but rest assured, practice makes perfect, and once you can do a couple sets of five or more, your hamstring strength will be at a whole new level.

Don’t get me wrong; you don’t have to scrap your favorite exercises, just recycle them every once in awhile for new and more challenging movements.

For best results, give your workout an exercise upgrade every three to six weeks and you’ll be sure to continue making progress as well as stay mentally fresh and motivated.

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