How often should I change my workout?

July 4, 2015

Q: I recently started lifting weights and have had good results, but I’m confused about when to change up my program. I have read a lot of articles that say you have to constantly change up your routine if you want to make progress. What are your thoughts on this issue? How often do I need to change up my workout? What types of changes do I need to make to keep making progress?

A: If you want to continue to make progress, you must learn to change your workouts. But there’s method to the madness, and it depends on your experience level. Change your workout up too fast and you miss out on the basic mechanics and limit strength needed to transition to more advanced exercises. Change it up too slow and you will drift off into a plateau and receive little results for your effort.



People who have been training for less than six months or never lifted weights before don’t need to change their routines as often because their bodies will react to almost anything. Instead, they should focus on the basics of learning proper form and increasing their limit strength. This takes time and works a lot better if you focus on six to eight basic movements, learning how do the lifts properly while isolating specific areas of the body, such as back, legs, chest, arms, shoulders and core. Once you’ve mastered these exercises, you can begin to add more advanced movement. Take your time; establish a strong foundation that will set you up for greater results and few injuries in the future.



Trained people who have been working out for one to five years are no longer getting the easy results of the beginner and must learn to throw their bodies a curve ball now and then by adding new training splits, exercises and rep schemes. I’d suggest changing one to two of these variables every three to five weeks to keep the body off balance.

A training split is the body parts you chose to work on different days. A good example of changing a training split would be starting with a full-body workout with one exercise per body part and three sets per exercise. Then progress to a three-day training split with three body parts per day and two exercises per body part. Eventually, move to a four-day training split with two body parts per day, three exercises per body part. As you can see, the volume of work per body part changes for each split, making the program more difficult.

You can also change exercises by upgrading what you’re already doing with more difficult movements. A good example would be changing leg extensions to dumbbell squats, cable rows to dumbbell rows, seated leg curls to walking lunges, triceps pushdowns to dips and regular crunches to bicycle crunches.



Lifetimers or people who have been training for 10 to 20 years and have exposed their bodies to hard work and tried every workout under the sun can quickly adjust to almost any stimulus you throw at them. At this point, no two workouts should be the same, as the athlete has to constantly try new and innovative things to get a response from the muscles. The good news is they have developed a tolerance for pain that makes it easy to push their bodies to the limit on a daily basis, but must be willing to work outside their comfort zone.

Techniques include super sets - working two body parts back to back without rest - and giant sets - working the same muscles back to back with no rest or metabolic interval training.

So as you continue your quests for fitness, remember it’s important to take it slow in the beginning and learn to do basic exercises correctly while increasing strength. As you gain experience, allow your workout to evolve, changing things frequently as your body becomes more capable of handling more intense workouts.


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