Are you currently stuck in a plateau that’s costing you progress in training? Could changing your training program be what you need to get stronger, fitter, faster? When it comes to athletic performance, it is important to consider the various elements of your training and figure out what can work for you to drive progress. No matter how comprehensive or thorough a training programme may be, the body will adapt to it in time (this is also known as the General Adaptation Syndrome). As such, you will need to change things up from time to time.
Here are some relevant tips that can make a difference in your training.
1. Pick a new exercise to keep things interesting
Yes, muscle confusion may be somewhat of a "bro term" but there's a phenomenon known as "adaptive resistance" that plays a huge role in the need to always be open to try new exercises to “confuse” your muscles to continue to grow. Of course, that doesn’t mean that you should go about changing your exercises every subsequent training session, but you do need to give your body a novel stimulus to respond and adapt to for progress to occur.
Adaptive resistance occurs over much shorter timeframes. Imagine that you haven't done deadlifts for two months, so you program them for your next training cycle. First time out, you're weaker than you expected and you're sore the following day. However, sufficient recovery will see you coming back ready for more.
2. Change your exercises once you've gotten proficient with a lift
Training is always about identifying the weak points in your overall plan and finding ways to overcome your weaknesses in the form of new exercises designed to address the problem.
You might have a weak lockout in the bench press or you are struggling to get out from the hole for squats, but weaknesses don't always take the form of weak muscles. You can also suffer from technical deficiencies.
If you’re looking to maximise performance in certain lifts, you can consider varying either your assistance work to address different weak points or make slight adjustments to your primary movement to increase the amount of challenge while still practising the skill itself (e.g. incorporating pauses, deficits and partials)
Keep in mind that there's no perfect training plan that eliminates the occurrence of weak points so you need to know what works for you.
3. Switch any exercise that's causing pain when you train
A lot of lifters would stick to a plan and grind through pain to follow a program. However, pain is a way your body’s way of telling you that something’s wrong and needs fixing. Depending on the severity of the pain, you may have to cease training on the short term. However, you can also be smart about it and work around the injury.
If back squats irritate your shoulders and elbows, try switching to goblet or belt squats instead. Certain exercises favour positioning in terms of pure mechanical loading, so these variations can be useful when it comes to training with painful conditions. For example, the chest-supported dumbbell row is an effective way to train the back muscles without irritating the lower back.
Don't let these unfortunate and annoying trivialities hinder your training or take you by surprise. When you start a new programme, always have a back-up plan so you can be more assured of progress during your training cycle.
When it comes to training, conventional wisdom typically dictates that more is better. Not so – better is better. Whether your goals are more geared toward aesthetics or performance, it is important to be just as invested in the process as the outcome, if not more so. Training is meant to challenge you, so some level of discomfort will be required. If things have been feeling comfortable as of late, then it may be time for you to consider implementing one of these tips!