When you start a new exercise programme, you will likely see some results quite quickly. However, over time our body starts to adapt to these challenges and it will eventually plateau i.e. reach a ceiling and stop progressing. Without getting too sciency up in here, this is because of a lack of new stimulus to your neuromuscular system. We are built for adaptation and evolution; in the same way you adapt to your surroundings like climate, light, heat etc. you also adapt to a physical stress stimulus. You know that achy feeling (DOMS) you get after you first start a new exercise? ….and then that achy feeling stops happening after a few sessions? That’s because your body has established a tolerance to the stimulus. In order to combat this, you need to keep progressing your exercise programme to ensure your body is continuously challenged. Basically, it’s time to stop coasting, get outside of your comfort zone and raise the bar!
There are several ways in which we can adopt the Overload Principle (which you will often hear trainers talk about) to our exercise programmes. This means making our body work harder than it’s used to. Depending on your desired goals, you can manipulate your exercise intensity to progress it in the following ways:
- Type – Mix up the type of cardio exercises you’re doing. For example, instead of doing a flat pace 20-minute cardio session, try interval training or turn up the speed by an extra KPH or two! Mix it up every week with running, cycling, cross trainer or stepper etc, row out of your rut!
- Resistance – Probably the most obvious way to increase the demands you place on your muscles is to increase the load or weight. It’s ok to drop the reps a little when increasing the weight as you will build your reps back up as you get stronger.
- Sets and Reps – You don’t necessarily have to add weight; alternatively, as you get stronger, you can simply do more repetitions and sets which is another means of increasing the overload.
- Rest – Reducing your rest period in-between sets will increase the intensity of your workout and ultimately allows you to do the same amount of work in less time. This mechanism requires your body to become more metabolically efficient with regard to anaerobic exercise.
- Tempo/Movement Speed – You could also manipulate the tempo of the exercise to achieve more explosiveness or time under tension (TUT). For example, when performing a bench press, let’s say you push the weight up (concentric phase) for 2 seconds and you release the weight back down (eccentric phase) over 2 seconds; consider doing a 4 second concentric and a 4 second eccentric phase. This will considerably increase the intensity and the time your muscles are under tension (TUT).
- Complexify – change up a standard exercise you’ve been doing routinely for example if you’ve been performing well with the plank, complexify it with adding a weight onto your back or do commandos. Layer up a burpee by throwing in a slam ball to the mix.
- Frequency – try increasing you training time by an extra day a week!
- Lil Tip – Even changing up your hand position on machines or weights will recruit different muscle fibres.
Remember, everyone is on a different journey with their health and fitness. Everybody progresses at a different pace because we are all 100% genetically different which effects our body type and performance levels. But one fundamental that effects 100% of everyone – varying the intensities and types of training will lead to greater results for everyone over time. Variety is the spice of life and all that jazz!