If you’re struggling for new ideas to inject some much needed variety into your training check out 10 of my favourite ways to freshen up your gym routine below!
Supersets are a great way to not only maximise your time in the gym, but they are also great at stimulating muscle growth due to the extra volume and tension placed on the muscles. They are also really simple. You pick an exercise and then do another exercise IMMEDIATELY after. Thats one superset, you then rest and repeat for however many sets you’re doing.
The great thing is you can superset pretty much anything. Some combos work particularly well though. A compound exercise (multiple muscles) followed by an isolation (one muscle) exercise is a great superset to try. Here’s a few examples:
- Pull Ups + Bicep Curls
- Bench Press + Chest Flyes
- Walking Lunges + Leg Extensions
- Barbell Shoulder Press + Dumbbell Lateral Raises
Focusing on the eccentric (lowering) portion of the exercise can really take your training up a notch. You might need to decrease the weight, but don’t see this as a step back. If you get the tempo right you’ll still feel the burn. Try slowing the lowering part of the movement down. Instead of the standard 2-3 second lowering that your probably used to, why not try a 4-5 second lowering. The additional time under tension placed on the muscles forces greater growth. When we talk about the eccentric or lowering part of the exercise, think of it as the part when you lower the weight back to the start. The eccentric part of a bench press for example would be when you lower the bar down towards the chest. On a squat it would be when you lower yourself down to the ground before you drive back up.
3. Drop Sets
As the name suggests drop sets are a technique where you drop the weight with each set of a certain exercise, but each time you perform the exercise you do it to failure. They are a great way to get blood flowing to the muscles and by changing the amount of weight with each set you stimulate different muscle fibres which can help with growth.
One of my favourite things to do after an arms session is ‘surf the rack’ with dumbbell hammer curls. Starting on a certain weight (e.g. 10kg in each hand) and work all the way down the rack. By the time you hit the 3kg’s I guarantee you’ll be struggling to pick them up!
4. Pre Exhaust
Most of the time when we train we start with the big compound movements before ending the workout with the smaller isolation exercises. Legs day for example most people start on squats, lunges, leg press etc. then finish off with leg curls, leg extension and so on.
Why not switch it up. Starting your leg session with isolation exercises like leg extensions before moving onto your compound exercises like squats means you’ve already forced your quads to work hard by themselves, so when it comes to squats they are already pretty fatigued forcing the other leg muscles to work harder and the quads to go into overdrive! Rearranging your workouts in this way makes a noticeable difference and you’ll really feel it during your session!
5. Programme Design
Take a bit of time to set out a new programme for yourself. Splits like chest/legs/shoulders/back work great, but why not try hitting the whole body in each session with an all body routine. Or try a push/pull routine. A push session could involve bench press, squats and shoulder press, whilst a pull routine could include lat pull down, upright rows, chest flyes etc.
6. Pyramid Sets
Pyramid sets are similar to drop sets in the sense that you vary the weight with each set. However you can increase the weight, decrease the weight or even work up then back down again. Most people also tend to structure their pyramids with a certain amount of reps instead of working to failure. A typical pyramid set might look like this:
- Set 1 – 30kg x 12 reps
- Set 2 – 40kg x 10 reps
- Set 3 – 50kg x 8 reps
- Set 4 – 60kg x 6 reps
- Set 5 – 50kg x 8 reps
- Set 6 – 40kg x 10 reps
- Set 7 – 30kg x 12 reps
7. Change Your Goal
Most people who have a goal of building muscle go straight into that style of training which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But why not take a look at the bigger, long term picture. Take 12 weeks and train for strength instead and then come back to muscle building. This will not only help you bust through any plateaus, but it will also help you increase strength. The stronger you get during your strength phase the more muscle you’re likely to build during your muscle building phase.
8. Change Your Sets and Reps
If you do decide to change your goal then you need to make sure your training in the correct way. Changing the way you structure your sets and reps is is another great way to change up your routine. The standard sets and reps for muscle building is around 4 sets of 8-12 reps with around 60 seconds rest. If you want to train for strength you need to be aiming for around 5 sets of 6-8 reps and about 90 seconds rest.
9. Take A Week Off
Yep you read right. Try taking a week off from your training. Not only will you come back feeling refreshed and buzzing to get going again. The lack of exercise means you’re burning less calories and will put your body into an anabolic (growth) state, so it can actually help with building muscle.
10. Try Some New Moves
In fact they don’t even have to be new moves. Just try adapting some of your current exercises. Just change the equipment or the way the exercise is performed. Heres a few examples:
barbell back squat >>> barbell front squat
deadlift >>> romanian or sumo deadlift
barbell upright row >>> kettlebell upright row
wide grip lat pull down >>> narrow grip lat pull down
barbell lunges >>> kettlebell lunges
Written by Jon J
*The views and/or opinions expressed in the blogs are not necessarily those of Training Nation, but of the author