As an active person, you probably already know that the key to a successful fitness journey is consistency. That said, consistency does not mean monotony! Just because you need to work hard for your goals doesn’t mean you always have to do the same routine repeatedly.
Keeping things fun and fresh is just as important as being consistent because you want to ensure that you’re always giving your muscles a good challenge while still enjoying your time at the gym. But how much variation do you actually need?
In this article, we’ll tell you all about variations in your workout routine, the importance of keeping a good balance, and when you should change things up to make sure your routine remains effective. Plus, a few ways in which you can change up your fitness routine to keep up with your goals!
Why is variation important in a workout routine?
The main reason why variation is so important in your workout routine, no matter your specific fitness goal, is because your progress is directly tied to it!
Here are the three main reasons why variation is crucial to your workout progress:
Helps overcome and avoid training plateaus
The main reason why active people tend to hit a plateau is that their muscles have already gotten used to a certain workout program, which is the result of a lack of variation. Because you’re training with the same movements, weights, and repetitions every time, you’re not challenging your muscles anymore.
Variation in your workouts will ensure that you’re gradually increasing the difficulty level of your routine so that your muscles can keep growing and adapting according to the progressive overload principle. If you don’t, you’ll find yourself stuck in the same fitness level, and even risk losing the muscle mass you’ve already built.
Helps fight boredom
When a routine gets too repetitive because you perform the same exercises over and over, your muscles stop developing after a while, and your mind also gets tired. This can result in feeling moody or irritable whenever you’re training – you can even feel like that from simply thinking about it!
Keeping your routine varied is the best way to avoid boredom at the gym. Variation isn’t just adding different exercises to your routine, but also trying out different equipment and machines, or working out at a completely different place!
Helps prevent overuse injuries
If you stick to the same workout routine for a long while, overuse injuries might eventually happen. This can be partially avoided by having a proper split training routine and allowing your muscles to rest, but ultimately nothing good comes from doing the same movements over and over again.
Not only that, but moving your muscles in different angles and directions is essential to making progress and staying strong, so having enough variation in your routine should be a priority, particularly if you have muscle-building goals!
Is having too much variation a thing?
It’s always important to remember that all extremes are bad, both inside and outside of the gym. A lack of variation in your routine will hinder your progress… but an excess of variation also will!
If you change your routine too often and don’t give your muscles time to adapt to the exercises, it will be difficult to see any actual progress since your efforts will be all over the place.
Imagine you’re trying to learn how to ride a bike for a couple of days, then you switch to rollerskating, and then quickly try out skateboarding. You’ve made small progress in every area but haven’t been able to master any of them because you haven’t spent enough time improving each particular skill.
This is true for your muscles as well! If you have a workout routine for a week, and the next week you switch it up, your muscles will be in a constantly changing cycle not able to truly make progress in any area, basically leaving you stuck in a training plateau.
So, how often should you switch up your workout routine?
You should aim to have the perfect balance between a challenging workout and an effective one. In other words, not doing too little but not doing too much either!
In general, sticking to the same routine for 4-8 weeks and then changing it up is a good way to keep things going smoothly. The minimum time that you should stick to a routine to make your muscles get used to it and see progress is one month, but the max can vary since it will depend on your particular body and goals!
As you now know, two things that can heavily hinder your progress are training plateaus and getting bored with your workout. If you notice any of these two things happening, whether it’s that your progress is slowing down or you’re not enjoying your workouts anymore, it might be a sign to change things up a little.
You don’t have to change your routine like clockwork every set amount of weeks, just listen to your body and pay attention to your progress. If it feels like it’s time, then it’s time – just make sure to wait at least a month for those gains to really set in!
Ways to add variation to your workout routine
Changing your routine can be tricky since you want to make sure you’re still getting a full workout out of it and not leaving anything out.
Luckily, there are many ways to tweak your current routine to make it more challenging or change it up completely if that’s what you want!
Change your current load or volume
This is the simplest but most effective way to change up your workouts. If you enjoy your current routine, you can make it more challenging for your muscle groups by changing the amount of weight you lift or the number of repetitions you do.
Remember that change should be gradual, so make sure to do it in small increments instead of suddenly adding an extra 20 lbs to your barbell. You can choose to add a lot of weight at once if you decrease your reps, or vice versa, just play with it until you find a comfortable challenge for the next few weeks!
However, if the issue is that you’re getting bored with your workouts, this might not cut it. You might need a completely different routine, which takes us to the next point…
Try different variations
The great thing about training is that there are so many ways in which you can get your workout done, no matter which area of the body you’re training. If you want to switch things up, try different exercise variations!
Instead of doing classic bodyweight squats, try changing things up with squat variations such as Bulgarian split squats to make it more challenging for you, or add a resistance band to your hip thrusts to fight against constant tension.
And if you’re already doing advanced exercises like incorporating barbells into your workouts, you can try cable machine variations instead. Don’t be afraid to try new things – that’s exactly what’ll make your routine exciting and challenging again!
Switch to a different type of set
How you structure your workout also matters when it comes to adding more variation to your routine. If you’re an active person at a beginner to intermediate level, chances are you’re training with straight sets, with the same reps and weight each set. But this isn’t the only way to train!
For example, you could try a more dynamic training style such as pyramid training. The standard version consists of increasing the weight used in each set while decreasing the reps to keep your muscles stimulated throughout the workout.
Or you could try supersets by pairing two exercises with little to no rest in between! This increases the intensity of the workout while reducing the time spent at the gym. Which type of training you do is completely up to you and your personal preferences, but moving things around from time to time is a great way to keep things varied.
Variation is key to making progress
Whether you change the load or volume of your exercises, switch your training style, try out different exercise variations, or do something completely different, what matters is that you keep your routine varied. And if you feel like it’s not working, you can always change it again until you find the perfect combination for you!
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