We all want to know what we’re getting into when we begin a workout. How long? How far? How many reps are we doing? But, too often, we know exactly what our workout will be because we’ve been doing the same thing for months, if not years. It’s stagnant. The problem with sticking with a regular routine is that you get too good at it: Your technique gets too efficient; your body knows exactly what to expect and how much effort is required. The first time you do some new exercise, you’re sore and tired in a way that you hadn’t been before. But do that same exercise for three or four months, and you have to do twice as many reps and with more weight to feel as though you’ve accomplished anything.
From time to time, you have to mix it up. You don’t always get to know what to expect. I’ve got guys who train with me and say, “Well, what are we doing today?” And I don’t tell them. Because we never train the same way twice; there’s always going to be some variation. But keeping it varied requires a high level of creativity. (Basically, you’ve got to make stuff up.) Of course, not everyone has me – or any trainer – to shock their system, but you can mix some creativity into your routine to keep it challenging and keep yourself engaged. Here’s how:
When we work out, we think about pushing ourselves muscularly or cardiovascularly, but why not also challenge yourself neurologically? Balancing on one leg or incorporating exercise balls into the workout – whatever weird variations you can think of – forces you to focus on the position because you’ve got, like, six things happening simultaneously. You just get fried from it. Use the exercise ball to challenge your stability, and not just for core work and push-ups. Instead of doing the same bench press you always do, lie back on a ball, and press dumbbells. Rather than doing your curls in front of the mirror, sit down and do them on a ball. Do a one-arm shoulder press while sitting on it. Implement the ball into everything. Believe me, if you’re strong, that’ll be like learning it all over: All of a sudden, you’ve got yourself some work.
Lift half of what you usually lift – and do twice the reps.
A lot of guys won’t do high reps. They usually scoff at them because they think there’s no muscle-building benefit to anything over 12 or 15 reps. But I have them do 50 reps. That’ll shock their system. And they’ll get ripped.
Don’t move a muscle.
Next time you go to the gym, instead of doing your regular reps, just stop in the middle of the first one and hold it as long as you can. Seriously, just get in the position and hold it. Imagine a bench press where you push the weight up off your chest and hold it halfway up. Just hold it in a curl. Hold it in a shoulder press. Hold the squat. You’ll hate it for a while, but it’ll tear you up. You can actually go into the gym and never move. It’s unbelievable how much you sweat.
Rage against the machines.
You love the machines: You step up, find the right weight, and you push it up and down. But why not try something new? Do all the seated machines, but do them with your legs straight out in front of you and your core engaged. Force yourself to engage your core when you’re on any machine; if it’s a standing-type machine, go to one leg right away. Anything you do standing up, you can do standing up on one leg.
Expose your weaknesses.
Everyone gravitates toward what they’re good at. If you’ve got big legs, you’re going to go squat. If you’ve got big pecs, you’re going to go to the bench press. It’s just what we automatically do. That’s why I tell people who come to train: “No ego here.” Don’t worry about doing what you’re good at. Let’s just expose our weaknesses and focus on shit we can’t do. Or better yet, create things we can’t do. Because when you combine all those things, that’s just going to make you athletically greater. You’re gonna be a better athlete, no matter what activity you’re in, if you become stronger, more flexible, and better cardiovascularly. That’s just a fact. There’s no way around that.