Your weight training routines should be anything but routine. Once you feel like you can do your workout routines in your “sleep,” your body is definitely ready for some change.
A very common mistake made by beginning weight trainers is staying with their original routines for too long. They want to achieve the same gains they initially experienced in the first six weeks or so of their training and resist change because they feel they really found something that works for them.
Dakota Indian Tribal Wisdom: When you discover you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount.
The truth is that most decent weight training routines combined with appropriate diets and sufficient rest will produce impressive gains for a while. But then the body becomes accustomed to these stresses and the gains slow (your horse dies).
The Principles of “Muscle Confusion”
Known as the principle of “Muscle Confusion,” the only way to sustain continuous weight training success is to always keep your body guessing. Never let it know what is coming next, never let it adapt, never let the valuable time you spend working hard in the gym be anything but highly productive.
Think of yourself on the first day of your last job…
Everything was new and you had to constantly be thinking. You had to alter your way of doing things to match the company’s way of doing things. You had to adjust and build new skills or you weren’t going to survive at that job for long.
As you continued on in the job, it became easier and easier. You mastered the skill-set necessary to successfully handle all that job could throw at you. Never during your time on the job did you ever have to adjust as much as you did in those first few weeks.
Your body works the same way. You are patching into its survival mechanism. Your training is interpreted by it as a threat to its survival. You are telling it that it needs to adjust (it needs to gain muscle) in order to survive. But as you keep doing the same thing, it eventually becomes comfortable that it has what it takes to get you through that same old workout you keep throwing at it.
If you let it reach that comfort zone, you will not be maximizing your muscle building potential. Instead, when the body starts showing signs of being “comfortable” with your current routine, you need to give it a completely new job.
Every four to eight weeks you should be starting a new weight training routine. This should be a very different weight training routine from the previous one, so different that your body doesn’t recognize it.
You should need to check your weight training journal during your first couple of times through the new bodybuilding routine just to remember what it is you’ve planned to do. If the changes are so slight that your mind needs no help to keep them straight, your body will likely have little problem acclimating itself to the new weight training routines.
Some people will need to change their weight training routines more often than four weeks, others don’t need to change as often as every eight weeks. Your Bodybuilding Tracking Program can be a valuable guide to discover how often your body needs new weight training routines to keep it stimulated.
Generally, new weight trainers can stay longer on the same bodybuilding routine while continuing gains while the more experienced trainer will need to change their weight training routines more often.
Don’t go nuts with changes. Too much change can be counterproductive. Always stick with weight training routines for a minimum of three weeks. You need at least this much time to gauge the effectiveness of the workout routine for your particular body. Additionally, your muscles need time to break down and then rebuild themselves (get bigger) in order to handle this new stress better. This is the goal.
And don’t change just for the sake of change. The times presented are just suggestions. As long as you are getting good results, keep doing what you are doing. Don’t fix what isn’t broken.
The following table outlines some basic ways to change your weight training routines:
Top 9 Ways To Confuse Table
Every four to eight weeks
– Here we are talking about the specific exercises you do in your weight training routines. You don’t want to change all your exercises every three to six weeks. In fact, you may never want to change your base compound exercises like the bench press and squat. There just aren’t suitable alternatives. But do change the isolated exercises that support the compound exercises. In this way you change up the way accessory and stabilizer muscles are hit. Aim to keep surprising your muscles by changing the way you stress them. For more on exercises for the different muscle groups, check the Exercise Database.
Every four to sixteen weeks
– Changing your splits or switching to full-body workout routines will keep your body from knowing what is coming next. Check here for Splits to Use in Bodybuilding Workouts.
Every four to sixteen weeks
– You don’t want to go heavy all the time. Your muscles will adapt and stop responding. Instead change up heavy sets with medium sets and throw in some light set bodybuilding routines in on occasion.
– These are minor changes, like pointing your toes slightly more together on calf raises or moving your hands slightly farther apart on the bench press. This is not about changing the target muscles of a given exercise, but rather making a very slight change to hit it just a little differently and keep it guessing. For exercises that support such changes, throw them a wrinkle every so often.
Every four to sixteen weeks
– Two things here:
1. The beginning of weight training routines is when you will have the most energy to put towards a specific muscle group. For the most part, you want to place the muscle group that is most in need first in your workout. Sometimes though, it is good to change this order. Hams hit first as opposed to last in a workout represents a different stress placed on the body. Different is good.
2. Generally, you want to work each muscle group by first doing the compound exercises for it and then moving on to isolated exercises. On occasion, try a bodybuilding routine that does it backwards, doing isolated exercises for a muscle group followed by the compound exercise.
Every twelve to twenty-six weeks
– For the most part you should be working your muscles to fatigue (though some go to failure with every workout and report good success). Going to failure is extreme and isn’t necessary to do all the time. It can, however, be beneficial for shocking the muscles on occasion.
– Radical refers to going to static contraction, slow lifting or quick lifting weight training routines. These routines can work to shock the body and break you past some plateaus. For more on these methods, check the Slow Lifting and Static Contraction Training Page.
There are things to keep constant…
You always want to work with intensity, you always want to keep the focus of your weight training routines on compound exercises and you always want to keep your training focused on developing your fast twitch muscle fibers and progressive overload.
The only way the body will see a need to grow is when these things are present. Learn more in the Building Muscles… A Look at Muscles, Muscle Growth and Progressive Overload article.