How Often Should You REALLY Be Changing Your Workouts?
We’ve all seen the internet memes that mock the agony that follows “leg days.” The penguin waddle, the difficulty in sitting down. Maybe you’ve felt a similar pain in your own body when you’ve worked your core so much it hurts to laugh the next day.
The soreness you feel in your muscles after an especially grueling workout is your body in recovery. The stress you put on your body during exercise creates microtears in the muscles, and it’s in the reparation of the tears where we build our strength. As we become stronger, there is a certain amount of anatomical adaptation that takes place, which is why we so often see plateaus in training when our neuromuscular system is no longer challenged by a certain stimulus.
That doesn’t mean you have to change up your workout every day in order to see progress. In fact, doing so may even hinder results since you’re not allowing the body to adapt. Canadian scientist Hans Selye coined the term General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS) to explain the body’s short and long-term reactions to stress.
GAS occurs in three stages, the first is the Alarm Reaction, which is the immediate reaction to the stress activating our “fight or flight” response and preparing our body for physical activity. The fight or flight response releases cortisol and adrenaline into the body, creating that pumped up feeling you experience when you’re pushing yourself through a workout.
The Stage of Resistance, or the second stage, is when the body adapts to the repeated exposure of the stressor. The adaptation comes during periods of rest and recovery as the muscles repair and strengthen, in preparation for the next time the body is put through a workout.
The final stage is the Stage of Exhaustion, created when the long-term stress isn’t removed. This is the stage where there is a risk for overtraining and injury as the body’s resistance to the stressor decreases.
When developing a workout plan it’s important to consider all three stages, your fitness level, and ultimate fitness goals. In terms of exercise, it typically takes a body anywhere from 3-10 weeks to cycle through the Stage of Resistance. Most trainers recommend changes in a workout routine every 4-6 weeks.
Keeping this in mind, we have addressed the body as a whole and map out our routines an entire year in advance. Our annual program is broken down into 6-8 week cycles that focus on stages of stabilization, strength/hypertrophy and power. During these cycles, each weekly routine will focus on a specific component - i.e. front/back extremities, upper/lower body. In order for results to be maximized, there needs to be some level of consistency within the same workout allowing for the body adapt. As we progress through each cycle, familiar exercises may pop up from a previous week, but using a different modality - i.e. progressing from resistance bands to dumbbells.
If you are visiting the studio 2-3 times per week, you may notice that the exercises become easier each time. That is GAS in action, your body mechanics are adjusting to the stress being placed on the muscles. With each workout, the muscles are adapting to the movement patterns and are learning to recruit the correct muscle fibers. Next time you notice that the minute seems too easy, use this as an opportunity for micro-progressions using the F.I.T.T. principle, short for frequency, intensity, time and type. Instead of reaching for the same set of dumbbells you use every time, try using a heavier set and bring the number of reps down. Small changes can lead to big results.
If you are still looking for more variety in your workouts, check out our other class offerings. Poise Speed Training will help power your running stride, and Poise Boxing is great for building core strength… not to mention it’s a healthy way to release any pent up stress and flood the body with those feel-good endorphins!