If I asked a group of people what they did for exercise I am sure I would receive a variety of answers.
Among those answers there would likely be four distinct patterns or methodologies behind all those workouts.
And among all the people surveyed nearly every workout they perform would likely follow the same pattern they originally described.
Our personal patterns are a big reason why so many people reach and are stuck at a “plateau” in their progress for a long time.
Plateaus often lead to frustration and abandoning your goals; let’s make sure this doesn’t happen to you.
Four common workout styles:
1). Low intensity, long duration, repetitive exercise. In this category we have all sorts of cardio exercise machines, running outside, cycling or similar activities.
2). Straight set resistance training. The usual X sets and Y repetitions.
Sure the exercises may vary from workout to workout but overall the total workload, the typical intensity, and the point of failure all remain relatively the same.
3). Interval training. This can be any form of exercise where you perform at a near maximal effort for a short period and then recover at a comfortable level of exertion before the next effort.
This can be extremely effective in the short term but, in addition to losing effectiveness when used too frequently, can also create a danger of injury in the long term.
4). The fourth pattern is some sort of circuit training. Different varieties exist in many exercise classes or group training sessions.
In this case you are typically performing a series of activities in rapid succession with little rest.
This seems like a great concept but quite often you will begin to notice from one workout to the next that it is the same level of pace or intensity throughout, the exercises are similar in nature, the amount of workload is the same, etc.
In a nutshell I am sure you see where I am going, we are creatures of habit.
If you wish to avoid plateaus then respect the body’s ability to adapt and acknowledge that our typical idea of variation is more one of applying a Band-Aid.
We change or vary exercise or activity but the underlying factors of duration: workload, intensity, and primary energy system usage generally remain the same.
Change it up to avoid a plateau. By change it up I mean consider the four patterns above and mix and match.
If you usually workout with interval training then next week perform some of your workouts focused around any of the three other patterns.
You can also mix and match the patterns within a single workout.
An example would be performing 10 minutes of comfortable duration cardio immediately followed by an intense set of a resistance exercise then moving on to an interval activity, back to the slow cardio and then finishing with a stationary or active stretching movement.
This would utilize multiple energy systems and provide radical variation in intensity and workload. The next thing as you may have guessed is to try not to repeat the same pattern from one workout to the next.
When you understand this concept you realize there are endless combinations, once you apply it you realize this can even make working out more fun as you it never needs to be the same.
And that is a crash course on how to easily avoid plateaus.
Cabel McElderry is a local personal trainer and nutrition coach. For more information on fitness and nutrition, visit the Fitness F/X website at www.oneto1fitness.com