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8 Ways To Spice Up Your Workout

Eric Driver spots Aubrey Whewell of Toledo as she lifts weights at the Christian Family Centre in Adrian.

Is your workout stale and boring? Are you in need of some changes but are comfortable with the same old thing? You aren’t the only one. Many people get tired of their same old workout routine, but are reluctant to change.

I can remember my parents saying to me that variety is the spice of life, and I never really understood it or even believed it. But within the structure of an exercise program it is essential in preventing plateaus, boredom and quitting. Whether you are an athlete training specifically for your sport or one of my clients training to get fit, diversity within in important. I would like to introduce some basic variables that will spice up your workout.

  • Isometrics

    These are muscular contractions that occur without any range of motion (ROM) of the joint. Examples of isometrics include the core exercise “plank or bridge” and the leg exercise “wall sit,” both of which involve contracting your muscles to hold your body in position without any range of motion of any of the joints.

  • Eccentric Contraction

    This refers to the muscular contraction where the muscle is going through the lengthening phase; another name for this is “negative” portion of the rep. Training sessions can be formed around doing sets of negatives, sometimes requiring heavy weights with multiple spotters. This type of training requires the expertise of a personal trainer, strength coach or very experienced person before attempting your own.

  • Variable Resistance

    This term refers to equipment that creates a change in resistance as you go through the range of motion of the exercise. Elastic tubing and heavy chains are examples. This is a good way to improve your rate of force development and add variety to the workout.

  • Periodization

    A well-designed program will have intermittent breaks or changes in volume to allow muscles to grow and avoid hitting plateaus – or, worse yet, detraining or overtraining, which leads to injuries and abandonment. For example, you could take one week off from exercise every six to eight weeks, and then return to your routine. Another example would be lowering your volume every fifth week and then resuming your training routine.

  • Photos by Vicki Schmucker and Lad Strayer

    Balance Training

    There are many tools to use for this type of training, including stability balls and the Bosu ball (pictured). The goal with this training is not just to improve balance, which is a daily functional need, but also to increase proprioception and strength within the smaller muscles of a joint to help with recovery. Proprioception is a technical term for the body’s awareness of movement. For example, someone who wants to prevent ankle sprains might attempt to stand/balance on a Bosu ball with one leg at a time.

  • Pyramid

    This type of exercise can be done in different ways. One way to pyramid down your reps as you pyramid up the weight. Example: Eight reps at 120 pounds; six at 140; four at 180; two at 220; one at 250; two at 220; four at 180; six at 140; and back to eight at 120. As an alternative, you could pyramid just the weight or just the number of reps.

  • Compound Set

    A group of two exercises that target the same muscle group, done in sequence without any rest in between. This type of set creates further exhaustion to your muscles and helps train them to delay fatigue and lactic acid buildup. For example, you could do one set of triceps pressdowns followed immediately by dumbbell kickbacks. Doing these back to back once is one complete set. Shoot for three or more of these.

  • Superset

    A superset is a group of two exercises that target opposing muscle groups, done in sequence without any rest in between. A “super” example would be bicep curls followed by tricep extensions. Other opposing muscle groups would be: chest/upper back; quads/hamstrings; calves/shins; and abs/lower back. Doing these back to back is one complete set.

This originally appeared as an article in the Lenawee Pulse. Photos by Vicki Schmucker and Lad Strayer

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