Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Routine Is the Enemy

rou tine [roo-teen] -

  1. a customary or regular course of procedure.
  2. commonplace tasks, chores, or duties done regularly or at specified intervals; typical or everyday activity.
  3. regular, unvarying, habitual, unimaginative procedure.
  4. an unvarying and constantly repeated formula; convenient or predictable response.
  5. the type of activity that will drive you insane - cause frustration, disappointment, boredom, anger, you become stagnant and get you nowhere! 
Yes, I added in that fifth definition above - but it's so true. The sad thing is that I see it just about every day. The same people doing the same exercises, same tempo, same loads, same reps, same sets....even the same workout clothes! YIKES! Go home and wash that s#*t people!! Cause not only do your clothes stink but so does your workout "plan".

I also see this quite a bit....and it drives me nuts!

"Yeah, I'm here at the gym getting my sweat on....reading my magazine, talking with you!" Huh?! Really?!

How many times have you walked into any 'big box club/gym' and have seen the same people doing the same thing day in and day out? You know - slow cardio on the elliptical, running endless miles & minutes on the treadmill, slouching over on the stairmaster at a whooping pace of 10 -20 steps per minute? What about those folks doing the same 'lifts' on the same machines with the same loads? Machines like the pec fly, seated cable row, seated inner/outer thigh machine, seated leg extension, seated shoulder press, etc.

Hopefully you're NOT one of those people. (If you've been following my blog for a while now, you better NOT BE one of those people!) If you've succumbed to the malignant lure of the 'routine' bandit, no worries. I'm here to save you the heartache by giving you some guidance on how to create some parameters for your workout "program" without ever falling into that stagnant, boring routine ever again.

Whatever you do, don't be "that guy"!

For me, personally, I don't ever want to fall into the trap of being "that guy"! What I mean by that is that I don't want to be categorized or pigeon-holed as the dude who resists change, who bitches and complains about boring & stagnant workouts and voices his frustration as to why he's not seeing any results!

If you want to get better and you want to see positive change which yields results like fat loss, improved strength & power, endurance, increased lean muscle, mobility, etc., then changing the program is a MUST! Period!

Changing your current "plan" (and developing it into a "program") into a that you've stuck with for months, maybe even years, doesn't have to be complicated. However, I do recommend that you change or 'tweak' it more frequently - about every 4-6 weeks. Why? To challenge the rate of adaptation which is heavily influenced by load, volume, intensity and frequency of exercise.

To design an optimal exercise "program", you'll need to adhere to these following six (6) principles in order to break away from the routine "plan".

The Principle of Individual Differences

This principle simply means that, because we're all unique individuals, we'll all have a slightly different response to an exercise program. In other words, "one size doesn't fit all" when it comes to exercise. Well-designed exercise program should be based on our individual differences and responses to exercise. Some of these differences have to do with body size and shape, genetics, past experience, chronic conditions, injuries and even gender.

The Overload Principle

The principle of overload states that 'a greater than normal stress or load on the body IS REQUIRED for training adaptation to take place'. What this means is that in order to improve our fitness, strength or endurance, we NEED TO INCREASE the workload accordingly.

In order for a muscle (which includes the heart) to increase strength, it must be gradually stressed by working against a load greater than it's used to. To increase endurance, muscles must work for a longer period of time than they are used to or at a higher intensity for a shorter period of time (interval training).

Load 'em up! See RESULTS!

The Progression Principle

Progression simply implies that there's an optimal level of overload that should be achieved, and an optimal time frame for this overload to occur. A gradual and systematic increase of the workload over a period of time will result in improvements in fitness without risk of injury. If overload occurs too slowly, improvement is unlikely. Overload that's increased too rapidly may result in injury or muscle damage.

The Progression Principle highly stresses the need for proper rest/recovery. Continual stress on the body and constant overload will result in exhaustion and injury. Training hard all of the time may also set you up for overtraining thus creating a negative impact on your overall fitness - constant fatigue, decreased power of endurance, strength & speed,  anxiety, depression, etc.

The Principle of Adaptation

Adaptation refers to the body's ability to adjust to increased or decreased physical demands. It's also one way we learn to coordinate muscle movement and develop sports-specific skills like batting, swimming or shooting free throws. Repeatedly practicing a skill or activity makes it second-nature and easier to perform. Adaptation explains why beginning exercisers are often sore after starting a new routine, but after doing the same exercise for weeks and months they have little, if any, muscle soreness.

Adaptation also makes an athlete very efficient allowing them to expend less energy doing the same movements. This reinforces the need to vary a workout routine if one wants to see continued improvement. In other words, change is a must!

The Principle of Use or Disuse

The Principle of Use/Disuse implies that when it comes to fitness, either you "use it or lose it"This simply means that your muscles hypertrophy with use and atrophy with disuse. This also explains why someone stops becomes deconditioned and their overall fitness declines when they stop exercising.

"We're either getting better, or we're getting worse. There is no staying the same!" 
- Robert Dos Remedios

The Principle of Specificity

The Specificity Principle simply states that exercising a certain body part or component of the body primarily develops that part. This principle implies that, to become better at a particular exercise or skill, you MUST perform that exercise or skill. While it's helpful to have a good base of fitness and to do general conditioning routines, if you want to be better at your sport, you need to train specifically for that sport.

I'm sure many coaches and trainers will add additional guidelines and principles to this list. However, these are what I consider to be the six basics principles that are the cornerstones of all other effective training methods. They cover all major aspects of a solid foundation of performance & athletic training and conditioning.

If all of these principles are making it a bit overwhelming and somewhat confusing, make it easy on yourself and don't stress. Simply add in some pushing exercises, a little more pulling, some hip/knee dominant (especially hip extension), explosive movements (crank it hard & fast) and don't forget about core training (no crunches - add in some anti-rotational/anti-extension work such as Palloff presses/holds, ab wheel rollouts, planks & side planks).

"The body doesn't care how it moves, it just wants to get the task done." 
- Guido Van Ryssegem

Getting the task done means getting off that ass and start putting forth some effort! Break the routine, do something different, something non-traditional and move!

As I say, "go out & play". Play hard and with a purpose! Do that and start reaping the rewards of time savings and better results! Guaranteed!


*Source: Wilmore, J.H. and Costill, D.L. Physiology of Sport and Exercise: 3rd Edition. 2005. Human Kinetics

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