Muscle Adaptation and Variation

When was the last time you gave your old, stale, well too familiar, workout routine a lift? I'm not sure about you, but I am ready for a change! At this very moment I'm sitting on a plane, returning home from an amazing week in beautiful Vancouver, B.C, and even though I would have preferred to stay much longer, I'm eager to return to my clean eating and training regime. Since I am unable to nap, due to this uncomfortable middle seat I was given, I find myself planning my next training routine. I need something different in preparation for this september, when I will be attending the upcoming Mr. Olympia in Vegas (no, I'm not competing). I realize that it's time I change things up in the gym, as I have not been attaining that post workout soreness lately, what fitness professionals refer to as DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness).

It has been shown that our muscles quickly adapt to our workouts and hence, stop responding and growing. This is referred to as the SAID principle of exercise (Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demand). I certainly have a lot of work left to do in regards to making improvements to my physique, so there is no way that I'm willing to let my hard work in the gym go to waste by doing the same thing over and over every time I step in the door. It's recommended we change our workout routine every 4-6 weeks. This could mean an entirely different routine, or a few simple changes to a current routine in order see new gains. Simply changing the order of your usual exercises, the amount of reps you do, the resting time between sets, the weights you are using, etc, can significantly serve to shock your muscles again, and make them respond to growth.

I'm flipping through the August issue of IronMan magazine, which has helped me decided that my new plan will consist of changing the time I spend performing each rep. There is an article called "Train, Eat, GROW!", in which they suggest to spend 1 second during the positive phase of the rep (positive meaning the up phase in which the muscle is in a state of flexion) and 3 seconds on the negative phase (the down phase in which the muscle is in a state of extension). A study, published in the International Sports Medicine Journal, showed that by doing this you are keeping the tension on the muscle fibers longer. This prolonged tension will cause more damage to the muscle and thus force the muscle to grow. Furthermore, the explosive turnaround for the 1 second up phase of the rep forces your body to bring into play more muscle fibers, more muscle fibers equals more growth. This type of workout can be very taxing and tiring because you are keeping the muscles under tension for longer periods of time. So, my plan is to add these "power cadence sets" to my last two working sets of any given exercise.

Don't be afraid to try new things in the gym. Don't shy away from certain machines because you are not sure how to use them. Ask a personal trainer at the gym or someone with more experience to show you the proper form. If you're only using machines in your routine, then add some free weight exercises as well, or vise versa. Maybe you're ready to pick up a group exercise class, or perhaps you should try drop sets. Maybe you're ready to burn that extra nagging fat by finally giving HIIT a try. Just go for it! The goal is to switch things up and keep your workouts fresh. Don't allow your body to adapt to your tiring routine, it might be time to switch things up to achieving your desired fit and toned sexy physique. A general rule of thumb that I use is, if you're not sore the day after you workout, something needs to change.

So, how are you going to give your old workout a lift? Keep me posted on your progress, I would love to hear how you improved your workouts! :)