How Often to Switch Up Your Workout Routine

“Muscle confusion! You need to keep your body guessing or it will plateau!”

“Stick to your plan for 6 weeks!”

“Never do the same workout twice!”

Muscle confusion…

I might dislike this phrase more than the word “toning”.

You might have heard that if you’ve been doing the same workouts for a while and your progress has stalled it’s because *gasp* your muscles have caught on and need to be confused in order to continue seeing results!

Now I don’t think the above train of thought is 100% wrong, but it’s misleading. Your muscles don’t need to be confused. They need to be challenged incrementally. AKA they need progressive overload. Not as sexy as muscle confusion, sure, but it’s really what’s most important.

You could do the same workout plan (or even workout) for years and years and continue to see results if you keep incorporating progressive overload (increasing weight, reps, sets or decreasing time). Progressive overload isn’t confusing your muscles, it’s forcing them to adapt to an increased stimulus.

I wouldn’t recommend doing the same workout plan for years and years, just saying it’s possible. What I recommend is doing a workout plan for 4-8 weeks before you change the exercise selection. During those 4-8 weeks you’re “confusing” ( progressively overloading) your muscles by increasing weight, reps, sets or decreasing time.

Why do you want to change the exercise selection after 4-8 weeks? As you get stronger at some things, you usually find new areas of weakness. This lets you systemically strengthen certain areas by focusing on them for 1-2 months. Then switch your focus for 1-2 months. THEN at the end of a year, you’ve strengthened a lot of your week areas!

If you are switching up your workouts too often and constantly doing different exercises every single day, you may not give your muscles time to adapt. However if you are someone who needs a ton of variety, you could be smart with the variations of exercise your choose to keep it “exciting”, but also let your muscles adapt.

Mental Benefits

I think one of the most unsung benefits of following workout program for 4-8 weeks is that you get to see yourself get stronger and improve over time.

Let’s say you workout four times a week and do a different workout each day. The fifth time you do “Workout 1” you’re likely going to be able to see big improvements in form, strength, endurance, etc. If you don’t track your progress you might miss an opportunity to feel encouraged by the progress you’ve made.

By repeating the same workouts for a few weeks (while using progressive overload), you should notice you feel stronger the 5th time you do Workout 1 vs. the first time!

Sticking to a workout program also gives you a mini-goal. Say you start a workout program and pick exercises to really work on your glutes and push up strength. You could test your strength before starting the 6 week program and then test it again after. You could compare before and after pictures. You’ve created a sense of urgency by giving yourself a timeframe.

How to do it

There’s 3 major way you can go about tracking your workouts:

  1. Write it down on paper. The oldest method in the book, but it works. Bring a little journal, write down your exercises. Write down the weights your using and gradually increase the weight, reps or sets each week for each workout. *Make sure not to increase everything all at once.
  2. Write it down in your phone. This method is a little easier because you can use your friend copy/paste. Create 3-5 different workouts, repeat them each week and utilize progressive overload.
  3. Create a spreadsheet. My personal favorite. You certainly can (and should!) hire me to create a workout plan for you, but if you are going it on your own — this is the more sophisticated method. Mostly it just makes things a little prettier and more organized.

Now that you’ve got your method of tracking, resist the urge to “switch things up” for 4-8 weeks and focus on getting strong (or even just better form-wise) at each movement that you do. Aim to have better form, be a little stronger or doing more reps at the end of the 4-8 weeks!

Did this “unconfuse” you about muscle confusion? Let me know!

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