Your workouts should be anything but routine. Switching them up not only helps to prevent plateaus in strength and fat loss, but also keeps you from getting bored. If you’ve noticed a big (and unwelcome!) change in your body and/or you want to break the monotony of your workouts, this is for you! Sometimes a few tweaks are all it takes to jumpstart your progress.

Check these 4 areas when switching up your workouts:

1. Intensity

People always ask me how long their workouts should be. The answer is that intensity, not duration, matters most, especially when trying to avoid a plateau.  Even though intensity is subjective, it’s often the first thing I suggest clients adjust to really challenge themselves.

My go-to intensity changes are timing the exercises instead of counting reps and doing intervals instead of steady-state cardio. Have you ever felt like you could do more but you stopped became you had a set number of reps in mind? Maybe only 3 sets of 15 reps and that’s it? Or, have you ever noticed how the person sprinting next to you at the gym was twice as sweaty and done in half the time of your slow walk on the treadmill? Intensity keeps the body guessing and shaves time off your workouts.

2. Weight load

Lift heavier and don’t be afraid to get “too big.” Women don’t naturally produce enough testosterone to pack on size like men and muscle isn’t bulky, it’s lean. If you’re doing cardio and eating right, you’ll be losing body fat as you’re building muscle for a sleek, long and lean look, not a bulky or big look. The easiest way to tell if you’re lifting heavy is by how the weights feel as you get closer to the last rep. Does the first rep feel like the last one or is the weight getting progressively more challenging with each rep? The latter is best! However, you should be able to maintain your form, even if you need a quick rest, with each heavy rep. Once you find a heavy weight you can handle with proper form, you can increase that weight by 2.5-5lbs every 4 to 6 weeks as your strength improves.

3. Technique

Pyramid sets, drop sets, and supersets are my favorite lifting techniques. Most times we pick one weight and lift it the same with each rep but since our muscles are multi-dimensional, they’re most challenged when we lift with different techniques.

Try one of these techniques at your next lifting session

Pyramid set – start out with light weight and increase the weight on each set. As the weight increases, the number of reps decreases. Below is an example for the lat pulldown machine. You can adjust the number of sets based on the length of your session. If you fatigue quickly within the first few sets, go back to regular lifting until you’ve increased your stamina enough to get through the entire pyramid. Your muscles should be fresh and ready to lift for the heaviest (final) set.

Set Weight Reps
1 10 15
2 15 12
3 25 10
4 30 8
5 35 6
6 45 4

Drop set – Muscles respond to tension first, weight load second. The drop set is one of my favorite techniques for keeping the tension and constant burn throughout the entire set. This technique involves doing as many reps as you can with a certain weight and then lowering that weight and doing more reps, with as little rest between changing the weight. When you switch weights, you can drop between 5-10lbs and do a total of 4-6 sets per muscle.

Superset – I use 2 different versions of the superset but no matter the version, there is litter rest between exercises.

  1. Version 1 – 2 exercises for different muscles. For example, 1 exercise for your back followed by 1 exercise for your chest.
  2. Version 2 – 2 exercises for the same muscle or muscle group. For example, 1 exercise for your quads followed by an exercise for your hamstrings.

Supersets are great for developing your muscles but not the best for increasing your strength due to the lack of adequate rest and the quicker rate of muscle fatigue.

For each of these techniques, I recommend doing them for the body parts you want to improve on the most. Experiment to find what works for you and check your progress after committing to the technique for 4 weeks.

4. Take it outside

One of the most overlooked training grounds is the great outdoors! The different terrains provide more challenge to your muscles and you have to be more creative with the lack of training equipment. You can literally workout anywhere – the park, a local elementary school track, a hike on a nature path, the hills in your neighborhood or even your backyard! Do your next bodyweight, core and cardio workout outside for a change.

I’d love to hear your progress after you apply these tips. Tweet me @trinperkins!