Not getting results you want in the gym? You need to shake up your workout
Recently a friend approached me with a pretty standard conundrum: he wasn’t seeing any results from the work he was putting in at the gym.
I asked him what sort of thing he was doing. “Mostly weights.” What kind of weights? “Dumbbells, barbells, that sort of thing… just a program I’ve been doing.” How long have you been doing it? “Oh, about two years.”
I told him it was no wonder he wasn’t getting anywhere in the gym… only I phrased it less politely than that. Exercise is underpinned by a principle called progressive overload — or, to put it more clearly, pushing yourself really hard — and after following the same workout for two years, he’d long stopped pushing himself.
“Your body is highly adaptive and quickly finds itself becoming comfortable with the same routine,” explains Fitness First fitness manager Chris Reid.
“Often, what doesn’t challenge you, doesn’t change you,” he tells Coach. “This can sometimes lead to training plateaus and therefore reductions in the results that come with training.”
The solution is simple: do something different, even if it’s just for one or two sessions.
“Keeping your workouts interesting and ensuring variety is the best method for addressing this and ensuring your body is always getting the most out of your time in the gym,” Reid says.
I met Reid in central Sydney at Fitness First’s gym The Zone, which is all about mixing up your workout: it ditches the traditional weights and cardio areas for four zones built around different fitness styles.
These include functional training, high-intensity cardio conditioning and old-school strength training, sort of making The Zone Fitness First’s answer to F45, CrossFit, or similar boutique workouts — that is, you’ll be utterly gassed at the end, especially if you’ve tried a style of training you’re not accustomed to.
That mate who’d been on the same workout program for two years wasn’t keen on doing anything radically different — so I suggested he just use different equipment, swapping out dumbbells and barbells for suspension training, dead balls, machines or just bodyweight exercises to keep his body guessing.
The “mix it up” principle also applies if your training is more cardio-focused. If you’ve been running or cycling the same track forever, throw in some hill runs or beach runs or sprint training (what the Swedes colourfully call “Fartlek“).
It is not hard to find a new workout to try, on almost any budget — the fitness market is heavily oversaturated, and there are endless places to train. If you think exercise is boring, it’s really just that you find specific kinds of exercise boring. Go find a new kind that you like.