Variety is the spice of life! This phrase contradicts human nature’s desire to keep things the same, which is why we don’t like change. The truth is, growth occurs only when we experience change. You may think I’m going down the mindset and motivational road that countless others do, instead, I’m talking about your muscles!
You’ve seen this at the gym and are likely part of this club; people look the exact same year after year even though they work out multiple times per week. How and why does this happen? A few reasons, and in this blog, I’m discussing exercise, not eating reasons. For eating, just remember you can’t outwork a bad diet.
Because humans do not like change, we tend to do the same workouts each time we go to the gym. The body wants to be efficient and use as little energy as possible. This ties in the nervous system with the muscular system to make movement possible. New movements and tasks are difficult at first because the muscles and nerves are learning how to process this information to make it easier and less taxing on you. Think about first learning to drive, compared to driving now. You are efficient in the task and literally go on autopilot compared to when you initially got behind the wheel and had to think hard about every aspect of pushing on the accelerator, keeping the car in its lane, keeping space between vehicles, and stopping. The same rules apply to working out the first time to 10 years later as you do the same routine every week.
From a muscle fiber standpoint, the more you do the same movements, the stronger and more efficient the body becomes in those planes of motion. So much so, you don’t think about you’re doing, and the number of calories you use is dramatically less than the first couple months of doing that routine. Take this into normal life, and it becomes repetitive movement patterns that can lead to overuse injuries. Yes, sitting is actually an overuse injury when it comes to low back and neck pain. When you do something outside of your regular movement patterns, you often hurt yourself because the muscles and nerves do not know how to operate as a unit to accomplish the new task.
After about 4 weeks of doing the same routine, your body becomes efficient and stops burning the calories it did when you started. Your muscle fibers grow in the same direction, and you can get stronger in these exercises, while simultaneously opening yourself to injuries from simple movements outside of this range. Typical exercises are done linearly, which means any lateral (side-to-side) movements are uncomfortable. To avoid this discomfort, human nature avoids them. The secret to keeping you free from injuries, burning more calories, and improving your strength, is to change your workouts every 4-6 weeks.
Change is hard. I understand that, especially when your knowledge of how and what to change is limited. Here are a few ideas you can use to make changes:
Hiring a fitness professional like myself is a simple way to get the education you need and make sure you are performing the exercises properly. YouTube is great, but if you still don’t know why and how to incorporate the correct muscles, you’re just opening yourself to injuries. Some people like doing their own taxes and taking a risk on penalties and fines. CPAs exist for a reason, and millions of people have no problems paying them for their expertise; why not do the same with your physical health? I’ll give you a complimentary assessment if you email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to tell you where you need help in stretching and strengthening. Just put Assessment in the subject line, and we can set it up via Zoom.
You don’t have to completely scrap what you’re doing now to reap the benefits of change. Substituting a couple exercises with free weights from machines is a great way to start. For example, do side lunges instead of leg presses, and dumbbell bench presses instead of the machine. Those two alone will improve your overall fitness and strength level, plus burn more calories. Each week, add one new change, and in a month, you will notice new results and gain confidence!
Change is good! Keep an open mind, get educated, and watch your body break the old mold and get into a sexier, leaner, and stronger one!