This article will take you 6 minutes to read. Feel free to leave your questions in the comment section, they will be answered!
After all these years spent in the gym, we are told all sorts of things when it comes to our programs. In the world of bodybuilding, some people say you should frequently change your routine or that you should shock your muscles otherwise no progress will be made. At the same time, others claim it is all about sticking to the same routine. What should you do to avoid stagnation? What’s right and what’s wrong?
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Sticking to the same routine: an unpopular advice
Without a doubt, as soon as you have found the right exercises adapted to your morphology, which don’t hurt and which you improve with – don’t change it! In actuality, by keeping the same workout routine you will make the most improvement and avoid stagnation.
Yes, the exact same program.
It might look like a bit of unpopular advice, but most of the people who build muscle more than others usually stick to the same program. This has a direct correlation with our article about specialising in bodybuilding which you might want to read.
They will only make a few minor modifications to make sure that it is right for them and still aligned with their goals and body response. So why go for the same routine in the long run rather than changing it frequently for the natural athlete?
You have to be able to measure to progress and avoid stagnation
It is vital that you can see results through your training. If you just come to pump it up, it’s not going to work! You need landmarks to know where you are, you will improve by staying organized and knowing exactly what you are going to do.
In other words, it needs to be trackable. Keeping logs of your progress is a great way to do this. If you frequently change your routine, it becomes next to impossible to track what progress you have made. By starting with the same exercises and doing the same routine in the same order, you cannot lie to yourself.
Sticking to your routine: in practice
Let’s say last Monday for international chest day, you decided to start with the bench press. You hit 4×10 at 80kg. Now you have a benchmark – you know what to do to improve and what improving means. If the next session you get 4×11@80, you have improved.
This is a simple and effective method for tracking your progress. On the other hand, if you keep changing the exercises you do on chest day it is much more difficult to track. You can’t compare the weight and number of reps you did on the bench press to what you do with dumbbell flies.
You won’t know how to improve because the numbers will constantly be changing. Sticking to the same exercises in the same routine will allow you to follow your progress more easily.
A good example is if you want to get better at running 100m sprints:
If one day you run on grass, the other day on hard court, and then on the sand -how can you measure the progress you’ve made and put yourself in the right conditions to get better? If you don’t use a stopwatch frequently to know where you stand, how are you going to improve?
When it comes to the gym – you have to be consistent, that means consistent by going to the gym regularly and being consistent in your routine while at the gym itself too! The more you repeat the same exercises, the better you will become at those exercises.
“Practice makes perfect!”. There is no perfection, although practice does make you much better.
Many people train without knowing what they are doing when coming to the gym, the best way forward is to know exactly what your plan is.
Do not change it unless this is your last option
Sticking to the same routine is key, but that being said for some reason – you might have to bring minor modifications to your program. Maybe things have started to hurt in your routine or outside of the gym, or maybe you found out a new exercise might be more beneficial to you and in alignement to your personal body traits (mobility, flexibility).
In this case, you can gently re-adapt your routine. Though, if this is because of a plateau, changing your routine might not be the solution.
Plateauing might not be that last option
Coming from the perspective that your diet routine (tip: check your calorie intake) and training routine is already smart and very well optimized, it might then simply be a reality check-point telling you that you actually need to work harder to get to the next level.
This will come with following the principles of progressive overload, whether be it strength or volume – which do get harder with time. The more you improve, the more investment you have to put in to reach the next level.
When you started the gym, you were probably doing less than you are doing right now, why does this process have to change? The only reason you grow is that you do more than before, you are stronger, fitter, etc… It is the acceptance that if you want to get better, you also have to invest more in the discipline.
The natural limit term is often overly-used as a natural bodybuilder
It is more a lifestyle limit or the lack of motivation that holds you back. Most of the people who end up at a very decent level will usually train 5 times a week routine for pretty long sessions (1:30-2 hours). Feel free to read the article “How long can you train for as a natural bodybuilder?”
If their training is already well optimized, the only way for them to keep improving which no one talks about is in most cases to do more. Then it’s a life choice. To be ready to trade some more of your time to train. Otherwise, you can accept that progress will be slower at some point – which usually is the case if you have a family, a job and a social life to take care of.
So try to do these adjustments first or have a think!
This is definitely your last option
You’ve injured yourself badly, or you genuinely will just feel better to change your routine because you like to spice things up? If you have injured yourself, and despite your doctor telling you to stop training you still want to (which is quite understandable) – the first thing to do is finding an alternative that does not hurt you. Don’t give up yet.
If you can’t deadlift anymore you simply can’t. Find alternatives to train your back. The seal rows could be a great example to keep training back. Apply it to the rest of your training until you’ve found solutions and no exercises hurt anymore. If you cannot find anything, you might have to listen to the bloody doctor!
Just spicing it up!
If you really are bored and like to change things up and you think the excitement of changing your routine will bring you a strong enough motivation not to slow down your progress… then definitely change things up! But still try and keep the very core of your program and your main exercises. Then you can replace a few exercises which should already make your routine different so you still have the possibility to rely on your all-time exercise to measure where you’re at.
If you literally want to change everything, you have to re-install a detailed routine with a real plan and an idea of your working sets still with the mindset of progressing thanks to trackable methods. The problem in which we don’t recommend switching everything up is that it might slow you down. Doing new exercises is something your nervous system will have to re-adapt to, and it might take a bit of time before you can do real working sets again with full potential.
Get used to your new exercises as fast as you can without burning steps. Do a session where you test your strength on these new exercises when you are ready (after a good warm-up of course). Once you’ve tested your max on your new routine, re-install this detailed routine of yours.
So what kind of routine should you stick to?
Well, first, you need to define how much time you have to invest in the gym.
Is it 2 times a week, 3 times, or 5 times?
What is your priority and what are your goals? Write it down and make it clear! Make a real action plan.
You will then be able to adjust the type of routine that is best for you. One more time: the more structured and detailed your routine is, the more likely you’re going to get results! Of course, do not try to perfect it to the point you are overthinking – but you get the point!
You might also be interested to read “The importance of specializing in your bodybuilding routine”.
Do not hesitate to leave a comment and ask us a question!