Has Your Workout Hit a Plateau? Time to Disrupt February 1, 2016
Has Your Workout Hit a Plateau? Time to Disrupt February 1, 2016

You’ve been spending three to five days a week at the gym for the past year or so, but it’s not paying off as much as it once did, right? You’re not losing what you’ve built up, but fewer people are saying “nice gains.” Now may be the time to switch things up to get better results. After doing the same sets of exercises week after week, your system needs to be jolted into reacting differently, so you keep seeing and feeling positive outcomes.

Some try changing up the number of sets and reps, rest periods and/or the intensity of each workout.

While these tactics can help, consider these four great ways to mix up your movement:

1. Work it one limb at a time.
Whether it’s a bench press, squat or bent-over row, your multi-joint exercises likely involve moving two limbs symmetrically. Try unilateral movements–exercising one arm or one leg at a time–instead; this forces your body to engage more of its stabilizing muscles–which are much less likely to get worked out–as it works to maintain balance. Additionally, these unilateral exercises can help address asymmetrical size and/or strength issues.

2. Give it the ol’ one-two.
Consider also trying alternating unilateral movements, as in “left leg, right leg, left leg,” and so on. So, rather than doing a set of ten one-legged squats with your right leg and then a set of ten with the left, do a set of 20, switching legs with each rep.

This type of exercise helps engage underused muscles and can help prevent injury by developing sturdy stabilizers.

3. Do “The Swim.”
Another way to mix up traditional exercises is to use both limbs simultaneously, but in opposite directions–reciprocal movements. Think about how your body moves when you’re running or swimming: one arm or leg moves forward and the other back. Doing this requires a great deal of balance and coordination, and also engages your core muscles.

4. Create a reality show for your muscles. If you saw someone about to lift a bar on the bench with five pounds more on one side than the other, you might be tempted to point out the error. But in reality, uneven movements compel your muscles to react to the specific situation, much like they would if you were carrying grocery bags of unequal weights. It’s a very functional, real-life aspect to add to your workout.

If you’ve reached a plateau in your workouts, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s time to scrap your entire routine and start from scratch; however, incorporating some new techniques to mix things up and shock your body can help you burst through plateaus and engage previously unchallenged muscles for great results.

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