Adding New Workouts to Your Current Plan

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Dumbbells are lined up on a weight rack.
Dumbbells are lined up on a weight rack in the Hancock gym at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C., Sept. 27, 2015. (Lance Cpl. Jason Jimenez/U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Breaking out of a workout rut is no easy task. We're creatures of habit, and it's all too easy to slip into complacency and stick with your tried-and-true, standard workout.

Whether you are following a strict training program, train with a rigid program of the same workouts every week or just do a few machines and calisthenics every other day, you may want to consider varying your daily plan.

If you are not following the direction of a personalized program made by a trainer who knows you, you should consider the following discussion below.

Are You a Rule Follower? Be Open to New Ideas

No program you find online or in a fitness magazine or book is designed personally for you. The rule follower can get into injury trouble or not be challenged enough, depending on their starting fitness level.

If you start a program and follow it to the letter -- even though it is not created specifically for you -- you may be doing too much, too soon, or it could be not enough work for you. So you have to get creative and know how to make changes to generic workout programs even if the goal of the program is created with the same end result you seek.

That usually means adjusting sets, reps or mileage, especially if an increased number of miles of running is required in the first weeks. You may need to reduce the miles, repetitions, number of sets or increase the rest periods to fit your fitness level. You still can follow the program. Just adjust the volume knob to more or less, depending upon your goals, current fitness level and general abilities.

You also may have to adjust for equipment that you do not have. For instance, if you cannot do pull-ups yet or do not have a pull-up bar, you may want to replace that exercise with pulldowns or some other pulling activity like dumbbell rows or biceps curls that engage similar muscle groups.

The rule follower has to be flexible enough not to feel like you failed if you do not do the workout exactly as written. Your success with the workout is being able to do most of it. If you spent an hour moving more than you normally do and perform most of the exercises, even though you had to dial a few down a notch, you will get a great workout that will yield results. Just keep moving but stay open to change when needed.

Are You a Repeater?

Many people beginning an exercise program find a plan that works for them and stay with it -- forever. Every week, it is the same thing -- week after week. Not only does this exercise follower get bored with the program (eventually), the results you may have found in the first few months of the program have stalled to a halt. 

Eventually, the same old program will become just a maintenance plan. Now, there is nothing wrong with that, if that is your goal and you like the same thing over and over. But if you are seeking to grow muscle mass, get leaner, run faster or increase any performance physically, you may want to change things up a bit. 

You can do this by increasing weight, repetitions, faster cardio, longer cardio sessions or decreasing rest periods. But to spice things up, you may need to add in a new week of training every month. You always can go back to your favorite week of workouts, but once a month or every other week, make the change to new ideas in the weight room, calisthenics organization or cardio workouts.  Here are many ideas:

Ten Favorite Workouts (Go-To Plans)

A Variety of Cardio Workout

Running Workouts for Fitness Tests

Are You a Weight Room Roamer?

Do you go to the gym regularly but never follow a real plan? Maybe you spend 20-30 minutes on the cardio machines and then do a variety of machines in circuit order, depending on what is available.

If you are the gym roamer who just looks at doing something, that is great that you are making a move. But if you want more days (than not) of good, solid workouts, you may want to be more of a rule follower, as mentioned above.

Getting on a program will give you a sense of direction, and you may find the adjustments you have to make to your roaming habits in training refreshing. Some ideas for you would be to take one day and do all upper-body exercises. One day, do all leg and core exercises.

This two-day split routine can be followed by any cardio option you prefer for 20-30 minutes. Creating a circuit routine in that way may give you a newfound purpose and direction when going to the gym. And you may find better results as well.

Some options are to get a second or third program type or a book of a la carte workouts that you can use to supplement into a weekly program if you lack the necessary equipment, time or abilities. As long as the supplemental workout is working the same muscle groups, you may find a calisthenics version that fits your day in place of a gym workout when the gym is closed, for example.

Remember this when it comes to being open to trying new things: The best workout may be the one you are missing.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you're looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to stew@stewsmith.com.

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