When it comes to building muscle, it’s easy to fall into the trap of never changing your routine. You train arms on certain days, legs on others and you have a fixed set of exercises for each muscle group. Sounds familiar, right?
It’s something a lot of lifters do and it’s certainly effective for building muscle at the earlier stages of your fitness journey. But as you progress, you’re going to want to start varying the movements you perform to maintain muscle growth and keep growing stronger.
‘Shocking’ your muscles
The main benefit of adding different exercises into your workouts is that it can lead to improved muscle stimulation. Hitting the same exercise routine again and again can get your muscles accustomed to these movements.
You can look at it like walking home from a place you visit regularly, like work or the local shops. After a certain point, you don’t even need to think about the direction that you’re heading in; you just know how to get there.
The same is true of our muscles. They need to be ‘shocked’ every now and then to get the most out of your muscle growth. Varying the exercises you perform will do this.
Helping prevent injury
Varying the workouts you’re doing can also help prevent injury. One of the most common causes that lead to a person being injured is by having a very strong core muscle that is used in a movement but weak supporting muscles. As you grow stronger, this can open up the risk of injuring these supporting muscles because you’ve not built the strength in them to handle a higher weight.
We’ll use your back muscles as an example. While these aren’t a focus of bench press, you will be using them when you perform the exercise if you follow proper form and engage your lats whilst retracting and depressing your scapular. So if you were to make massive leaps in your chest strength, move up your bench weight but without having made similar leaps in your back muscles, you run the risk of putting too much strain on them when you’re lifting.
This can lead to discomfort or—worse—injury. To counter this, make sure you’re training your body evenly and switching up your routines to make sure you’re not neglecting any muscles.
Keeping things fresh
Another benefit of varying the way you workout is that it makes the process more enjoyable. While some people may enjoy the routine they’ve built up, others will find it repetitive and monotonous if they have the same schedule each time they visit the gym.
So mix it up! Incorporate new exercises or variations into your workout. You might find it more engaging and at the very least your muscles will thank you.
We’ll give you some pointers, too. The next time you perform a set of cable rows, try one of the variations that our trainer Elliot demos below. He uses a long bar attachment and switches up the way he’s rowing to target different muscles in the back.
Flexibility through strength training
While many of us go to the gym to stay fit, we aren’t going to be getting any more flexible if we only ever train the same movements. By testing your muscles with new exercises, you’re bound to build more flexibility over time.
A good example of this is changing your traditional deadlift into a Romanian deadlift (or RDL). RDLs are a popular movement to train the legs and the lower back, and are a great alteration of a compound movement.
Here’s a quick how-to from Elliot on how RDLs should be done.
There really are a lot of reasons why varying your exercise routine is a net positive and variety is the spice of life, after all.