Are you feeling frustrated with the quality of your workout results? Are things not changing as quickly as you’d like? If so, you’re definitely not alone. Even athletes that have been doing their sport for years will experience plateaus in their workout results.
It can be a really annoying situation—putting in so much effort each day without much to show for it, or getting bored with what you’re currently doing so your workout isn’t as exciting anymore. If this sounds like you, it’s likely you’ve hit a workout plateau. But don’t worry! There are some awesome tactics for breaking free of the stagnation and taking your workout results to the next level.
Tips for Better Workout Results
Just as your body can slow down during weight loss, it can also quickly adapt to a workout routine that’s too repetitive. Remember how they say insanity is doing the same thing again and again while expecting different results? That’s also true for working out over time if something’s just not working for you.
Adding in new techniques helps you “shock” your body and keep it guessing so it responds to exercise more quickly.
Use these tips and you’ll be seeing a difference in no time.
#1 Add in Drop Sets
People have been using drop sets to get out of exercise ruts for a long time. And that’s because they’re effective! Drop sets help you increase endurance, add more muscle strength, and increase your cardiovascular benefit. That means better fat burn and greater results from your workouts.
If you’re unfamiliar with drop sets, it’s basically where after doing an exercise, you reduce the weight you’re lifting and do as many reps as you can until you can’t do anymore. This is effective because it makes your body use different muscle fibers and get your heart pumping.
There are different ways to do drop sets, but here’s a quick guide:
- After you’ve done an exercise to exhaustion, pick up a smaller weight and do reps until you can’t anymore. These are drop sets.
- For example, say you’re doing dumbbell bicep curls and you do 4-6 reps in your normal set before you can’t do anymore.
- As soon as that set is done, drop the weight by 5 pounds and do 8-10 reps at that weight, or until you can’t do more.
- If you want to take it even further, you could do several drop sets. After dropping weight and doing that set, drop it again and do more reps at a lower weight. If you want, do it for a third time, reducing the weight even more and increasing the number of reps.
You can repeat this as you’d like, but only use it once or twice for each workout. And make sure you only use it on the final set.
#2 Try New Exercises
Our bodies are smart, and they will adapt to whatever exercises we’re doing. While that’s pretty cool, it can be frustrating when a workout seems to be working for a while… but then you suddenly stop seeing the same results.
This can happen if you are doing the basic exercises at the gym, like:
- bicep curls
- chest presses
- shoulder presses
While there’s nothing wrong with these moves, if you’re unhappy with your workout results while doing them, it’s probably time to switch things up a bit. Try some fun modifications to challenge your muscles with something new. That could include:
- Doing walking lunges with a weighted bar on your shoulders.
- Squatting using a balance board or a Bosu ball.
- Doing shoulder presses in between each squat repetition.
- Doing chest presses with an exercise ball instead of using the bench press.
- Doing shoulder presses between each rep of bicep curls.
#3 Focus on Negative Strength
If you’re unfamiliar with “negative strength,” let me explain. When you lift a weight, there are three different types of strength you’re using:
- Positive strength: the motion you use when lifting up the weight;
- Static strength: holding that weight while the muscles are contracted, and
- Negative strength: the motion you use when lowering the weight down.
Many people don’t pay much attention to the negative weight, but it’s actually quite important. Instead of letting your bar or dumbbell drop down quickly after each rep, focus on lowering the weight slowly. If you have a workout partner, they can help you safely and slowly lower the weight down.
To utilize negative strength even more, you can lift the weight with two arms or legs but lower it down with just one, then repeat on the other side. This makes you work double on each side of your body, really maximizing your benefit and increasing your strength in a new way.
#4 Use Active Rest
Many people waste a lot of extra time on rest period in between reps. You can greatly decrease the full time of your workout by using rest time to your advantage.
For most exercise, you’ll get better results by making your rest time active instead of passive. For example, you could do a set of leg presses, then instead of standing around while you’re waiting to start the next set, do a round HIIT (high intensity interval training) for 30 seconds instead. Some great HIIT moves include:
- High knees
- Mountain climbers
- Pop squats
- Ab twists
- Switch-foot jump lunges
If you are too winded to catch a deep breath, give yourself a little time to recuperate before jumping back into it.
#5 Buy a Kettlebell
Looking for something new, challenging, and fun? Consider using kettlebells. There are so many benefits of incorporating them into your workout routine, including:
- They allow you to combine both cardio and strength training.
- They provide flexibility and functional strength work without isolated reps.
- They are portable and safe for almost every person.
- For busy people, kettlebells can be a godsend because they’re small enough to carry anywhere and you can get in a full workout while using them.
If you’re completely new to using kettlebells, you might want to look for an instructor trained in using them, or at least buy a kettlebell workout DVD to learn proper technique.
Buying a Kettlebell
When looking for a kettlebell to purchase, you might think about getting one size at a time, starting with the weight that is best for you overall. Generally, the ideal ranges for most people are these:
For women: 8kg, 12kg, and 16kg kettlebells
For men: 16kg, 20kg, and 24kg kettlebells
If you’re only able to invest in one at a time, I recommend starting with the lowest weight (8kg for women, 16kg for men) and working your way up from there as you can.
These are just guidelines, of course; if you’re more or less in shape than the average person, these numbers might be slightly different for you. If possible, find a gym or other place where you can try out different exercises using different weights to determine the best for you.
When buying kettlebells, you’re better offer buying for quality right off the bat. There are two types of kettlebells: Professional Grade Steel Kettlebells and Standard Grade Cast Iron Kettlebells.
Standard grade kettlebells can be tricky because sizes and dimensions can vary depending on the weight. As the weight gets heavier, the size of the kettlebell gets bigger. On the other hand, professional grade kettlebells have the same dimensions along every weight difference. This is important because it provides consistency in your workouts. You get used to the same size, and varying dimensions can throw you off quite a bit.
Basically, if you’re able to shell out a little more money for the pro-grade kettlebell, it’ll last you longer and be worth it more in the long-run. However, if you must go with standard grade due to price, it’s fine to start there and move up to higher quality when you’re able.
Not sure where to start with kettlebell workouts? Here are some ideas for both men and women:
The number of reps you do for each move can vary depending on your workout goals. If you’re using lighter weight, shoot for 12-15 reps. For heavier weight, go for 8-10 reps max with each move.
1. Grab one kettlebell in each hand (if you only have one, feel free to do one arm at a time). Bend your knees slightly and place your hands in front of your feet. Be sure you keep a straight back the whole time.
2. Bend down and grab the kettlebells, then pull them straight up towards your chest, keeping your arms right by your sides. Then lower the weights back down until your arms are straight. That’s one rep.
This works your back, shoulders, and arms.
1. Grab one kettlebell with both hands in front of your body, grabbing the handle evenly with palms facing towards you. Stand up straight with your feet a little wider than hip-width distance apart.
2. Bending your knees slightly, move your hips back as you lower your torso just enough to bring the kettlebell back a little for a swing.
3. Using your glutes and core (not your arms), drive your hips forward to swing the kettlebell up in front of your body.
4. Lower the weight back down between your legs. That’s one rep.
This move works your glutes, legs, hips, back, and shoulders.
Kettlebell Goblet Squat
1. Start standing with your feet pointing forward and slightly wider than hip-width distance apart. Hold one kettlebell with both hands in front of your chest. Make sure your elbows stay close to your body.
2. Drop into a squat position, planting your heels on the ground and bringing your hips back and down until your thighs are parallel or slightly lower to the ground.
3. Pushing from your heels and glutes, come back up to standing. That’s one rep.
This move works your glutes, legs, and back.
Kettlebell Lunge Plus Press
1. Hold the kettlebell in one hand at your chest, with your arm bent, and stand up straight.
2. Lunge backwards with one leg. As you lunge, press the kettlebell directly up over your head, with your palm facing forward and the kettlebell itself hanging towards your back.
3. As you bring your foot back forward into a standing position, return the kettlebell to your chest. That’s one rep. As completing a set on one side, switch hands and lunge with the other leg.
This move works the legs, glutes, arms, shoulders, back, and abs.
Kettlebell Floor Press
1. Lie down on your back with your knees bent and your feet a few inches from your butt. Hold a kettlebell in one hand right by your chest with your elbow bent in a 90-degree angle and your palm facing towards your body.
2. Press the kettlebell straight up with your hand, rotating your wrist so your palm faces your feet. Your arm should be straight up.
3. Lower the kettlebell back down to where you started. This is one rep. Finish a set, then repeat with opposite hand.
This move works the chest, arms, and core.
#6 Check Your Nutrition
If you’re struggling to have good workouts, it might be that your energy level isn’t as high as it could be. Good nutrition is so important in a healthy lifestyle, including having the energy to workout.
Make sure you’re eating enough healthy foods to fuel you, and be mindful of any deficiencies. Even people who eat a healthy diet can be deficient in essential vitamins due to our modern food practices. A high-quality fulvic acid supplement like Mimi’s Miracle Minerals acts as insurance against common deficiencies by replenishing your body with 70+ trace minerals each day.
Many people are also not getting enough omega 3’s in their diet. To protect yourself from this deficiency, look for a pharmaceutical grade fish oil without aftertaste. Mimi’s Omegas is a great option.
#7 Download a Workout App
Sometimes you just need a little extra help changing things up. Why not download a new workout app that forces you to do a new routine? It’s a little bit like a portable, super affordable personal trainer right there on your phone.
Choose an app that interests you, then give the workouts on it a try. You’ll might just find a new workout style you love! And even if you don’t, it’ll expand your options and keep you from getting bored with the same thing every day. Here are some popular and highly rated apps to try:
- Sworkit: Simply tell this app what type of workout you want to do (such as yoga, strength, cardio, etc) and it’ll put together random exercises to crate a personalized routine for you. The best part? Each workout is different, so you can supercharge each exercise without getting bored. The app is free, but there’s also a premium version that offers even more features.
- Johnson and Johnson 7-Minute Workout: This app is based off of the scientifically-designed 7-minute workout, so it’s great if you’re looking for quick yet effective workout ideas. It offers not only the traditional 7-minute workout but also more advanced routines with different intensities and lengths. This works great for both beginner exercisers as well as those who workout regularly.
- Daily Yoga: Are you a yogi (or wanna be yogi)? This app will be your new yoga teacher so you can do yoga anytime, anywhere! In fact, the app is created by expert yoga instructors. You’ll have a series of yoga workouts to train different body areas, as well as meditations and relaxing music to de-stress.
- FitStar: Think about this as your new digital personal trainer. You can input your preferred workout length and your current goals, then the app will come up with the best workout routine for you. Not only that, but the app learns as you go. You can rate how hard you thought the workout was, and it will gradually determine the best workout intensity to continue challenging you in a healthy way.
- Map My Fitness: If running, walking, or jogging is your thing, MMF is great for finding running routes nearby and sharing favorites with other users. You can log over 600 workouts, and it can also sync with over 400 different devices so you can view and log your athletic performance from anywhere.
- JEFIT: If you’re looking to upscale your bodybuilding or strength training, this app is great for you. Search by the body part you want to work and find thousands of created routines, with detailed instruction on how to do moves, in the app. It also includes an exercise log, workout planner, and area to track your progress.
- Nike+ Training Club: This app provides workouts created by celebrities and professional athletes so you can get expert exercises that focus on endurance, mobility, and strength alike. If you’re a runner, it’s easy to sync workouts with Nike+ Run Club, or you can enter any other activity manually. You can choose from three different difficulty levels too, and share your pictures and progress with others in the Nike+ community.
If you’re struggling to see the workout results you want, try out these tips for busting through your plateau and reaching the weight loss and fitness goals. There’s always something new to try, so don’t let yourself get frustrated—get curious about what you can explore next!