The 5 Pronged Approach To ResultsBy Jared DiCarmine On November 21, 2011 Under Exercise For Fat Loss
I got an email the other day from a loyal subscriber asking the very simple question about exercise progression. He was following my 3×3 workouts for fat loss and wanted to know how he could progress from week to week or month to month.
He quoted a statement from Men’s Health about how they said you should switch up the exercises around every 4-6 weeks.
So this got me thinking, if he had this question then many others probably have the same question.
Now when it comes to getting the best results possible you have to do this FIRST AND FOREMOST…
TRACK YOUR PROGRESS.
By tracking your progress you can see yourself progressing from week to week, workout to workout. I’m not only talking about weight here. I’m talking about number of repetitions performed, number of sets, total volume lifted, was the weight heavier, lighter, was your cardio routine easier, was your heart rate lower this week, did you recover faster etc…
Okay I know the list can literally be endless. So to make it easy I wanted to break it down for you. The 5 most important areas to focus on and track within your workouts.
Workout Variable #1: Repetitions Performed
This is probably the easiest thing to track when it comes to your workouts. It’s real simple; just create a chart for each exercise during your workout with sets, reps, and weight with their own respective columns.
If you have to do dumbbell rows for 3 sets of 10 and you hit your goal number this week, then write it down. The next week you now know you have to get at least 10 reps for this exercise. BUT what you should do is try to beat that number by at least 2 reps.
This makes it so much easier to keep progressing along. If you were just flying blind, you’d have no idea how you were doing from week to week.
I also like this because it’s self motivating. For a lot of people, working out on their own is really hard to do. It’s hard to find the motivation to push yourself. I get that…But keeping your numbers from week to week enhances motivation 10x. Even if you are having a bad day, tired, sleepy, hungry, you’ll be surprised sometimes to how strong you really are and how much you can really do just from charting your progress.
Workout Variable #2: Increase Number Of Sets
Just like counting repetitions, this is one of the easiest ways to progress. However, I wouldn’t focus on adding a set per exercise each week UNLESS you were planning what’s called a de-loading week. This is the basis behind what’s called a Periodization Model…It’s popular with strength athletes etc…
You add a set to each exercise each subsequent week, then on the 4th, 5th, or 6th week, you de-load and back down the volume by 50%. This allows over-adaptation. It’s pretty neat and definitely works. I’ve used it in the past. But if you wanted to go this route, I would recommend you only add a set to each exercise every few weeks. Also make sure to keep your repetitions the same week per week IF you were to go this route in changing up your routine.
Workout Variable #3: Decrease Rest Periods
Rest periods are extremely important when it comes to any physique related goal. But a lot of people don’t pay attention to their rest periods. Often times you rest a lot longer than you need to. This is a great example of Parkinson’s Law from Cyril Northcote Parkinson. This law states that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”
Basically if you give yourself an hour to workout, then your workout will take that hour to complete. If you cut that down to 45 minutes, then your workout will take you 45 minutes to complete. This is true with anything including deadlines, papers, projects, etc…By cutting down rest periods, this increases your work capacity, and increases the more work you do in a given time period. By doing more work in less time, this increases metabolic activity, EPOC, and just gets you in better shape.
So what I want you to do is start timing yourself in between sets and see how long you normally take. You shouldn’t need more than 60 seconds for most things unless you are a powerlifter or lifting for pure strength and hypertrophy gains.
And if you do become diligent in this, then go for 60 seconds of rest in between most exercises and start cutting that number down by 5 every week.
Workout Variable #4: Add Weight
This is simple…Just add weight to the exercises. If you find that you can complete those 3 sets of 10 of dumbbell rows without a problem for 2 consecutive weeks, then bump up the weight by 5-10 pounds. It’s pretty simple and easy to implement. And if you’re getting stronger at a rapid pace, then feel free to bump up those repetitions as well per set. No harm, no foul. Just don’t and add more sets thinking the more you do the better. That’s not always the case and can lead to over training, injuries and a decrease in motivation.
Workout Variable #5: Change The Exercises
Duh right. You probably saw this coming, but this one is particularly tricky. You see, the whole rule that you should change up your exercises every 4-6 weeks is a VERY general rule. Extremely general rule. It all depends what your goals are.
You need to look at it like this. Your body needs to adapt to something in order to get better at it, aka you lose fat, build muscle, and gain strength.
Now for this to happen, you can’t go and change a million variables at once. It’s best that you change ONLY one variable per cycle. So for the first 8 weeks, you might only focus on adding weight to your exercises. The next 8 weeks, you can focus on adding repetitions with this new added weight…You see how it goes? By just changing one variable at a time, you can easily chart progress.
By changing the exercises every 4-6 weeks, the immediate strength gains you have will be mostly neurological, not that much muscular. It’s a completely new motor pattern that your CNS has to learn.
For example, in the past 3 ½ months I have been on a strict muscle building phase, eating more calories, and not worrying so much about some fat gain. My plan is to get stronger and bigger. Period. My whole program is based upon increasing weights and repetitions, but keeping the exercises the same. The exercises I choose are the big multi joint stuff. This allows the highest increases in repetitions performed per week and weight increases to the bar.
I haven’t changed a single exercise in the entire program, but yet I keep getting stronger and better.
So that is what you have to do.
Pick one or at the most two variables from above to change and base your program around for the next 8 or so weeks.
If you decide to change the exercises every 4-6 weeks, then I personally would leave the weights the same and work on increasing the reps.
If you decide to add weight to the bar every 2 weeks, then keep the exercises the same.
If you want to just decrease your rest periods, then so be it. No need to change anything else since you’re doing more work in less time.
I hope this all makes sense. It can be a bit tricky. But if you take away one thing from all of this, just remember….keep as many variables constant while only changing one or two at the most. Chart your progress each workout so you know what you need to accomplish the next week.