Somebody asked me the other day if I ever get bored with the gym. His question made me laugh. How can I get bored when there is so much exciting stimuli all around me? Granted, a lot of people experiment or indulge in fitness on a whim, expecting to see immediate results from haphazard programs or routines. It is easy to see how one can get bored with that.
What I should have said to the guy was that I don’t get bored, but my muscles do. You have heard the reasons before and have probably recited them yourself: plateau, muscle memory, genetic limit, and so on. It is part of the human condition to become disheartened when effort is not rewarded. Subsequently, becoming disheartened is the gateway for loss of motivation, lack of creativity, and an overall sense of disdain and boredom.
For the natural athlete, overcoming a sticking point may be more difficult than the chemically enhanced athlete. Where a sticking point may be encountered by a drug user, the solution often lies in a modification of the drug program. When a sticking point is encountered by a natural athlete, many factors come into play that usually includes modifications to some or all of the following factors: diet, supplementation, rest, and workout routines. These are the four that I will address here.
Unless blindly eating without regard for nutritional value, most athletes already implement a good diet. To ensure continued success, you need to verify that the diet you are on is appropriate for your goals. There is more to a diet than high protein low carb. Much like how chemically enhanced athletes tell their body what to do with the use of drugs; you too can do the same with properly administered cues from your nutrition. Try to vary your macronutrient sources also. Besides adding a little more variety to your diet, it will help keep you balanced with vitamins and minerals. You know what I’m talking about – eat the rainbow.
In terms of supplementation, what you are taking may be performing a great disservice. Not all supplements offer the benefits they claim, and many supplements have very little effect if they do perform as claimed. Knowing how much to take and how often is crucial. This is a fact even for chemically enhanced athletes. Don’t just rely on the dosing guideline that is printed on the packaging. I find that a lot of the dosing requirements are inaccurate, most likely a ploy to get you to run out of the product faster. Any supplement worth taking will have some decent research out there. Determine the correct dosage and whether or not you need to cycle the specific supplement. Some supplements will render themselves useless if taken in excess or consistently without cycling.
We all know that rest is an important part to any exercise and bodybuilding program. The rest and off days that we incorporate into our routines allows the body to refuel, recharge, and recover. I detailed the basics of rest and deload weeks in an earlier article, Take a Moment to Relax. What I didn’t address in this article, was selecting the appropriate rest periods between sets in your workout, and the appropriate rest days between working a particular muscle group. You will find many varying opinions on what constitutes adequate rest, and again, depending on your program and goals it will vary.
I prefer to revisit a muscle in some form every 72 hours. I have performed the one muscle per day per week routines and I find that a week is just too much time for me to go before I start getting anxious. I recommend at least a day of rest between working a muscle, as would just about everybody else you would ask.
In terms of set rests, certain lifting styles work best when the sets are performed close together, such as German Volume Training. Other lifting styles, like programs designed for overall power, call for a greater rest period between sets. Don’t guess. Determine what rest period is appropriate for your workout. Watch the clock in the gym or carry your own timer. It is not uncommon for me to see people using the stopwatch feature on their phones while working out – I do.
Just as your diet should be appropriate to your goals, so should your workouts. Decades of research have brought to light some of the most fascinating aspects of the body’s ability to gain and lose weight/fat/muscle. Take advantage of the wealth of information that is out there and chose a plan that is right for you. Simply going into the gym on “chest day” and just “abusing” the muscle will most likely have you stalling very quickly. There are methods that incorporate many different techniques for many different goals. You will be surprised to learn just how beneficial lightweight exercises can be, not to mention their ability to stimulate growth. The same goes for bodyweight exercises.
Variety is important. There is no one way to work a muscle, so taking advantage of alternate methods can help keep things new and exciting. Constant change will also force the muscle to work and contract in different ways, helping to ensure that the muscle is being worked to its full potential.
It would be wise to familiarize yourself with varying exercises that can be used for specific muscle groups. When boredom or plateaus set in, choose a different exercise from the list. Below are some examples of key compound lifts for varying muscle groups.
Flat bench (bar or dumbbell)
Incline bench (bar or dumbbell)
Decline (bar or dumbbell)
Dips (bodyweight or weighted)
Bent Over Row
Clean and Press
Squats – front and back
Stiff Leg Deadlift
It doesn’t take long for your body (and mind) to become accustomed to routine activity. Keep things exciting by mixing it up every once and a while. You will be surprised what a difference it can make.