After four to six weeks of routinely lifting weights or working out with Nautilus equipment, you should see changes in the way your body looks and feels. If you're watching your diet and being faithful to your total body workout routine, you should feel stronger and firmer. Eventually, though, you may hit a plateau, where your body has become accustomed to your chosen exercises and is no longer making progress toward a healthier, trimmer, stronger you.
When that happens, it's time to make a change or two. There are a variety of modifications you can make to get yourself back on track and to keep yourself dedicated to your strength training workouts.
Change Your Exercises
When you do the same exercise?say a standing bicep hammer curl?time and again, you're hitting the same muscle fibers in the exact same order repeatedly. Switch to a different bicep exercise?perhaps an incline curl on a bench, for example?and you activate different fibers in a different order. Switching to a new bicep exercise jolts the muscle, jump starting your return to continued progress.
Change the Number of Repetitions
If you routinely perform 12 repetitions of each exercise, you might consider decreasing your reps. Of course, with fewer reps, you can probably handle more weight. Try increasing the weight by 5 percent and do 8 to 10 repetitions. Conversely, if you've been lifting heavier loads, but only doing 6 reps, consider decreasing the weight and increasing the reps. Changing the number of repetitions you perform (and/or the weight you're lifing) may be the stimulus you need to get over the plateau.
Change the Number of Sets
Similarly, changing the number of sets you do can help stimulate continued growth. If you're only performing one set of each exercise, try doing two or even three. If time is a concern and you're doing multiple exercises for each major muscle group, cut down to just one exercise per group. Then, in a few weeks, mix it up again, and select a different set of exercises. Just always make sure that you work opposing muscles and be sure to hit all the major muscle groups for balanced results.
Change the Frequency of Your Workouts
You may have reached a point where your body needs a little extra time to recover between workouts. Instead of 48 hours of rest, you might benefit more from 72 hours. Not willing to wait that long between workouts? Consider working your upper body on day one, your lower body on day two, resting on day three, and then repeating the cycle.
Hitting a strength plateau need not be discouraging. Recognize that you need to periodically change things up, and you will make steady progress to a healthier, stronger body.
With the advances in weight-lifting technology, the choice between free weights and weight machines comes down to a matter of comfort, preference and safety.