Everyone enjoys a game. One of the games I think everyone learns growing up is paper, rock, scissors. Somehow my wife seems to think that 'pencil' is also a part of this game and for the sake of a happy marriage I'll agree with her. For the rest of you weirdos that remember the tri-versioned form of the game the premise was that no one selection would always win out. Rock could be beaten by paper. Paper could be beaten by scissors. And scissors could be beaten by rock. Ok, that's great that we got a recap on the rules but how does this relate to your training program?
Just as no one strategy with paper,rock, scissors will not work for forever so too no one particular training program will work for you forever. The longer you've been training the more you recognize the need to constantly change up your program to elicit new gains. There are a number of things you can do to change your routine.
- do more or fewer sets
- do more or fewer reps
- take shorter or longer rest breaks
- slow down or increase the speed of movement
- change the order of the exercises
- do all new exercises
- perform the exercise with one limb instead of two
- or two instead of one
- change the grip position
- change the foot position
- use more compound exercises
- use more isolated exercises
- use variable resistance such as bands, tubing and chains
- use dynamic resistance
- work through various ranges of motion
While this list is not exhaustive and other options are available it does become quickly apparent that there are a number of ways to freshen up the program and elicit new gains. Usually I will follow a program for 4-6 week blocks, depending on the goal, then implement a change of some type. Newer lifters may be able to go longer without a change as everything as this point is still relatively new, the intensities are still less than an experienced lifter and positive results are still occurring.
Now there is one other way paper,rock, scissors relates to your fitness. Just as 'paper' is not the best and only solution, the paper you bring to the gym with you is not always 100% right. Your training program is a planned, progressive guideline to ensure you get the fastest, safest results possible. However, with that being said there are times when there is someone that trumps your 'paper' program. This thing that trumps your program at all times is you. Here's what I mean by that.
While I might have consulted, assessed and designed a program for an individual that doesn't mean the planned program is set in stone. An athlete may play an number of overtime periods in a previous match and be more in need of some soft tissue work, regeneration and recovery work as opposed to explosive power workout that the plan calls for. Or I may see a business executive who is scheduled to perform maximal load deadlifts. But the day before he had a change of plans and had to travel to Vancouver and back for work meetings spending 10 hours in a seated position. Rather than an excessive hip-dominant lifting workout they may actually need some exercises that help mobilize the hips and stabilize the trunk. There are a number of other situations that may creep up on us including:
- the early stages of a flu bug that is going around
- no sleep due to a new infant in the home
- lack of proper workout gear or footwear
- lack of proper pre/post workout nutrition
- an injury that occurs during a weekend activity
Any and all of these may be cause to alter the plan I have in place for that workout. The message here obviously is not to have a number of excuses at the ready to get out of doing a workout. Instead the point is simply to listen to your body, be aware of the information it is providing you and be prepared to alter the plan if needed. The greatest workout in the world will still only move you ahead one step. Misreading a sign from your body or ignoring what your body is trying to tell you can set you back many steps however.
So, remember that while it is important to have a plan it is more important to be able to workout to your level and capacity of your body on that day. The best plans are the ones that can be adjusted and modified at the last minute as need be. We pencil in these changes and get the best workout given the circumstances.
I guess my wife was right after all. There is place for pencil in this game and it trumps all other plays.
All the best.