Many individuals still believe in the myth that states you should constantly switch-up your workout routine in order to ‘confuse’ or ‘shock’ your muscles. The truth is, it is physiologically impossible to do this. A muscle is a mass of passive tissue that simply contracts and lengthens when it is made to do so, with no concept of which workout routine or exercise you are performing. All muscles understand is tension.
Although it is a proven fact that muscles can and will eventually adapt to their training stimulus, this does not mean you must change your routine. The key to making gains at this point is to increase, not change, the stimulus. This is a process known as ‘progressive overload’, and is all that is needed to stimulate muscle growth. However, this is only true if you are currently following an effective routine.
Building muscle is not about constant change. It is based on finding ways to manipulate the adaptive response of the body. Muscle tissue is extremely adaptive, and will adapt to the varying amounts of tension that is being utilized. For example, if you are currently able to bench press 200 pounds over a span of 10 reps, your muscles will eventually adapt to this load, and cease to [image_right src=”https://widerun.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Workout-plan-for-muscle-gains-300×173.jpg”]grow. Once they are able to handle this load efficiently, they have accomplished their job, thus preventing further growth.
In order to stimulate the muscle tissues to start growing again, you must simply add more weight to the move. By adding an additional 20 pounds to the weight bar, you have created a new stimulus by increasing the amount of tension being placed on the muscle.
Reasons To Not Change Your Routine
With every new exercise comes a new learning curve called ‘neural changes’. This applies to any new activity, from learning to ride a bike, to a new workout routine. No matter the activity, you get better with practice. Depending on the activity, this learning curve can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months, depending on the skill level needed to perform it.
During this learning curve, muscle growth is at minimal levels. The muscles will only increase after they have adapted to the new moves, and are comfortable with performing them. By changing your workout routine every few weeks, your muscles never get a chance to fully begin the growth process. When the learning curve finally hits a plateau, you move on to another routine, inhibiting any further muscle growth.
Any perceived increase in strength that is experienced during this learning period is simply due to an improvement in skill, and not actual muscle growth. Once the exercises are stopped, this strength will disappear.
It is best to repeat 2 to 3 basic exercises for each individual body part, such as dumbbell presses and incline bench presses for the chest muscles, and rotate between them. This allows you to have a slight change in routine, without having to adhere to one particular exercises.
The learning curve for single joint exercises is minimal. Therefore, you can switch-up exercises such as chest flyes and dumbbell curls without sacrificing gains.
If you have truly reached a plateau, you may need to re-analyze your entire workout routine, diet and lifestyle, instead of attempting to shock your muscles. You may find that your routine is not to blame.