how often to change workouts

How Often to Change Workouts? Frequency Of Change – A Source Of Progress

Changing your workout routine can make you progress faster. I get this question often

Q:

I am very confused about how often to change workouts. How often should I vary my weight training program to gain size. Some people tell me I should stick to program at 6 weeks before changing it, otherwise you are considered fickle. One guy tells me, it is best to change every workout, in his words to shock the muscles. Powerlifters tell me so stick to twelve week cycles where I keep the exercises constant, and just changes the reps often in a systematic manner. What gives? All I want is to get as massive as possible.

A:

The basic rule is : The program is only as good as the time it takes you to adapt to it.  Some people in fact change it too often, hopping from one workout to the other, therefore they don’t have time to make significant strength gains on any given exercise.

In my opinion, it is a very individual thing, although statistically speaking about 70% of the population does best changing their routines every 6 workouts or so for that given bodypart.

A recent analysis of the training logs of my athletes revealed that 5 may be the optimal number of times one should stick to a workout. Since my athletes tend to have better genetic make-up than the average person, that could account for the 5 vs 6 difference.

Again analyzing the training of the Olympians I coach, I have found that only about 9% will make better gains if the training prescription is changed every workout.

Even though there are plenty of permutations of workout arrangement, here a few options you may want to try :

Option A : Exercise stays the same for 6 workouts

Keep the exercise constant for 6 workouts but drop one rep per workout for two workouts, then repeat the cycle. The weight goes, quite obviously, up when rep numbers drop. Shoot for a 4-5% increase in weight with each rep decrement. Also, on workout 4, pick the same weight you used for workout 2 to capitalize on load progression.

For example:

Workout 1 : 4 x 6-8 reps

Workout 2 : 5 x 5-7 reps add 4-5% weight

Workout 3 : 5 x 4-6 reps add 4-5% weight

Workout 4 : 4 x 6-8 reps same weight as workout 2

Workout 5 : 5 x 5-7 reps add 4-5% weight

Workout 6 : 5 x 4-6 reps add 4-5% weight

Supplemental work for individual bodypart can be added. Of course this workout scheme accommodates perfectly the antogonist/agonist superset system.

Arnold Schwarzenegger Squat

Option B : Alternation between 3 different workouts. 

In this one, you vary both the exercise and the rep bracket in three step progression. Because of the greater variety, the cycle can be extended for a greater length of time. Each time a workout is repeated try adding weight on the bar, a 1-2% increase is the norm, depending on your training age.

Workout 1 : Back Squats 6,6,6,8,12

Workout 2 : Front Squats 4 x 5-7

Workout 3 : Front Squats Heels Elevated 6 x 2-3

Workout 4 : Back Squats 6,6,6,8,12

Workout 5 : Front Squats 4 x 5-7

Workout 6 : Front Squats Heels Elevated 6 x 2-3

Workout 7 : Back Squats 6,6,6,8,12

Workout 8 : Front Squats 4 x 5-7

Workout 9 : Front Squats Heels Elevated 6 x 2-3

Workout 10 : Back Squats 6,6,6,8,12

Workout 11 : Front Squats 4 x 5-7

Workout 12 : Front Squats Heels Elevated 6 x 2-3

arnold schwarzenegger, overhead, press

Option C: Exercise remains the same for 6 workouts, but modes of contraction alternate.

This one uses conventional and eccentric training over a three workout progressions. Since it is a rather severe system, only 6 workouts are done for that cycle.

Workout 1: 4 x 6-8 reps

Workout 2: Use a 4-6 reps load, go to concentric muscle failure, do 2-3 forced repetitions with 15% more weight. Repeat for 2-3 sets

As an alternative, a training partner can manually apply resistance (i.e. push down on the bar) for the eccentric portion instead of adding weight. These additional negative repetitions will exhaust eccentric strength levels after achieving concentric muscular failure.

Workout 3: Use a 110-120% of 1 R.M. load, do 4-6 reps for 4-6 sets, resting 4-5 minutes between sets. Take 8 to 10 seconds for each lowering

Workout 4: 4 x 6-8 reps

Workout 5: Use a 4-6 reps load, go to concentric muscle failure, do 2-3 forced repetitions with 15% more weight. Repeat for 2-3 sets

As an alternative, a training partner can manually apply resistance (i.e. push down on the bar) for the eccentric portion instead of adding weight. These additional negative repetitions will exhaust eccentric strength levels after achieving concentric muscular failure.

Workout 6: Use a 110-120% of 1 R.M. load, do 4-6 reps for 4-6 sets, resting 4-5 minutes between sets. Take 8 to 10 seconds for each lowering

Eccentrics are extremely beneficial for hypertrophy purposes. These workouts are very demanding and can result in extreme soreness. You’ve been warned! Remember rule#1 No pissing no moaning! 

 

You now have three great options to choose from in order to include progress inducing variation in your workout routine. This will work wonders for 70% of the population.

Enjoy the gains,

Coach Charles R. Poliquin