How Often Should You Switch Up Your Workout Routine for Gains?

When to change up your workout
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Have you been doing the same workouts every week but not seeing gains? Now, think back to when you first started your current routine. You were making gains and loving your workout, right?

So, what changed? You’re still training hard, eating good and taking your supplements but you’re stuck!

It’s simply time to change up your workout routine. However, this doesn’t mean you have to throw out your entire program.

In this post, I’m going to show you exactly what to do so that you don’t hit these plateaus (or at least not as often).

Here’s what you’ll learn:

  • Why your gains have come to a halt
  • Why you don’t have to change your entire routine
  • 5 subtle things you can do to start making gains again
  • When you should switch to another type of workout routine
  • How to deal with plateaus, fatigue, and burnout

We all can sometimes get caught up in trying to find the ‘best bodybuilding workout program’ and get overwhelmed. We overthink it.

I wrote this post to help you alleviate that, simplify things, and give you some simple ways to make just a few changes so that you can get back to focusing on gains.

No More Gains

No more gains? Of course, I was thinking of Ozzy’s ‘No More Tears’ when I wrote that!

Alright, so you’re wondering why your gains have come to a screeching halt…

It’s not so much that the exercises you’re doing is no longer working, or the workouts for that matter. It has more to do with how are muscles are responding to the way we train.

What Happens to Our Muscles

You see, our muscles will eventually (and sometimes quickly) adapt to what we’re doing in the gym. You could be training all-out but eventually, you will hit a plateau if you continue with the same exact workouts.

There may be other reasons why your muscles stop growing, as Chris Chew points out his article 7 Reasons Why Your Muscles Stop Growing on the healthguidance.org website.

Here’s the bottom line. If you stop pushing your muscles to that next level, they will stop responding. In short, no more gains.

To add, if you’re doing the same exercises week after week, your muscles may adapt to that as well. So you could be training hard but still not getting the results you want.

You Don’t Need to Change Your Entire Routine

It’s not that you can’t change your entire workout program, but it may not be necessary. The problem isn’t necessarily the workout. It’s you (and me!).

Go back to the point I made earlier ‘…but if you stop pushing your muscles to that next level…’

Subconscious Boredom in the Gym

What really happens is we become bored with our workouts. Now, this may be subconscious or it could be because you’re really just tired of doing the same thing week after week. Either way, it’s time to make some shifts in your routine.

Again, this doesn’t mean you have to throw out every exercise you’re currently doing. Sometimes that can have an adverse effect.

An example is I’ve gone from a heavy free weight routine to the opposite spectrum (lighter weights with higher reps). What happened? I got weaker!

A smarter way is to make subtle changes in your workout. And I’m going to show you 3 ways to do that below.

**My Hardcore Muscle Building Program has you making subtle changes every 2 weeks!

5 Subtle Shifts You Can Make for More Muscle Gains

seated dumbbell press

It’s time to start making gains without completely throwing your old workout away. I’m going to give you 3 simple ways to do that below.

1 – Change Up Your Rep Ranges

This is my personal favorite. Whenever I’m feeling stagnant, I’ll change up the reps (and sets) for my workouts.

Often times you may find yourself wanting to train heavy all the time. This is one of the biggest traps you can get caught up in.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m an avid fan of going heavy, but not all the time, and not on every exercise. This is a sure way to hit a plateau, quickly.

The example below is for the first exercise of your workouts, which is a compound exercise (bench press, barbell rows, squats, etc).

  • Weeks 1-3: 3-4 sets x 8-12 reps (typical bodybuilding rep range)
  • Weeks 4-6: 2-3 sets x 12-15 reps
  • Weeks 7-9: 10 sets x 10 reps
  • Weeks 10-12: 5 sets of 5 reps

You could continue this method throughout the rest of your workout (on weeks 7-12 you’ll clearly do fewer exercises, which is another change in your workouts).

*If you want to read more about how different rep ranges impact muscle growth (and get workouts with different rep ranges), read my post: High Reps VS Low Reps: Best Range for Muscle Size.

2 – Change Your Grip and Angles

An awesome way to change up your workouts is to change up your grip on certain exercises. This will allow you to work on different parts of your muscles. And trust me, you will be sore!

Often times it’s just reversing your grip. Heather Jackson talks more about supinated and pronated grips in her article Get a Grip! Part 1: Pronated VS. Supinated Grips on the Fitness19 website. You can also use a wider or. close grip.

Here are some exercises that you can try using different grips for:

ExerciseNew Grip
Barbell RowsReverse grip
Lat PulldownsReverse or close grip
Bench PressClose or wide grip (or reverse)
Seated RowsWide grip
Cable PressdownsReverse Grip
Barbell CurlsReverse grip
PullupsReverse grip

Another simple method is to change the angle of the exercise. This will also allow you to work on different areas of the muscle that you may not be used to training.

Here are some different angles to try:

ExerciseNew Angle
Leg PressClose foot stance
SquatsFront squats
Bench PressIncline or decline
Dumbbell FlyesIncline or decline

These angles mainly pertain to legs and chest. For back exercises, stick with grip changes because back exercises should be done at a particular angle (anything outside of the proper angle to lead to injury).

*This works especially great for chest exercises as you can apply both incline and decline angles to barbell and dumbbell presses and flyes. Read my post: How to Define and Shape Your Chest: Hitting Chest from All Angles.

3 – Change Your Workout Days

Do you want the most simple way to make subtle changes to your workouts? Switch up your workout days!

As you know, International Chest Day is on Monday in most gyms. So right-off-the-bat you can move your chest day to a Tuesday or Wednesday. Making that one change forces you to change everything else.

Here’s an example of an entire program with different training splits:

Training Split 1

  • Monday: Legs
  • Tuesday: Chest
  • Wednesday: Off
  • Thursday: Back
  • Friday: Shoulders and arms
  • Saturday: Off
  • Sunday: Off

Training Split 2

  • Monday: Back
  • Tuesday: Legs
  • Wednesday: Chest and Biceps
  • Thursday: Shoulders and Triceps
  • Friday: Legs (2nd leg day)
  • Saturday: Options: a little back for the 2nd time
  • Sunday: Off

*You’ll notice 2 leg days here and an optional 2nd back day. If you really want to pack on muscle, consider training your legs twice a week instead of once. You can read more about that in my post: Training Legs Twice a Week: How to Build Bigger Legs.

4 – Increase Time Under Tension with Unilateral Exercises

Unilateral exercises can be done with most exercises using dumbbells and some machines. The goal here is increasing time under tension.

Let’s use the incline dumbbell press as an example. Here you would press both dumbbells above you and keep holding one arm up while bringing the other down towards your chest. Repeat this with the other arm and that’s one rep.

Don’t expect to use near the same weight you do for unilateral exercises. This is all about forcing your muscles to do the work, which in turn will build your muscles more.

5 – Add Techniques to Increase Intensity

This is will make a ‘huge’ difference (no pun intended!). Remember, just working out harder may not be the key (you may already be working out hard).

But adding techniques to increase intensity is a way to take your muscle gains to the next level.

Here are some things you can do…

  • Supersets
  • Drop sets
  • Rest-pause sets
  • Extended sets
  • Giant sets

*You can learn more about these techniques and some others in my post 7 Weight Training Techniques To Increase Intensity.

Now, you may find that just changing your workout days around isn’t enough. But it’s a great start if you feel like you’re married to your current routine and can’t seem to break free. Sometimes you have to take baby steps, like that movie ‘What About Bob?’

So feel free to start adding in some of the other changes we talked about above. Remember, the changes do not have to be extreme. Just making a few adjustments can shock your muscles from ‘no-go’ to ‘grow, bro’ mode (I took a huge risk in sounding cheesy, but you get the point).

When You Should Consider Changing Your Entire Workout Program

Deadlifts

The only time you should change your entire workout program is if your goals change.

An example is if you’ve been doing bodybuilding workouts but now you want to focus more on conditioning, you would want to change to a program that caters to your new goal. Or if you want to start training for strength as opposed to hypertrophy. That will require a complete change.

I say this from experience. I’ve gone through times where I wanted to focus more on strength gains but for some reason, I couldn’t get away from the standard bodybuilding routine. I learned that you can’t maximize powerlifting efforts with bodybuilding workouts.

The same goes if you have been powerlifting but now you want to focus on muscle definition and brining out those striations. You will need to be on a program that has you making less weight feel like more (by forcing your muscles to work) rather than just lifting the maximum weight from point A to B.

The take-away here is to make sure you’re workout program is designed specifically to your goals…

  • Defined muscle mass = bodybuilding workouts
  • Strength = powerlifting workouts
  • Conditioning = HIIT (high-intensity interval training)
  • Cardio = running, or more cardio!

How to Deal with Plateaus, Fatigue, and Burnout

Much of the burnout we feel is simply from doing the same thing over and over. We get bored. We become stagnant. We just show up to the gym and go through the motions.

Sometimes you just need a break from the gym. Or even better, you just need to do a week or so of deloading. In fact, I have an entire post on how and when to deload here: Deload Workouts: Back-Off to Build More Muscle.

More than often, just a few subtle changes to your workout routine is all it takes. Just go through the 3 tips I gave you above and apply one or more of those to your current workout.

I truly hope this article helps you get through the plateau and burnout and gets you on track to making progress in the gym!

**If you’re ready to start an intense 12-week program, check out my premium programs below:

Hardcore Muscle Building Program
Lean Muscle Building Program

Excuses Don’t Build Muscle,

Jason

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