Workouts: One key trick to getting the most out of your exercise routine

Research says changing the way you do workouts will provide big performance benefits

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Are you stuck in a fitness rut? For many people, it's easy to become entrenched in a regular schedule of workouts. Whether you stick to your tried-and-tested running routes or you've been using the same old push up, pull up and dumbbell exercises, the science says you should be switching things up for maximum results. 

Breaking your routines and trying new workouts will stop you getting bored. If you're sick of your daily jog, try a HIIT workout or shadowboxing routine. If you do barbell rows to train your back, ditch the weights for a session and try pull-ups instead. Varying the content of your exercise programmes will stop your routines getting stale, encouraging you to continue exercising and hit new heights. 

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It's not just a trick to keep you entertained: there's a physical benefit to breaking up with your old exercise routine. A study in the scientific journal PLOS One monitored a group of resistance-trained men who performed seemingly random exercises for eight weeks, and a group who stuck with a fixed exercise selection. 

Back squat

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The study found the group performing seemingly "random" exercises actually increased their output, showing greater improvements in the bench press and back squat than the participants who stuck with the same old routine. 

In terms of strength, the randomised group were able to lift much more than the group sticking with the fixed exercise routine. However, muscle thickness improved around the same in both groups, so bodybuilders training purely for aesthetics might not get the same benefit from switching up their routines.

In some gym circles, this "muscle confusion" technique advocates you change your workout routine at least every six weeks or so, to avoid a phenomenon known as "adaptation". Adaptation refers to your muscles getting used to an exercise, and no longer yielding the same progress as it did when you first started. 

Changing could be as simple as playing with repetitions (for example, trying to lift a heavier weight for fewer reps than normal) or getting completely out of your comfort zone and trying a new kind of exercise. 


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If you're finding you've reached a sticking point in your training (especially with the gyms being closed, thanks to the global health crisis) getting creative with your workouts could be the answer. If you're a runner, try hill sprints. If you're a footballer, hit the weights. Experiment with reps or find new exercises to spice up your tired old exercise routine. 

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Matt Evans

Matt Evans now works for sister brand TechRadar, covering all things relating to fitness and wellness. He came to as staff writer before moving on, and was previously on Men's Health, and slightly counterintuitively, a website devoted to the consumption of Scotch whiskey. In his free time, he could often be found with his nose in a book until he discovered the Kindle.