If you work out consistently, you’re already doing better than about 77 percent of Americans who don’t meet federal physical activity guidelines. But what if your workout routine isn’t quite cutting it? Whether what you’re doing bores you to death or isn’t giving you the results you want, it’s probably a sign you need something different.
Here are seven key signs your fitness routine might need some more variety. We’ll also go over the benefits of changing up your workouts and how you can get started today.
7 Red Flags You Need to Change Up Your Workouts
1. You’re Not Seeing Progress (Stuck on a Plateau)
Maybe you were initially seeing results from your workout routine, but that progress has stopped or slowed. Or maybe you weren’t really getting results in the first place.
Signs of progress from workouts can include:
- Weight loss or decreased body fat
- Higher leaner muscle mass
- Faster recovery
- Lifting more weight or performing more reps
Whether your goal is weight loss, building lean muscle, or a combination of the two, a plateau means you’re no longer moving towards your goal. If your goal is to maintain progress, that’s great. But a plateau can be incredibly frustrating if you haven’t met your goal metric yet.
If nothing is happening despite you working out several times a week, it’s time to make a change. That’s because over time your muscles may adjust to the same workout routine. You may feel more comfortable with what you’re doing, but your body isn’t getting the same level of challenge as before.
Changing up your workouts can help you push through a plateau and start seeing results again. That means getting closer to your goal sooner!
2. You Don’t Feel Challenged
You don’t necessarily need to be drenched in sweat to get a good workout. But if you never sweat at all or are still full of energy afterward, you probably need a routine that works you harder.
Switching things up with more reps, different weights, or higher intensities can provide the additional challenge your body needs to progress.
3. Working Out Feels Boring
It’s very hard to stick with something if it makes you want to fall asleep—or not do it at all. If you dread every workout, you’re going to struggle with consistency.
The key to a successful workout routine includes keeping it interesting. This doesn’t mean you need to do something different every time, but switching up your workouts can help you stay engaged over time.
4. Your Workout Routine is Imbalanced
A good workout routine should account for your entire body, including the major muscle groups:
(For example, don’t skip leg day.)
Otherwise, an exercise that focuses too much on one area can lead to imbalances and even injuries. You’ll also run into problems if you work the same muscles too much without proper rest.
If your workout doesn't help you build strength in all the major muscle groups, you need to change up your workouts up to account for your full body.
5. You Have Persisting Injuries or Soreness
Beware of overtraining. While some soreness is normal (and actually a sign of progress), being sore all the time or continually getting injured is a sign of overuse. This is common with those who perform heavy weightlifting with gym equipment.
You might need to change up your workouts to include resistance movements and more efficient high-intensity exercise (more on that below). This can help decrease the chance of injuries from overtraining and traditional weight lifting. In return, you’ll actually get a better workout.
6. You Keep Skipping Workouts
If you can stay consistent with your exercise routine, it might be a sign you need something new. You also might need a trainer or coach who can help you stay motivated. But either way, if you keep hitting snooze before your morning workout or driving past the gym after work, changing up your workout routine can help. No one is excited about working out all of the time, but you shouldn’t have to dread exercising because you hate what you’re doing every time.
7. The Gym Has Become Your Second Home
You don’t need to spend hours at the gym to get a great workout—or to see real results. If you’re at the gym so often and so long that the staff knows your address, social security number, and zodiac sign, it’s time for a change.
Traditional bodybuilding workouts tend to isolate one muscle group or body part at a time. This works for some, but we prefer full-body resistance training workouts you can do in as little as 15 minutes at a time. That’s more realistic for the average person. Plus, you’re more likely to stick with something that doesn’t require a huge time commitment, day in and day out.
Top Benefits of Switching Up Your Workouts
Fitness professionals recommend changing up your fitness routine because it “keeps your body guessing.” Of course, you don’t have to do something different every time, and everyone’s a little different. But if you’ve hit a plateau and aren’t seeing results as consistently as before, adding more variety may be just what you need.
Here are the main benefits of adding variety to your fitness routine.
Getting Full-Body Strength Results
Doing the same type of exercise can make you very powerful in a body part. For example, long-distance runners will have very developed leg and calf muscles. But if they don’t do other forms of exercise, such as weight lifting, they’ll be underdeveloped in their arms and other areas.
To build functional fitness and a strong physique, a variety of exercises is best. You’ll build muscle in all major muscle groups, meaning a lean, strong body able to perform everyday movements.
Breaking Through a Weight Loss Plateau
As we mentioned above, your body can get used to the same activity over time. That can lead to burning fewer calories despite doing the same amount of exercise. If your goal is weight loss, this can lead to a plateau.
Switching to a new type of exercise forces your body to work harder as it adjusts. And what does that mean? More calorie burning. It also helps you with muscle building, which increases calorie burning over time.
Staying Engaged in Exercise You Enjoy
No one wants to continue doing exercise that’s boring or uninspiring. If you’re at the point of counting the minutes until you can quit, a new routine can be your antidote. Try new workouts to keep you interested.
When you’re excited about working out more often than not, you’ll fully show up. That means better, long-lasting results.
“Exercising” Your Brain Along with Your Body
Working out doesn’t just benefit your body; it’s good for your cognitive health too! Learning a new exercise and staying engaged in workouts supports your brain health. Plus, active people tend to have a lower risk of chronic diseases like hypertension, heart disease, and diabetes—all of which may impact memory.
Preventing Injuries from Repetitive Exercise
When you do the same repetitive motions each workout, it can strain the muscles that you’re overusing. A new workout routine is a chance to work different muscle groups and give your body something new. That helps prevent strain injuries and give you proper rest in between exercises.
How to Change Up Your Workout Routine Today
If you relate to the reasons listed above for switching up your workout routine, you might be wondering where to start. For example, how often should you change up your workouts—and what should you switch to? The answer depends on what you’re doing now.
For most people, starting small works best. Even the smallest changes can help. You can transition into lighter weights with higher reps or heavier weights with fewer reps, for example. If you’re used to hitting up the gym every day, consider an at-home workout system using resistance bands or body weight workouts.
Experiment with different equipment and methods of exercise. You can do this with cardio exercises, too. If you’re used to the treadmill or elliptical, switch it up with an outdoor running trail or try out swimming.
Either way, regular workout changes are key to long-term success. It’s why professional bodybuilders are constantly looking for ways to tweak what they’re doing to burn fat or build more muscle.
If you’re stumped on how to make a change, below are some ways you can switch up it.
Add in Resistance Training
Many people are drawn to heavy weightlifting when they start a fitness routine, especially if their goal is building size. We understand this, but this isn’t always the best method.
The remedy? Incorporating more resistance training. Here’s why:
- Lifting heavy equipment too often can lead to muscle strains, bone fractures, and other injuries. It’s much easier to overtrain and hurt yourself.
- On the other hand, resistance training gives you a great workout without being so hard on your joints or being as risky. It can even help those who are still recovering from gym-related injuries.
- Resistance training can also make working out more fun if you’re bored with the same old gym routine. It targets every muscle group better than gravity weight training.
For a 25-minute full-body HIIT workout using the Gorilla Bow, check out this video.
Do Different Exercises with Every Workout
There are many different movements you can use to train a single muscle group. If you feel stuck in the same exercises every week, try using different movements.
For example, here are a few different exercises you can do per muscle group:
- Chest: bench press, pushups, pullovers
- Back: bent-over rows, pull-ups, lat pulldown
- Shoulders: overhead press, push press, side lateral raises
- Biceps: barbell curls, chin-ups, hammer curls
- Triceps: dips, skull crushers, pushups
- Abs: planks, leg raises, crunches
- Quadriceps: squats, lunges, leg extensions
- Hamstrings: deadlifts, kettlebell swings, lunges, leg curls
- Glutes: squats, lunges, deadlifts
- Calves: squat raises, standing calf raises, leg press calf raises
Variety is good for your progress and will also help keep your mind engaged in what you’re doing during each workout. Alternate between different exercises often to work your muscles in different ways.
Use Compound Movements
Exercises that work more than one major muscle group at a time (also known as compound exercises) are excellent for breaking plateaus and creating more efficient workouts.
Squats, deadlifts, reverse lunges plus bicep curls, squats to overhead presses, pushups, and pull-ups are all examples of compound movements that work multiple muscle groups.
Rev Up the Intensity
Another way you can change up your workouts is by increasing the intensity. Often, when your body gets used to the same exercise routine, your intensity level begins to drop even if you don’t realize it.
Try adding intensity by decreasing rest time between sets, doing circuits (back-to-back exercises), or any of the following techniques.
Perform a normal set until you can’t do any more reps (going “to failure”), then drop the amount of weight down and do another set. When you’ve performed that set to failure, you decrease the weight again. Continue for 3-6 sets.
Since you’re gradually decreasing the weight, you can perform more reps and promote more muscle growth.
Slower reps place your muscles under strain for a greater amount of time during the rep. They also force you to focus on your form during the movement and eliminate the ability to cheat the bottom of the rep by using momentum. Slow reps are exactly what they sound like. You use a lighter weight and slow down the movement:
- Count three seconds on the way down
- Pause for a second at the top of the movement,
- then count one second on the way up.
Complete the same amount of reps. By slowing them down, you strain your muscles for longer.
At the end of each set, add several small, slow pulses of the movement to add intensity.
Pyramid sets literally work in the pattern of a pyramid. The first set uses a low weight that you can perform for 12 reps. After that set, you do a set of 8-10 reps. Then, 6-8 reps. At the “top” of the pyramid, you do four sets. Then, you work back “down” the pyramid until you’re at 12 reps again.
It’s important with pyramid sets to always maintain good form and not rush them. Adjust the weight as needed to challenge yourself and still be able to finish the reps.
Change the Order of Workout Days
You can also add more variety by switching up which days you workout different muscle groups. It’s an easy way to mix things up a little without having to change too much. Just make sure every muscle group gets enough rest before you work it again.
Add More Rest Days
Yep, you heard that right. Many people who are new to fitness assume the more days you workout, the better. But this actually isn’t the case. When you’re trying to build muscle, less is more. It’s about working out smarter.
To build muscle and stay healthy, you need proper rest too. If you’re not seeing progress or constantly dealing with injuries, it might be time to add another day of rest to your routine.
Ensure Adequate Sleep
So often people who are new to exercise jump into it with great intentions, but they do so at the cost of sleep. Most adults need between 7-9 hours of sleep/night. The time you spend sleeping is the most important from a muscle recovery standpoint, and the more sleep you get directly correlates with how well your body is recovering between workouts.
If you’re finding yourself sore days after your workout and stalling on progress, look back on your sleep for the week. Evaluate whether you had enough to ensure adequate recovery.
Take a Rest Week
Do not be afraid of rest. Your body needs regular periods of rest to recover and continue getting stronger. If your body is feeling off, you might need to take a week away from regular training before jumping back into it.
Don’t Abandon Consistency Completely
Changing up your workouts is important for seeing results and staying interested, but you also don’t need to do it all the time. Some consistency is good as your body adapts to the stimulus of exercise. You just don’t want it to get too adapted and comfortable.
Even if you keep your workouts the same, you can add little changes by working out at a different time of day, attending a gym class with a different instructor, or doing your home workout in a new location.
Don’t Forget About Diet, Too
Lastly, make sure what you put into your body is fueling your workout goals. A common pattern in new athletes is undereating. You need to eat enough of the right foods to support muscle growth. And the “right” foods are nutrient-dense whole foods:
- Fruits and vegetables
- High-quality proteins
- Whole grain carbs
- Good fats
Lack of energy and motivation can sometimes come down to a poor diet or not enough whole foods. Try tracking what you eat for a week or so to make sure you’re consistently getting enough nutrients to support your body.
Change Up Your Workouts for Long-Term Success
When too many days in a row go by where you’d rather hit the snooze button than hit the gym, it’s definitely time to make a change. It may take a little trial and error before you find a new workout you enjoy, but keep trying things until you do.
When you find several forms of exercise that work for you, change up your routine so that you include several types of activity every week. You’ll see better results and have a lot more fun doing it.If you want to make working out fun again, bust through any plateaus, and have a workout ready to go at any time, try the Gorilla Bow or Gorilla Bow Travel. Great for every level of strength—from five to 300+ pounds of tension—you can workout anywhere and add variety to any routine.