Do you get bored easily in the gym? Do you find yourself doing the same exercises, over and over – with no hunger to lift weights? This article is intended to make your gym workout fun, offering a few ideas you may not have thought of.
Some people prefer to stay at home and exercise!
While I do encourage variety – there is no substitute for a structured program geared towards a specific goal. The emphasis here would be to try a few of these ideas at the end of a workout, or even for a few sessions in-between periods of structured periodisation. The aim of this article is to generate more ideas, providing motivation as opposed to flat out results – although for those who have been on the same program for years, good results often follow!
1. Opposite Training
A few questions for you:
What current rep scheme are you on at the moment? (1-6 / 6-12 / 12-20 / 20+)
What type of exercises are you using at the moment (Mainly Isolation / Mainly Compound / Both)
What type of split are you on? (Full body 3 x a week / Upper + Lower 4 x a week / Push + Pull 4 x week etc)
What rest period are you using? (No rest / 15-30s / 30-60 / 1-2 / 3+)
How many sets are you doing per muscle group per week? (1-6 / 6-12 / 12+)
This is how doing ‘opposite training’ works and it’s very simple! Lets say you’re currently doing:
Full body routine:
3 sets of 15
(1 exercise per bodypart)
30 seconds rest
1 hour session
3 times a week.
You’re due a change so this is where it radically changes! Instead, you’re going to do the opposite to what you’ve before – as different as possible. There is no point going from 15 reps to 13 reps – this must be a big change…..opposite if you can.
This might look like:
Split program: Day 1 = Chest and Triceps; Day 2 = Back and Biceps; Day 3 = Legs and Shoulders;
6 sets of 3
2 exercises per bodypart)
2 min rest
30 min session
6 times a week
Sounds simple? Try it for a few sessions in-between structured programs for 6-8 weeks. The reason that results come quickly with this method is because it provides a fresh stimulus that the body has to try to adapt to. Many male trainees complain about not getting stronger when they’re doing 3 sets of 15. Do some opposite training and watch the strength go up!
Note: Always warm up thoroughly when using heavy weights.
2. Start Position Changed
Sounds simple – change the start position of the exercise. Let me remind you that simple and easy are totally different. This simple technique can set off alarm bells that you are rushing your exercises, causing a weak point in your strength curve.
Typical Example: Barbell squat
Have the bar racked at a height where it would be at the bottom part of your squat.
Setup as normal, but in the ‘bottom’ position: Heels around hip-width; Tension between Shoulder blades; Straight Back; Bar resting on Shoulders; Knees flexed; Heels stay on the floor;
Extend up smoothly, pause, and drop down under control, and pause – around 1 inch above the safety pins. Thats 1 rep.
The fact that you spend more time in the ‘down’ position increases the tension and adds a stimulus without adding weight or reps etc.
This has a truly functional aspect, as we rarely lower heavy objects to the floor and then pick them back up. We nearly always pick heavy things up from the floor to use on a higher level i.e in front of us. Heavy objects are usually on the floor!
This can be done with many exercises: Chest press, lunges, DB rows etc.
3. Bands and Chains
Exercises gotten too easy? Bands and chains to the rescue!
These tools are especially useful when tryin to break through plateaus as some trainees get stronger in different parts of movements. For example: Say that 2 men can both full squat the same weight for the same number of reps, yet one struggles at the bottom of the squat (‘in the hole’) and the other struggles at the top of the squat (in the upper third). The bands will be more useful to the second man – as this is his weak point that needs training – and the tension is highest as the top of the bands (when handles are under the feet).
The first man would probably benefit from partial low squats and hack squats to strengthen his weak point (the bottom third of the squat).
These can be also be used for push ups, lunge-walks and all sorts of other exercises.
4. Pair exercises together, or use Complexes.
You can easily pair exercises together to get a cardio-effect, without compromising the resistance involved. This is a method I employ when somebody is craving their usual ‘cardio-fix,’ but they are already over-doing it on the cardio machines.
Simply do two or three exercises in a row – with no rest in-between.
The weights used should be heavy enough that you cannot do more than 10-12 reps – If you are not breathing heavy by the end of the second or third exercise……It’s not heavy enough!
Rest between pairings can then be altered depending on the fitness of the individual.
This method can be especially handy when you can use the same pair of dumbells for 2 different exercises. This method can save time, burn more calories and leave you gasping for air. Its important to note that if you are limited to a certain piece of equipment, eg 1 set of dumbells, that you don’t neglect one exercise for the other.
For example it would be foolish to squat with 40kg dumbells only to find you won’t be able to do your lateral raises with them. Likewise, doing lateral raises with 12kg dumbells is all well and good but not if you then start squatting with them when you can squat 3-4 times that weight. The pairing of exercises have to be well suited – and balanced in terms of the whole program. For example, doing chest in every pairing can lead to muscle imbalances – See Don’t be a hunchback!
Complexes are when multiple exercises are sequenced together, with the same resistance – your hands should never leave the bar!
An example might be:
Cleans x 8
Front Squats x 8
Push Presses x 8
Lunges x 8 each leg
Rows x 8
This complex incorporates big muscle groups and are similar resistance levels. As stated before it would be foolish to try and do an exercise like front raises with a weight you would struggle to clean. The key is getting the correct weight and using similar exercises, generally not using the same body part twice in a row for fat loss.
5. Tempo training
Tempo training can be highly effective when done properly. It is also the main component of bodypump – A popular cardio class using weights.
Tempo is often mis-used by many trainees, often swinging weights around using their bodies momentum – not their muscles. This method soon teaches someone how to lift properly and is incredibly simple. Various tempos can be used depending on the specific individual training goal.
It is important to note that various speeds can have both positive and negative effects. For example slowing the speed down can be effective for someone who rushes exercises, but will be extremely detrimental for an athlete that relies on power – for example, a Shot Putter.
6. Unilateral exercises
Unilateral exercises are very often neglected in both commerical and ‘sweat-and-sawdust’ type gyms. They’re underated as a sport specific tool, and are tough. Case in point – Lunges.
Ask someone that you think is a strong squatter to lunge with 60-75% of the weight and see what happens. Lunges are hard work, as they require strength and balance. If you find them easy, chances are…….. you’re doing them wrong. I must say that 99% of of the people I see doing lunges, are doing them ineffectively. Top tip: You are working the FRONT LEG.
If you are already doing unilateral exercises – try them one at a time!
You’ve mastered the dumbell bench press and are looking for an alternative way – here comes the 1 arm-bench press.
Set up in the same way you would a dumbell bench press, only with one dumbell up in the air in the right hand.
Lower the right-hand side dumbell down to around chest height and explode up.
Try to keep balanced, not allowing the left-hand side of your body to come up off the bench. Tip: Place the left hand on your left hip and maintain that shape
When done with the right arm – switch to the left arm and do the same number of reps.
If you cannot to the same number of reps on both arms, the weakest arm should be done first – and the stronger arm only doing the pre-set number of reps.
You should need to come down around 25-40% from your usual bench press weight depending on your strength and balance.
Again, movements like standing shoulder presses, 1-leg squats etc all add variety and a new stimulus to workouts.
7. Fitball / discs
While I personally think fitballs and inflatable discs are overated from a fat loss point of view, they are useful for balance, injury rehab – and of course can be a lot of fun! The problem with them is when heavy resistance training gets substituted by an exercise of ‘holding a weight in one hand, kneeling on a fitball.’ What’s the purpose of this exercise? Don’t say ‘It works the core’ – this can be done a lot more efficiently using heavy weights in certain positions. However, these exercises can be added in at the end of workouts, and sometimes used for a week or two before going back to more efficient methods.
Examples could be Bench press on a fit ball etc.
The weight of the dumbells will have to be reduced by 30-50% depending on individual strength and balance.
8. Random workouts
Feel like leaving it to the gods to map out your workout? All you need is:
You can create your own (endless) system to randomly create your own workout. For example, 2 throws:
Roll the dice twice:
1 = squats 2 = deadlifts 3 = DB Chest Press 4 = DB Rows 5 = Shoulder presss 6 = Lat pull down
Superset these movements, one after the other until you reach your target rep total. For example 32 (4 x 8).
It’s important to note that muscle groups should be balanced, so that every muscle group gets hit over the week and/or training session. With the above example, It would make sense to roll the dice twice, and superset these exercises. Then, roll again – but not using the same number twice – unless you’re adopting a split routine.
This is the tip of the ice berg when trying to create your own random session. Reps, Rest periods, vertical pushing and pulling movements etc etc can be manipulted if necessary.
9. Vary your grips
The grip strength of an individual can be the weak link in an exercise. Grip can be worked on directly (going beyond the scope of this article) but regularly changing grip styles can help overcome sticking points. Also using thicker bars, and towels can help the rate of improvement.
10. Real – life work
Sometimes it’s nice to get outdoors, and get some fresh air whilst working away. Lifting objects such as sandbags, barrells, tyres – anything at all! Chopping wood and DIY-type activities like wheel barrowing cement etc are good too. As long as there’s sufficient resistance and not a lot of rest, a workout can be created! Steps and sprints make for great cardio workouts, while sled pulls and sled pushes are great.
Hopefully, now, you should never be bored to exercise. Try incorporating some of these ideas into your routines or in between programs.
Now go get to it.
John Cammish (B.S.C) is a local East Yorkshire Fitness Bootcamp Instructor and real-world fat loss expert. He has helped countless individuals change their lives through postive habits with a focus on tried and tested methods. For more details about Personal Training, Fitness Bootcamps, Free Articles and more – check his website (www.yournextlevelfitness.co.uk) and his Bootcamp Blog (blog.yournextlevelfitness.co.uk).