One of the most important ways to not only stay motivated and energized about your workouts but also to maximize and get the most out of them is to include consistent variety into your exercise regimen. For one reason or another, whether because of a time-crunched schedule or simply a lack of ideas, many of us tend to get stuck in a cycle of performing the same workout routine over and over and over. Not only does that tend to result in boredom but it also allows the body to reach a fitness plateau phase where despite the sweat and hard work invested in the workout, you are actually receiving less bang for your buck. It makes sense that the more you do something, the better you become at it and this applies to exercise as well. Your body is extremely efficient and smart and as a result, becomes better at performing the exercises while actually using fewer calories and expending less effort and energy. Not only are you using less energy, but you are also losing out on having a more balanced and well-rounded level of strength and fitness. A repetitive workout routine strengthens the muscle groups necessary to perform that particular workout but it does not take into account all the other numerous muscles throughout your body that also need work. With that said, here are a few ideas to add variety into five common exercises to get a more balanced workout and keep it entertaining at the same time!
Old: 30-minute or 3-5 mile run, 3-5 times per week.
New: Go au naturel (the great outdoors, of course!) and take your run to the trails! Trail running is mentally and physically more challenging, as it requires more focus and attention, balance, and foot and ankle strength to navigate dirt trails, rocks, roots and streams without landing face first.
Old: Endless repetitions of the dreaded push-up learned in grade school.
New: Become a super hero! Superman Push-Up: Assume a standard push-up position, raise one foot off the ground so that leg is completely extended, and perform push-up. Repeat with the opposite foot raised off the ground. Spiderman Push-Up: Assume a standard push-up position. As you bend your elbows, bring one knee up as close to your elbow as possible, alternating sides. More of the core muscles are engaged to create a more integrated exercise.
Old: Crunch till you can’t crunch no more …
New: Create instability by performing your crunches using a stability ball in order to increase overall core strength and stability. A stability ball is an incredible tool to add to your workout routine, as many exercises can be adapted to be performed using a stability ball. The stability ball decreases balance, which puts more of your core muscles to work and forces the muscles to work harder. For variety, experiment with foot placement – a wider foot stance is easier, narrower more difficult, feet further from the ball is easier, closer more difficult. Remember to keep your elbows out to the sides so that you are not using your arms to pull your head up. Greater core strength results in more efficient and powerful movements both in your daily activities and in your workouts.
Old: So you can hold a plank for forever, now what?
New: Assume a standard plank position. Place a 5lb or 10lb flat weight (the type you would add to a barbell) onto the center small of your lower back. Perform plank as normal, but don’t allow your hips and stomach to sag with the extra weight!
Old: Standard squat with feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart, weight dropping straight down towards your heels, knees not extending past your toes, knees in line with your toes, back neutral.
New: Now that you’ve mastered the squat on two legs, can you do the same on one leg? Many activities, running included, do not require both limbs to move in the same direction at the same time. This requires that both legs be equally strong and often times, one leg tends to be either weaker or stronger than the other. Performing a single leg squat helps to compensate for any muscle strength imbalances and increases stability. Stand on one foot. Slowly bend knee while reaching out with the hand of the same side, being sure to keep weight on your heel, knee in line with toes, knee not extending past your toes. Repeat on opposite side.
- Improve Your Balance With Stability Ball Exercises (brighthub.com)
- Get Fit With a Stability Ball: The Basics (everydayhealth.com)