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How often should you change your gym routine?

One of the most common questions in the fitness industry is why one should change their fitness program. Some people believe that changing their plan every few weeks is the key to success, while others stick to a routine that has worked for them for years.


In this blog post, we will explore what the scientific literature has to say about this, and I’ll provide some guidance on how you can change your fitness program.


A man lands on a large black soft box after performing box jumps in a gym.

Importance of changing your fitness program

Your body is an incredibly adaptable machine that quickly adjusts to repetitive training, resulting in fewer improvements in strength, endurance, and overall fitness.


Using the same workout for long periods of time will cause your muscles to adapt, making it harder to continue seeing progress creating room for plateaus. Additionally, variety in exercise routines can target different muscle groups, prevent injury, and reduce the risk of overtraining.


A systematic review and meta-analysis from 2022 looked into 35 studies and included a total of 1,187 participants from a variety of ages who underwent volume-equated resistance training programs that were either altered or not, known as periodized or non-periodized, respectively (1). The study then reviewed the effects changing a fitness program often had on both strength and muscle hypertrophy.


Moesgaard and colleagues found that periodized resistance training had a change of 2.13% per week effect on strength in the form of a one-repetition maximum (1RM) (1). While they found periodization had a 0.34% per week change in muscle hypertrophy (1).



A man holds two 40lbs dumbbells, bends forward and lifts one at a time towards his chest during gorilla rows.

These results suggest that periodized resistance training may be more effective for improving maximal dynamic strength (1RM) compared to non-periodized resistance training. However, both training programs are similar in terms of their effects on muscle hypertrophy.


How to change your fitness program

To keep your muscles growing, enhance your physical capabilities, and keep your workouts interesting, it's essential to incorporate variety into your training program. This can include using different exercises, changing the order of your exercises or using various training techniques, such as:

  • Shortening or lengthening the rest periods

  • Speed of muscle contraction: Intentionally slow or fast and explosive

  • Changing grip or exercise stance

  • Increasing volume and/or intensity


A man leans forwards while using a cable machine in a gym to perform forward-leaning cable chest flys

When to change your fitness program


It’s important to note that age, fitness level, and injury history can all impact how often you should switch up your program. For example, if you're new to exercise, you may want to stick to the same routine for a few months to establish your routine and avoid overuse/injury. On the other hand, if you're an experienced gym goer, you may need to change your program more frequently to continue seeing results.


Now I know that wasn’t a direct answer with a tangible number. However, the literature is still undecided on an exact number because of the inter-individual adaptations needed to truly optimize a strength training program for your own success.


While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to changing your fitness plan, given the evidence, it’s pertinent that you change your program by incorporating different exercises, sets, reps, intensities, and forms of exercise, so you can avoid boredom, prevent plateaus, and continue to see progress in your fitness journey.

 

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Reference

  1. Moesgaard, L., Beck, M. M., Christiansen, L., Aagaard, P., & Lundbye-Jensen, J. (2022). Effects of periodization on strength and muscle hypertrophy in volume-equated resistance training programs: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Sports Medicine, 52(7), 1647-1666.

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