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  • Emily Ledford


You do NOT need NEW exercises with every single training session. It’s a popular idea because trainers are afraid their clients will get bored. Or maybe some still think that muscle confusion really exists. But it doesn’t. Your muscles are not capable of being confused and they’ll adapt FAR more (grow, tone, get more defined, or whatever you want to call it) if you stick with an exercise for a period and get BETTER at it rather than just “changing it up” with every session. Strength and body composition will be accelerated by owning the basics (squat, hinge, push, pull, carry, lunge & core training).

You’ll see changes in your body at a faster rate because you’re allowing time for muscles to adapt. Frequency and consistency will always exceed variety.

Worry about being functional, though? Well, don’t! When you are stronger ALL over, you are a heckuva lot more functional in ALL THE THINGS.

Sure, it’s fun to implement “fancier” skills in the gym. I wouldn’t discourage that when you train the basics for most of your session. Getting strong at the fundamentals will earn that right. And let’s not forget to mention that your results will be even more dramatic if nutrition meets the demands placed on the body.

A new workout of the day might be entertaining… but are you there to sweat because it is entertaining or because you want to see results for the hard work you are putting in? I think it is fair to say that MOST people show up because they hope to see improvement.

Want to do your first pull up? You need to work that 2-4 times a week along with other row variations. Do them often.

If you want a stronger squat, squat often, and challenge yourself with a little more load or variation over time.

Want to set a deadlift personal record? You’ll likely need to train that 1-2 times a week along with some other accessory exercises.

Want to have more defined biceps? To maximize their potential, you’ll need to add in some volume of curls for a period, preferably 2 or more times a week.

Desire more defined legs? It’s more than jumping around, moving from station to station without catching your breath with a random workout of the day.

Abs? Get FREAKING AWESOME at 2-3 direct core exercises and keep progressing in variations. And nutrition matters.

No real goals but simply want to maximize your time in the gym and get strong and fit all over? Then have structure!

You may think you couldn’t possibly enjoy more structured workouts if you’ve been doing whatever the white board or trainer says that day. But if you write your progress down week to week, that’s pretty thrilling on its own! It CAN be fun to look at your logs each time and see proof of strength gain. That means you are closer to your goals!

Please don’t take this article out of context either. I’m not saying that you are going to do the SAME EXERCISES each time you come into the gym. It depends. Only training ONE day a week? Then, yeah, you probably need to stick to one set of exercises. If you are consistent with 2-3 days a week of training, you might alternate 2 sets of exercises for a period. If you are training more days within a week, you likely have room to add in another set of exercises. It really depends on the goals and how long you have been strength training. Are you a novice or have you been strength training consistently 3 or more years?

So, never a random workout? It's just flat out a terrible thing to do? Nah, context matters there too. For example, if you are having a conditioning day {think high intensity cardio}, you should still carefully select the exercises, though you will have more room for variety since you are doing work to breathe hard! Make sure that when you are doing them with little rest, you are still able to keep good form. High intensity cardio is NOT THE TIME to add in risky-for-YOU- exercises. And don't depend on high intensity exercise to be the bread and butter of achieving your strength and fitness goals. This type of training should be in smaller doses and should also be earned. First and foremost, get in adequate full body strength training during the week, at least 2-3 full sessions. Then you can think more about full conditioning sessions. And even within conditioning sessions, it's a good idea to visit the same movements for a period. For example, improve on the number of kettlebell swings you do with a moderate weight over a few weeks. Or aim to take a little less rest between the same drills you've done before.

I see so many people driven to high intensity conditioning workouts who are ALREADY AND ONLY getting cardio in the rest of the week. If you are running 20 plus miles a week or doing other forms of cardio already, you don't need more cardio! You need more strength training! People are becoming afraid to rest between exercises. They feel everything must be a back to back circuit. But lift heavy enough to be effective and you WILL need to take a breather and rest between lifts. Two different animals. Both are good. You should do both strength and cardio for overall fitness.

REMEMBER: the process, must match the goal. That won’t happen nearly as fast (or maybe not at all) if you are changing it up all the time.

~Any trainer can make you sweat, but do you have one that makes you better?"

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