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How Should One Alternate Their Workouts To Avoid Adaptation?

How should one alternate their workouts to avoid adaptation? If you continue to follow a workout without any change, it can place you in a tough plateau... See what our forum members have put together to keep making gains!

By: Workout Of The Week


TOPIC: How Should One Alternate Their Workouts To Avoid Adaptation?

The Question:

Everyone needs a change from their workout. If you continue to follow a workout without any change, it can place you in a tough plateau to break. Aside from that, it can hinder your results and make your workouts tedious.

How should one alternate their workouts to avoid adaptation?

What should you change?

  • Sets/reps
  • Exercises
  • Intensity
  • Amount of days you workout
  • Length of workout
  • Etc.

Should you perform a completely new routine from scratch?

How long should you follow a routine before changing it?

Show off your knowledge to the world!

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      1st place - $75 in store credit.
      2nd place - $50 in store credit.

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1st Place - TUnit
Preventing Adaptations (Homeostasis)
Contact This Author Here.

Everyone needs a change from their workout. If you continue to follow a workout without any change, it can place you in a tough plateau to break. Aside from that, it can hinder your results and make your workouts tedious.

Plateaus occur in training due to a phenomenon known as homeostasis. This was first researched by a Canadian endocrinologist by the name of Hans Selye. From his research and experimentation, he produced a theory known as the General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS). This details exactly how the body responds to stress. The reason this pertains to bodybuilding is that lifting weights and performing cardio are two examples of activities that create "stress."

Phase 1:

    The first stage of GAS is Alarm Reaction, in which the body immediately reacts to a change in stress. This is why so many trainees gain extremely well as beginners. Since the body has never been subject to training before, muscle growth is induced and strength increases rapidly due to intermuscular, intramuscular, and neural adaptations.

Phase 2:

    The second stage of GAS is the Stage of Resistance. During this stage, the body begins to adapt to the stress being induced externally, i.e. weight lifting. This phase does not occur rapidly, but over an extended period of time.

    For beginners, gains can be seen for up to a year without the body completely adapting. After the beginner phase is over, however, great care must be taken to continually change workout programs throughout a training year. Nutrition must also be specific to the training goal.

    For example, during a weight training phase in which muscle growth is induced, there must be a caloric surplus in order to further stimulate the growth. Conversely, during a phase where fat loss is preferred, a caloric deficit must be in place for this to occur. Nutrition and training combine synergistically to fight against the body's constant adaptations.

Phase 3:

    The third and last stage of GAS is the Stage of Exhaustion in which the body is no longer able to resist the stress. This is why overtraining occurs. However, to prevent overtraining, a rest week or a deloading week in which volume is cut in half should be used. This varies upon prior training experience - for beginners, a rest/deloading week should be used once every 10-12 weeks; for intermediates, once every 6-8 weeks; and for advanced trainees, once every 3-4 weeks.


Avoiding Adaptation:
How Should One Alternate Their Workouts To Avoid Adaptation?

To avoid adaptation in training, variety is the key. The best way to approach this is to sit down and outline your goals for the upcoming training year. Make short term and long term goals. For example, break down goals into different categories such as 1 year goals, 6 months goals, and 1 month goals. Then make assessments monthly, biannually, and annually.

These goals could be changed at any time in order to adapt to injuries, unforeseen changes, or fast/slow progress. A daily workout log would go a long way in helping you to know what kind of goals to set. A workout log is especially important for future reference so that you will know in the future what has worked and what has not in the past.


What Should You Change?

Sets & Reps:

    Changing sets and reps is key to preventing plateaus. It is also vital to prevent adaptation so that different goals are met. If muscle growth is the desired result, then routines with exercises in the 1-3 rep range are definitely not the best. However, if you are always performing 3 Sets x 8-12 Reps for each muscle group and you have reached a plateau, try doing 10 Sets x 3 Reps.

    This is a very unconventional yet extremely effective method to break out of plateaus. In this case, the total volume is approximately the same but the total weight lifted (tonnage) is much higher. For example, if you perform 3 Sets x 10 Reps x 200 lbs for the bench press then your total tonnage would be 6000 lbs. However, by switching to 10 Sets x 3 Reps x 250 lbs, your total tonnage would be 7500 lbs.

    This change would make a substantial difference in muscle gains and would help you easily break out of a plateau.

    • Weeks 1-2: Squats - 4 Sets x 8-12 Reps
    • Weeks 3-4: Squats - 6 Sets x 6 Reps
    • Weeks 5-6: Squats - 10 Sets x 3 Reps
    • Weeks 7-8: Repeat

Exercises:

    Alternating exercises is an effective method of avoiding adaptation as well. Most elite-level powerlifters perform a different exercise each week for a certain lift they are training for. For example, one week they perform Close Grip Bench Presses, the next week they perform Board Presses, and so forth.

    Changing exercises can be as simple as doing Barbell Bench Presses one week and Dumbbell Bench Presses the next. If you have reached a plateau, it would be advisable to change from dumbbells to barbell or barbell or dumbbells, depending on which you have reached a plateau with. In general, to avoid adaptation, you should change exercises once every 3-5 weeks.

    Make a list of exercises for each body part and simply pick a new exercise every 3-5 weeks. This will go a long way in helping you make consistent progress.

    • Weeks 1-2: Bench Press - 4 Sets x 8-12 Reps
    • Weeks 3-4: Dumbbell Bench Press - 4 Sets x 8-12 Reps
    • Weeks 5-6: Dips - 4 Sets x 8-12 Reps
    • Weeks 7-8: Repeat

Intensity:

    Alternating intensities can be very effective in preventing adaptations from workout to workout. For example, you can perform two high intensity workouts per week, one medium intensity workout per week, and one low intensity workout per week. It is very difficult to go at full intensity for weeks on end without burning out.

    It is important to note, that intensity in this case does not mean how much effort you put into your training but rather the percentage of your 1 Rep Max (1RM) that you work at. High intensity workouts would go in the category of 85-100% 1RM strength and power work, medium intensity would be 70-85% hypertrophy training, and low intensity would be 50-70% endurance or speed (dynamic effort) training.

    These definitions have nothing to do with how difficult or easy a workout session would be but rather how much weight you lift relative to your 1RM.

    • Monday - Lower Body at 85-100% 1RM
    • Tuesday - Upper Body at 75-85% 1RM
    • Thursday - Lower Body at 50-70% 1RM
    • Friday - Upper Body at 85-100% 1RM
1 RM CALCULATOR

Enter the amount of weight you can lift (in pounds) and the number of reps you can lift it for.

Frequency:

    Sometimes it is advisable to change the number of workouts you have per week to prevent adaptations from occurring. If you usually perform 4 workouts per week and you have hit a plateau, try doing 3 workouts per week for 1-3 weeks. Additionally, when you plan a year-long cycle, try alternating between different numbers of workouts per week.

    For example, during a bulking phase you could workout 4-5 times per week, during a strength phase 3-4 times per week, and during a cutting phase 2-3 times per week. This alternation would do a great deal and your body would not adapt to a specific training protocol which would let you reap greater gains in the long run. Also, cardio should be included when determining the proper frequency to train with.

    For example, during a cutting phase you perform more cardio than you do during a bulking phase. Therefore, you would make up for the difference in the frequency of your weight training sessions. For example, if your total number of workouts per week is six, then you can perform 5 weight training sessions and 1 cardio session during bulking and 3 weight training sessions and 3 cardio sessions during bulking.

    You can also change the type of cardio you do. For example you could perform HIIT for 4-6 weeks and then do cycling for 4-6 weeks and keep alternating between the two.

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Workout Length:

    You can often alternate your workout length in order to make consistent gains and avoid adaptation. For example, you can have 1 hour workouts during your bulking phase and 30-45 minute workouts during a cutting phase. This way your body will not adapt to a specific workout length which can only help you to continue to make gains. Additionally, you could alternate between workout lengths within a training week.

    • Monday - 45 Minutes
    • Wednesday - 30 Minutes
    • Friday - 45 Minutes

Nutrition:

    Nutrition is a factor that many people overlook when it comes to "changing it up." It is imperative that your training be based around your diet. You must decide when you will be bulking, when you will be cutting, and when you will be maintaining. Therefore, your caloric surplus will correspond with higher-volume hypertrophy training and your caloric deficit will correspond with more cardio and lower-volume training.

    This is the single most important issue when it comes to making consistent gains and avoiding plateaus. Simply put, there is no way that you will gain muscle if you eat too little; the same way that it is impossible to lose fat with a large caloric surplus. While this may seem obvious to many, you would be surprised as to how many people do not make the correct combinations and therefore never make consistent gains.

    • Bulking - 500-1000 Calories a day surplus, 35% Protein, 45% Carbs, 20% Fat
    • Cutting - 500-1000 Calories a day deficit, 40% Protein, 30% Carbs, 30% Fat, Zig-Zag Diet (Low Carb Days and High Carb Days)
    • General Recommendations For Bulking:

        In order to grow, you must have a caloric surplus, that is, you must consume more calories than you expend. As a general rule of thumb, eating 500 more calories than you expend will help you gain approximately 1 lb of bodyweight per week.

        Eating 1000 more calories than you expend every day will make you gain about 2 lbs of bodyweight per week. Any more weight gain than that and you are looking at a disadvantageous muscle to fat gain ratio. While bulking, try to eat at least 1.5-2.5 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight in order to see substantial muscle gain.

    PROTEIN BULKING CALCULATOR
    Weight
    Results
    Protein

      General Recommendations For Cutting:

        In order to lose fat, you must have a caloric deficit, that is, you must expend more calories through the form of weight training and cardio than you consume. As a general rule of thumb, eating 500 fewer calories than you expend will help you lose approximately 1 lb of bodyweight per week.

        Eating 1000 fewer calories than you expend every day will make you lose about 2 lbs of bodyweight per week. Any more weight loss than that and you are looking at losing muscle. In a cutting phase, your protein intake should probably be at 1.5-2 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight so you do not lose any muscle.

    PROTEIN CUTTING CALCULATOR
    Weight
    Results
    Protein

      General Recommendations For Any Phase:

        In general, you should be eating between 6-8 meals per day and drinking 1-2 gallons of water. Protein is the most important macronutrient you need to gain muscle and to maintain muscle. Very good protein sources include: chicken, lean steak, lean beef, pork, cottage cheese, and milk.

        Carbohydrate intake should be reduced slightly during a cutting phase and increased during a bulking phase. Your main carbohydrate sources should be: rice, pasta, whole wheat bread, muesli, granola, and oatmeal. Also, try to ingest as few calories as possible from soft drinks. Finally, healthy fat should be ingested as part of a balanced diet.

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        Concentrate on eating enough flax seed oil, fish oils, and nuts such as almonds. Remember to adjust the macronutrient ratios as shown above to fit into each particular phase that you are doing. (Important note: Protein and Carbs = 4 Calories per gram; Fat = 9 Calories per gram. Your percentages should be based on calories from each macronutrient, not the total grams of each.)

Supplements:

    Supplementation is also large part of a bodybuilder's ability to make gains. Whey protein, creatine, a multivitamin, and fish oil are the basic staples that help you gain muscle mass consistently. These are the supplements that can be used year-round for any goal, be it muscle gain or fat loss.

    However, there are some other supplements that help you more in certain phases than in others, and for this reason should be cycled. Here are some suggestions from when certain products should be used, although many are interchangeable between cycles.


New Routine?
Should You Perform A Completely New Routine From Scratch?

Every time you reach a plateau it is not necessary or even advisable to perform a completely new routine from scratch. Instead of making complete changes because you are not making progress, adjust certain variables such as those listed above and determine whether that helps you break out of plateaus.

Change exercises, sets and reps, intensity, or a combination and see if this makes a positive impact upon your training. One other possibility is that certain body parts are holding back your progress in compound movements. Perhaps your triceps are weak and your bench press has not increased for the past 3 weeks. To solve this problem, avoid bench pressing for 2-4 weeks and stick to close-grip bench pressing and dips during this time period.

This should solve the problem almost immediately and you can go back to making progress. Usually the problem for adaptations is indeed overtraining, so when a plateau is reached, less is almost always more. You usually want to decrease frequency and/or intensity when your body has adapted. This way you can rest your muscles more which can help you "recharge" and ultimately break out of plateaus.

Bob
Click Image To Enlarge.
Decrease Frequency And/Or Intensity.

What often happens when trainees stop making progress is that they immediately change their training program because they believe it is not effective. However, this is seldom the case, and other variables must be taken into account. Before you completely change your workout program, make an assessment of the variables listed and try to tweak different aspects of your training and nutrition.

If this does not work, then it may indeed be your workout program that you need to change. However, do not perform a completely new routine before making certain that nothing else can work.


For How Long?
How Long Should You Follow A Routine Before Changing It?

Most generic, "cookie-cutter" routines can be followed for 8-12 weeks before changing to another workout plan. A good idea would be to plan which routines are followed during certain parts of the year to get a general idea of what you will be doing throughout your training year.

If you are a bodybuilder that competes regularly, you must have your yearly workout plan set around your competitions. If you compete 3-4 times per year then your bulking and cutting phases will be shorter but more frequent than those for someone who only competes once or twice per year.

Competitions In February, June, September, November:

  • Clean bulk right after November competition until early January
  • Cut from early January to competition in February
  • Bulk right after February competition until late April
  • Cut from late April until competition in June, and so forth.

Competition In September:

  • Bulk from January to July
  • Cut from July to September competition

No Competition:

    A different example is for someone that does not compete but rather follows different routines throughout the training year. In this case, you could alternate various workout programs to prevent adaptation. Note: This is just a sample. The best routine is one that is customized to your own needs.

    • HST Routine for 8 Weeks
    • 1 Week Full Rest
    • 5x5 Program for 9 Weeks
    • 1 Week Full Rest
    • Body part Specialization workouts for 8 Weeks
    • 1 Week Full Rest
    • Max-OT Training for 8 Weeks
    • HST Routine for 8 Weeks
    • Cutting Routine for 6-8 Weeks
    • Gradual deloading for 2-4 Weeks at the end of the year to recover.


2nd Place - BurningHeart
Contact This Author Here.

Everyone needs a change from their workout. If you continue to follow a workout without any change, it can place you in a tough plateau to break. Aside from that, it can hinder your results and make your workouts tedious.

Your body is constantly trying to adapt to the environment in order to survive. It destroys viruses and bacteria that enter your system, increases pigmentation in your skin in response to sunlight exposure, heals cuts, increases heart rate to pump more blood in emergencies, releases adrenaline in response to give speed and intensity in certain situations, and finally build our muscles in response to work we put them through.

Thus when your body has adapted to the point where it needs to be in order to achieve the work you put it through, it no longer devotes resources to that particular adaptation. This is where muscle building comes into play, if your body is accustomed to your workout then it no longer needs to devote nutrients to build your muscles. The nutrients go to storage as fat or excreted out of the body. After all our bodies don't know we want to be bodybuilders.

Many people don't know when their body has adapted to their workout routine, and just do the same exercises, with the same amount of sets and reps, expecting their progress to continue just because they are exercising. This isn't the case, as you have to remember muscles only grow because of a survival trait that is programmed in our genes to adapt the body to its environment.

So read on, and learn how to avoid a plateau your workouts; something that could save you months or years of hard work and time.


Part 1:
How Should One Alternate Their Workouts To Avoid Adaptation?

There are various factors one can use to their advantage when alternating their workouts to avoid adaptation. The two main factors are workout and nutrition related.

While it is not necessary to alter every aspect of working out and nutrition in order to avoid your muscles adapting to your workouts, in this case more is better.

What Should You Change?

    Below is a muscle adaptation relationship diagram to easily see the different factors that can come into play when preventing a plateau in your workouts, the aspects of working out and nutrition that can be changed.

MAR MAR
Click Image To Enlarge.
Muscle Adaptation Relationships.

Workout Routine:

    Sets & Reps:

      Possibly the easiest aspect of working out to change, with a good effect.

      • Sets - You can manipulate the amount of sets you do in order to achieve different goals. For instance if you are currently doing 6 sets for a particular body part, you could do 3 instead, and up the weight. Upping the weight and lowering the amount of sets will train your body to adapt itself for strength, rather than muscular endurance, or size.

      • Reps - The amount of repetitions can be changed in order to switch to a strength building mode or a size building mode. Lower reps (1-5 range) is ideal for increasing strength, and higher reps (10-15 range) is ideal for increasing size. So if you have normally been doing 15 reps per body part, you might want to look into switching to lower reps and increasing the weight, thus preventing your muscle from adapting to the high rep range.

    Intensity:

      Intensity can be changed to prevent adaptation and still can give you a very efficient workout. Intensity is how much weight you use, combined with how many reps you do for that weight. Thus max intensity would be training to failure for every set.

      So if you are currently training to failure every set, you could change the intensity by lowering the weight and include more reps to where you don't train to failure. This will relieve your muscles a bit and focus more to size gains than strength. It is also important to note that while intensity can and should be changed on occasion, it is always best to constantly increase weights or repetitions for your workouts as your body gets stronger to prevent a plateau.

    Routine Split:

      A change in your routine split can totally shock your muscles and prevent adaptation. Some popular workout routines to switch to are HST, 5X5, and Max-OT. Of course those are just some common routines, but cycling them can keep your muscles from adapting to your workouts for a very long time.

      The point of switching the routine split is to work the muscles in a different order, some together and some apart. For example a changeable routine may look like this:

      • Monday: Back, Legs
      • Wednesday: Traps, Shoulders
      • Friday: Arms, Chest

      Then after it's changed to avoid adaptation it could look like this:

      • Monday: Back, Chest
      • Wednesday: Arms, Shoulders
      • Friday: Legs, Traps

      Of course this is just a basic routine; here you will find routines for more advanced bodybuilders:

    Types Of Exercises:

      Different exercises force your muscles to move weight in a different fashion and work parts of the muscle you may have been missing. This is one of the most important factors in muscle adaptation. Doing only tricep extensions for a year, no matter how good the exercise is, will become ineffective if not switched out with other tricep exercises, such as dips and close grip bench press.

      There are many exercises for each muscle, so every other week or at least every 3 weeks you should pick a different exercise to do for each body part. It keeps your muscles from adapting to a single exercise and it keeps your workouts fun! An excellent list of exercises for each body part can be found here and here.

      Also shown below is a sample routine that has 3 parts to it, each split over a 4 week period for a total of 12 weeks. It would be a good place to start, especially for a beginner.

    3 Day Split:

Weeks 1-4
Day 1 Day 2 Day 3
Back Shoulders Triceps Legs Biceps Traps Chest
Cable Pulldown Front DB Raise C-G Bench Squats EZ-Bar Curl BB Shrug Flat Bench
BB Rows Lateral Raise Tricep Ext. DB Calf Raise Hammer Curl DB Flyes
Bent Over Rear Delt Lying Leg Curl
12-15 Reps 12-15 Reps 12-15 Reps 12-15 Reps 12-15 Reps 12-15 Reps 12-15 Reps
print Log Of Day 1. print Log Of Day 2. print Log Of Day 3.

Weeks 5-8
Day 1 Day 2 Day 3
Back Shoulders Triceps Legs Biceps Traps Chest
Weighted Pullup Seated DB Press Bench Dip BB Lunge Chin-up C-G BB shrug Incline Bench
Cable Row Lateral Raise Tricep Pushdown BB Calf Raise Concentration Curl Dips
Seated Cable Rear Lat Raise Stiff Legged Deadlifts
8-10 Reps 8-10 Reps 8-10 Reps 8-10 Reps 8-10 Reps 8-10 Reps 8-10 Reps
print Log Of Day 1. print Log Of Day 2. print Log Of Day 3.

Weeks 9-12
Day 1 Day 2 Day 3
Back Shoulders Triceps Legs Biceps Traps Chest
Weighted Pullup Military Press C-G Bench Squat BB Curls DB Shrugs Flat Bench
Bent Over DB Row Lateral Raise Lying Tricep Ext. DB Calf Raise Hammer Curl DB Flyes
Bent Over Rear Delt Row Lying Leg Curl
4-6 Reps 4-6 Reps 4-6 Reps 4-6 Reps 4-6 Reps 4-6 Reps 4-6 Reps
print Log Of Day 1. print Log Of Day 2. print Log Of Day 3.

    Cardio:

      Cardio has an impact on your muscles and can be adapted to, thus it should also be changed every so often. The impact on your muscles can be seen by a sprinter and a long distance runner. A long distance runner trains their muscles in an aerobic way, meaning they have a high oxygen demand, these are known as Type I muscle fibers.

      Sprinters' and weightlifters' muscles are trained in an anaerobic fashion, meaning they have a low oxygen demand, these are known as Type II muscle fibers. Your muscle fibers can be changed to a degree depending on the type of training that is done. So a changeable cardio routine may look like this:

      • Sunday: HIIT (Running) for 20 minutes
      • Tuesday: Heavy Bag for 25 minutes
      • Thursday: Stationary Bike for 30 minutes

      Then after it's changed to avoid adaptation it could look like this:

      • Sunday: Running for 40 minutes
      • Tuesday: Stair stepper for 20 minutes
      • Thursday: HIIT (Heavy Bag) for 20 minutes

Nutrition:

    Supplements:

      There are 3 types of supplements that are ideal for certain situations. Of course most supplements can be used in any type of situation, however that would take almost unlimited funds, and since most of us do not have unlimited funds available I listed below the most effective and common products for certain phases, they may be mixed and matched for whatever goal you are trying to achieve.

      These types of supplements are:

      1. Supplements that do not have to be cycled and should be used on a regular basis.
      2. Supplements ideal for a bulking phase.
      3. Supplements ideal for a cutting phase.

      Supplements For A Regular Basis:

        These supplements include creatine, protein, and a multivitamin. Creatine increases water retention in muscles, enhancing ATP production, which allows the muscle to be worked more before being fatigued. Protein is used to repair and build muscle, and a multivitamin allows you to ingest needed vitamins and minerals that you may otherwise not get in your routine diet.

      Supplements Ideal For A Bulking Phase:

        When bulking, the general goal is to put on 2-3 lbs. a week; to gain the most muscle with gaining minimal fat. Supplements that aid in this are:

        • BCAA's (Branched Chain Amino Acids) which aid in protein synthesis, decreases muscle breakdown, and decreases cortisol levels
        • Nitric Oxide, which increases blood flow and nutrients to your muscles during a workout
        • ZMA, which naturally increases testosterone

      Supplements Ideal For A Cutting Phase:

        When cutting, the general goal is to lose 2-3 lbs. a week; to lose the most body fat while preserving the most muscle. Supplements that aid in this are:

        lipo 6

        • Thermogenics such as Lipo 6, which increases your metabolism to burn more calories throughout the day
        • Glucophase XR, which increases your metabolism, sends carbohydrates to your muscles instead of to fat storage
        • Stimulants such as Stimulant X, which give you more energy throughout the day, and can be very helpful for routines that include cardio

    Calorie Intake:

      Your recommended calorie intake depends on such factors as weight, sex, and goals, whether it be bulking, cutting, or maintaining. A calculator for recommended calorie intake can be found here. The general guidelines for calorie intake of certain phases are as follows:

      Bulking Phase:

        Consume 6-8 balanced meals throughout the day, with a 500-1000 calorie surplus over your recommended calorie intake. Total intake for the day should be around 40% protein, 40% complex carbohydrates, and 20% EFA's (essential fatty acids).

      Cutting Phase:

        Consume 6-8 small, balanced meals throughout the day, with a 500-1000 calorie deficit below your recommended calorie intake. Total intake for the day should be around 40% protein, 30% complex carbohydrates, and 20% EFA's.

      Maintaining Phase:

        Consume 6-8 small, balanced meals throughout the day, with your calorie ingestion equaling your recommended intake. Total intake for the day should be around 40% protein, 35% complex carbohydrates, and 25% EFA's.

    General Guidelines:

      Protein:

        Whether bulking, cutting, or maintaining, protein consumption should always be high. Protein is the nutrient that builds and retains muscle. Good foods with high protein content are: lean beef and pork, chicken, fish, milk, nuts, and cottage cheese. Total protein intake should equal 1-2 grams for every lb. of bodyweight.

    GENERAL PROTEIN CALCULATOR
    Weight
    Results
    Protein

      Complex Carbohydrates:

        These are the body's most readily used energy source because they take the least amount of water to digest. Good forms of complex carbohydrates can be found in wheat breads, cereal, brown rice, and wheat pasta.

      EFA's:

        The best form of fats are the essential fatty acids. Healthy fats are required in a bodybuilding diet because they aid in maintaining healthy hair and skin, promoting healthy cell function, function in energy storage and vitamins A, D, E, and K can only be digested and used by the body in the combination with fats. Healthy fats include such things as olive oil, fish oil, flax seeds and nuts.


Part 2:
Should You Perform A Completely New Routine From Scratch?

It is not necessary to perform a completely new routine if preventing adaptation, your muscles are not geniuses; they will not adapt by doing such things as legs every Monday. Nonetheless, in order to avoid any wonder if your muscles are adapting to your routine, it is best to alternate different exercises for each body part every other week, and every 12 weeks take a week break and start a new routine that is geared towards strength or size, and bulking or cutting.

However, if you have been doing the same routine for many months then you should form a completely new routine in order to shock your muscles. Such factors to change are the ones listed above:

  • Sets & reps
  • Intensity
  • Routine split
  • Types of exercises
  • Cardio

These factors do make a difference in shocking your muscles, and will get you back on the right path.

What I prefer and recommend doing is forming 3 routines.

  1. One routine is a bulking cycle that is geared towards strength gains, lower reps, and higher weight.

  2. The next routine is a bulking cycle that is geared towards size gains, higher reps, and lower weight.

  3. The last routine is a cutting routine geared towards size gains to better preserve muscle mass. (Remember that just because a routine is geared towards a certain type of gain, doesn't mean the others are totally neglected. For instance on a strength routine you will still gain mass).

Finally these three routines are then cycled one after the other in whichever order matches your goals. This equals a total of 39 weeks before starting the routines over again, which will prevent your muscles from ever adapting to the routine.


Part 3:
How Long Should You Follow A Routine Before Changing It?

When mentioning time before changing a routine, the principle is still there that you should increase weight or reps each week and use different exercises every week. Completely changing a routine is moving to a different rep/set scheme, exercises, intensity level and routine split.

The amount of time before changing a routine depends on the type of routine being done, the experience of the weightlifter, and the progress being made. Less intense routines are easier for the body to adapt to, while very intense routines are harder to adapt to because of the great extent the muscles are being broken down and used.

This is why it is always recommended to increase your weight or reps on your exercises as your body gets stronger. You will plateau very quickly if the weight or reps aren't increased. An intense routine can be done up to 12 weeks without needing a change.

The experience of the weightlifter affects adaptation because the newer a person is to weightlifting, the less that person's body is accustomed to stress on the muscles. This makes gains come faster than someone who has been weightlifting for a while. A newbie would benefit the most from a different workout routine every 15 weeks, while a bodybuilder with a few years experience should change routines every 10-12 weeks.

Think of it this way - We have Kevin, who has never weightlifted in his life. He starts a program and shoulder presses 50 pounds for 12 reps and 3 sets his first time. This is 50 pounds lifted 36 times total, something his body has never done before, so he gets 1800 muscle points (50 X 36).

Then we have Jim, who has been lifting for years. His program has him shoulder pressing 150 pounds for 12 reps and 3 sets. However his body has done this exercise with the same weight already, so he gets no muscle points for doing it all over again. The next week he ups his weight to 155 pounds. His body now lifts 5 more pounds than it ever did, so he gets 180 muscle points (5 X 36). Kevin has 1800 points compared to Jim's 180; this is why newbies gain muscle much faster than experienced bodybuilders.

Bob
Click Image To Enlarge.
If You're Only Making 5 lb Gains
You're Close To Adapting.

Now assume the body can use a maximum of 100 muscle points per workout to build muscle. This explains why newbies adapt slower. Kevin made 1800 muscle points his first workout, so for his next workout he can still lift the same amount of weight and have 1700 muscle points left before his body is completely adapted to the 50 pounds shoulder presses.

Of course these aren't hard figures, but merely an illustration to show how experience plays a factor in muscle adaptation.

The last factor to consider when changing your routine is the progress being made. This is where having a training log helps, if you notice your reps or weight going up slower each week, that is a definite sign that your routine needs changing, considering all other factors the same.

In conclusion, it is important to change your routine every so often to avoid your muscles using the same evolution method that built them up in the first place. While you want to reach your goals, you do not want your muscles to reach theirs. When they reach their goals, it stops you from reaching yours.

References:

  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbohydrate
  2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muscle_fibers


3rd Place - thebarbarianway
How Should One Alternate Their Workouts To Avoid Adaptation?
By Vince DelMonte
Contact This Author Here.

Everyone needs a change from their workout. If you continue to follow a workout without any change, it can place you in a tough plateau to break. Aside from that, it can hinder your results and make your workouts tedious.

Are you tired of being sold on the latest training breakthrough? Wherever you go and whatever you read, someone is trying to pump up a brand new 'magical' program! If you have been in the fitness industry for even a few years then you know every trainer, magazine, athlete, and writer is using a different method of training and 'says something different.'

Everything from:

  • Heavy Duty (HIT) training
  • Body for Life
  • HST
  • German Volume Training
  • Escalating Density Training
  • 5 x 5 Training
  • And the list goes on and on...

Readers of Bodybuilding.com will know that all of these programs work but the true question is for how long? The reality is that there is no 'correct' training system. All of the above training systems are valid, have pro's and con's and can and should be used in a structured manner.

The bottom line is that as a trainee your goal is to optimize your genetic potential for muscle growth but to do this you must minimize or eliminate the chance of training plateaus. No matter how good your training program - you will eventually adapt to the stimulus of the program and require a change.

Noted strength coach Charles Staleysays that the body adapts to a workout every four weeks. Ian King says to change your program every three weeks to prevent plateaus. Charles Poliquin says the body adapts to a workout in as little as six workouts.

In the end, the take home message is that to make consistent progress there must be continuous adaptations and structured variety in your program.


Avoiding Adaptation:
How Should One Alternate Their Workouts To Avoid Adaptation?

Avoiding training plateaus can easily be remedied with structured periodization, simply meaning a structured plan. However, too much variety within your structured plan can easily backfire. Too much variety can be suicidal to your muscular development because your body never gets a chance to make significant improvements to any one stimulus.

Your first step before designing your plan is to decide what your short term and long term goals are. Where do you want to be in three months, six months, nine months and one year? Perhaps in the first three months you would like to focus on decreasing imbalances on your body by performing a specialization program.

Your next three months, a muscular endurance phase, your next three months a hypertrophy phase and your last three months a power and maximal strength phase. Your goals begin by thinking with the end in mind.


What Should You Change?

Sets:

    There should be an inverse relationship between the number of sets and number of exercises performed in a workout. The fewer exercises you perform the more sets you can afford. The more exercises in the workout, the fewer number of sets you can afford to do.

    If you are a bodybuilder and simply focusing on breaking down a muscle group, to achieve hypertrophy, then you will do more exercises and fewer sets. If you are a powerlifter and focusing on your maximal strength then you will do many sets but very few exercises.

    Here is an example of the inverse relationship between sets and number of exercises:

Number Of Exercises Number Of Sets/Exercise Rationale
6 1 Multiple angles on muscle and greatest variety of overloading.
3 2 Is a balance of above and below rationale.
1 6 Allows greatest skill development and specialization on one movement but no variety or multiple joint angles.

    Here is another example of the inverse relationship between sets and number of exercises. Notice that this is a broad generalization so you are free to work outside of these boundaries but the principles should be executed closely. However, do not follow into the traditional way of training that subject you to doing the exact same number of sets every time. Whenever I see 3 sets of this, 3 sets of that, 3 sets of this etc I instantly think to myself that absolutely no thought went into this training program.

Number Of Exercises Total Number Of Sets/Exercises Possible Training Goal Achieved
1 10-20 Maximal Strength
Explosive Power
Plyometrics
2 5-10
3 4-8
4 3-6
5 2-4 General Strength
Hypertrophy
6 2-4
7 1-3
8 1-3 General Fitness
Injury Prevention
9-12 1-2
13-20 1

Reps:

    The common approach to choosing reps has been that a specific number of repetitions will promote a specific training response. For example, optimal hypertrophy occurs when you work within 8-12 reps and optimal strength occurs when you train between 3-6 reps. However, what if you find you get bigger when you lift with the 3-6 rep range rather than 8-12!

    I have provided another commonly accepted breakdown of what certain rep ranges results in as training responses.

Reps Training Effect Training Adaptations
1-5 Neural Increased strength
6-8 A Mix Of Neural And Metabolic Hypertrophy
9-12 Metabolic Optimal Hypertrophy
13-20 Metabolic Muscular Endurance

    Here are three guidelines to follow when choosing reps:

    1. Start with the guidelines above.
    2. Unless you are less than 18 years old you should begin with a periodization of higher reps to lower reps over time as your body matures.
    3. Consider changing rep ranges if the above approach is ineffective.
    4. Variety is the key. The body adapts to the rep range faster than any other training variable so this is the variable that should be manipulated more frequently before anything else. Consider the follow linear and alternating periodization options.

Week Number Liner Rep Periodization
1-4 10-12
5-8 8-10
9-12 6-8
13-16 4-6
Week Number Alternating Rep Periodization
1-2 10-12
3-4 4-6
5-6 8-10
7-8 3-5
9-10 5-7
11-12 2-3

Exercises:

    Your first step to picking the right exercises is to avoid human nature of picking your favorite ones and avoid the 'tough' ones. This will create imbalances in your body, increase the incidence of injuries, miss the opportunity to strengthen your muscles from a variety of angles and increase the chance for plateaus.

    Here are a few rules to avoid the following:

    1. During the first phase of a new program, start with exercises that were neglected in your previous program. For example, if you only did bench press last program, start with incline dumbbell press this program.

    2. Only use the same exercise until you cannot lift more weight with that exercise for two workouts in a row. You should never do exercises that you have plateaued on for more than two workouts in a row because the name of the game is 'constant progress.'

    3. Alternate between dumbbells one phase, barbells another phase, stability balls another phase, kettle bells another phase etc.

Intensity:

    Just like everything else, intensity should be periodized also. Does any sport team or any athlete train year round at 100%? No, they cycle there intensity with a structured plan. Readers of Bodybuilding.com are going to do the same. Unless you are using anabolic steroids, you will not be able to train all out, week in and week out.

    You must progress your intensity up to a peak then come down and repeat. Just like endurance athletes would increase there running volume for two weeks and than have a 'down' week before they start climbing again. Apply the following intensity guideline to your program.

Week Number Percentage of Intensity
1 80-90%
2 85-95%
3 90-100%

    Remember, don't focus on how hard you can train - instead focus on how hard you should train to create the best results in conjunction with the optimal amount of recovery before your next workout.

Amount Of Days You Workout:

By now you should be getting a solid idea of how periodization looks like in the real world of training to prevent plateaus and adaptations. Personally I like rotating the amount of days I train between three days a week and four days a week.

Week Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
1 X X X
2 X X X
3 X X X
4 X X X X
5 X X X X

Length Of Workout:

Week Number Liner Duration Of Workout
1-4 60 minutes
5-8 50 minutes
9-12 40 minutes
13-16 30 minutes
Week Number Alternating Duration Of Workout
1-4 30 minutes
5-8 50 minutes
9-12 40 minutes
13-16 60 minutes


New Routine?
Should You Perform A Completely New Routine From Scratch?

    No, you can find thousands of programs to choose from all over the internet and some of the best here at Bodybuilding.com. Unless you consider yourself a unique case and require very specialized attention then you should consult and hire a professional fitness trainer to assist you.

      Check Out 100's Of Workouts Here.

    Otherwise, find ONE program you like, study it, and execute it to the best of your ability. Apply the above guidelines to your own unique characteristics and tweak it only slightly where obvious changes are required.


For How Long?
How Long Should You Follow A Routine Before Changing It?

Only you can answer this question! I can give you some generic advice and guidelines but only you can truly answer this one. I will provide a simple answer and guideline - use it for as long as it gives you the results you are looking for. As soon as you feel a plateau or adaptation coming on - change it!

If you do not, you will end up in the point of no return that is often described as overtraining or the plateau state. Your goal is to move on to a new program just before you predict your current method of training is losing its effectiveness.

Generally, the longer you have been training, the more frequent and more aggressive you must be in your changes. A beginner can afford to follow the same program for up to 12 weeks with minimal changes and get great results. An intermediate trainee may have to change his program every three weeks which include more aggressive changes. An advanced trainee should change a program almost every 1-3 weeks!


How Should One Alternate Their Workouts To Avoid Adaptation?

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