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Ignite exercise program design

Rather than throwing out exercise basics, think about igniting that old favorite with exciting modifications that create the results but prevent the plateaus and boredom. Keep in mind, in fitness, we progress and regress. Progressions move us forward, prevent plateaus and continue to stress our bodies in positive ways. And, regressions occur when we have reached a certain point of stress where our bodies can no longer move forward with that specific program, plan or exercise as it is currently performed; therefore, we need to make a change and this often requires regressing. For example, to increase the amount of external resistance you are lifting; you may need to decrease (regress) the number of repetitions or sets until the body has once again adapted (i.e. stress and adaptation).

There are virtually dozens of modification (progression/regression) methods; however, add the following and ignite your exercise basics! As always, prior to beginning any exercise program, please consult your physician.

*Tip: Learn the exercise, master it, load it (weight bearing/external resistance), master it again and then modify one component at a time!

-Lever Length/lever position/lever’s relationship to gravity – one of my favorite methods of modifying any exercise is to increase the length of the lever which places more load on the targeted muscle group due to the change of the lever in relationship to gravity. Even those garden-variety abdominal curls and crunches may be ignited by simply extending one or both of the arms or legs. *Tip: Lie supine on the floor, knees bent, feet on the floor and place your right fingers behind your head extending your left arm over the head parallel to the floor. Perform abdominal curls/crunches keeping the extended arm beside the ear as though it were part of your torso. Lead from the base of the rib cage, torso moving towards the hip bones. Once mastered, attempt this with the opposite leg extended simultaneously (i.e. jack knife) or on a BOSU Balance Trainer or stability ball.

-Tempo – change the tempo of the movement by either slowing it down or increasing the speed safely. In general, our body adapts to the stressors continually placed upon it; consequently, if you are always utilizing the same tempo of movement, the body may require a change of tempo to continue progressing. *Tip: Perform any exercise with a slow four counts in each direction, six counts down and two up, two up and six down or three up and one down. The key is to vary the tempo to keep the mind and muscle connected, engaged and challenged. Increasing the tempo will depend upon the exercise and what external resistance you may be using. Meticulous form/technique must be mastered before adding an increase in tempo and you may need to “regress” by using less external resistance as the tempo increases.

-Change the equipment – using free weights (i.e. dumbbells, kettlebells, medicine balls, sandbags, etc.) is great, but add functional multi-stations (i.e. cable/pulley), plate-loaded, resistance tubing, ropes, pull up bars, etc. There is no “one-trick pony” in fitness. Use it all and change it frequently. It sounds like a broken record, but if you are always using the same load and the same type of equipment, your body may adapt, hit plateaus and may actually lose fitness.

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