T Nation

Importance of Changing Exercises

I’m a bit confused about this. Tracking progress is a key ingredient of progression, but many people say that you need to switch around your exercises every so often to ‘keep the body guessing’.

a) How can you track progress if you’re constantly rotating exercises?
b) How can the body (positively) adapt to an exercise if you’re not using it often enough?

Would it not be more beneficial, on a FB for example, to have set exercises for say a month, then to change them all for a month etc? That way, you can easily track your progress on those lifts, your body can grow stronger and with more muscle for those lifts, instead of constantly having stimulation to grow from a variety of different lifts.

I.e. for month 1: Squats, SLDL, Bench. Chins, Military Press, lat raises.

Then for the next month: Front Squats, Deadlifts, Incline Bench, db BOR, Upright Rows, front raises.

Then for the 3rd month: Leg Press, Sumo Deads, Dips, bb BOR, DB shoulder press, rear delt rows.

What do you reckon?

[quote]Paulinho wrote:
I’m a bit confused about this. Tracking progress is a key ingredient of progression, but many people say that you need to switch around your exercises every so often to ‘keep the body guessing’.

a) How can you track progress if you’re constantly rotating exercises?
b) How can the body (positively) adapt to an exercise if you’re not using it often enough?

Would it not be more beneficial, on a FB for example, to have set exercises for say a month, then to change them all for a month etc? That way, you can easily track your progress on those lifts, your body can grow stronger and with more muscle for those lifts, instead of constantly having stimulation to grow from a variety of different lifts.

I.e. for month 1: Squats, SLDL, Bench. Chins, Military Press, lat raises.

Then for the next month: Front Squats, Deadlifts, Incline Bench, db BOR, Upright Rows, front raises.

Then for the 3rd month: Leg Press, Sumo Deads, Dips, bb BOR, DB shoulder press, rear delt rows.

What do you reckon?
[/quote]

It’s best to switch out exercises once you plateau on them (at least IMO). Keep the same exercises, sets/reps, etc… and keep progressing on them (adding weight to the bar whenever possible) until you cannot continue to progress on them (meaning you can’t add reps or weight in two consecutive attempts). At that point, switch the exercise out for another one for the same muscle group.

How often you will be able to do an exercise, or whether or not you’ll need to rotate exercises on a regular basis, will depend on your current experience/strength levels, recovery abilities, diet, and genetic limits.

A rank beginner should have no problem progressing on a 3x per week TB program. An intermediate on the other hand will probably need more recovery between sessions than that, and an advanced trainee even more recovery.

Rotating exercises can be used to increase the frequency with which you train a muscle group, while still giving you plenty of time between actually doing the same exercise again (which should make progression easier).

I’ve never felt the need to remove or change the bench, deadlift and squat out of my program, everything else is just gravy anyway.

You don’t have to remove certain exercises, as even switching the order of performance will have some effect. Just keep in mind that benching 1st vs. benching last will give you a different strength level. You should still be able to observe some sort of strength increase or not from week to week.

S

Creating variety in a programe does not just have to revolve around exericise selection.

If your goal is to get stronger in a lift or an exercise then, considering that strength is largely a function of neural adpatation, motor learning as well as morphological adaptations, then altering the exercises frequently wouldnt really lead to you developing your technique. Strength is as much a skill as it is an ability.

Other variables such as loading schemes (sets, reps), rest periods, exercise order, as well as many other can all be manipulated to alter the training effect.

Variety can be as simple as altering your hand / foot placement!

Now for hypertrophy I believe that variety is pretty important to ensure that accomodation and exercise economy hasnt set in to a great degree.

More advanced trainees will need to create variety more frequently than beginners. Often the simplest approach is to look at your loading patterns, undulating set / rep schemes are great for this. For example,

Weeks 1 - 3: 8 - 10 reps,
Weeks 4 - 6: 4 - 6 reps
Weeks 6 - 8: 10 - 12 reps
Weeks 8 - 12: 6- 8 reps

Throughout the 12 weeks exercises remain constant.

Sentoguy hit the big points. As many on here will point out, the fastest way to reach your goals will be to continually improve upon your big core lifts and to only change things once your progress stalls. I believe this to be true. I myself maintain a set of compound lifts from cycle to cycle and continue to try and improve upon these lifts.

I do however change my exercises regularly. I dont do it randomly though. After so many years of training my gains come slowly now. So I make changes in my exercises for two main reasons.

The first and probably the most important is to target muscles in the chain that I perceive as weak links that are preventing me from continuing to progress on my core compound lifts. Often times this will let me make further progression. I commonly will even change to a variation of my compounds for a cycle as I work towards strengthening the weak links. When I come back to the same compound in the next cycle I typically find that I am able to again make progress.

The second is for motivation. I will sometimes swap out an exercise simply so that I can see progression again. A fresh exercise that I have not done in a long while presents a new challenge and the brief progression that I make seems to motivate me. So I might choose to swap out to a totally different movement or even a variation of a movement for this reason alone.

And it is not even a requirement to swap out exercises either. You could simply target a different rep range or cadence and work towards progressing with a simple change like that. My calves are a good candidate for this for example. I can progress a bit with lower rep work on calves for so long but they seem to really grow when I hit them with higher reps. So I will change up my rep ranges sometimes to spark new progress. Once you have reached your strength potential for your size you have to then increase your size in order to progress further in strength.

You asked about how to track progression. The log is the key. I log every workout and have done so for many years. I look back at my logs for inspiration as to what exercises I was able to progress strongly on and even evaluate them for what isolation exercises appeared to impact my performance the most on my compound lifts. Spend a little time reviewing your logs and you might just see some interesting patterns there that you can leverage to keep your progress going.