6 Ways to Make Old Exercises New and More Effective
Getting in a routine at the gym is fantastic … until it’s not.
On the one hand, knowing what you’re doing — and being able to do it with confidence — rocks.
But on the other hand, getting comfortable with what you’re doing can lead to complacency. And that’s not the way to improve your fitness. Gotta keep those muscles guessing!
So today, we’re sharing a few tips for mixing up your workouts without reinventing the wheel from Bryan Forsing, a certified personal trainer from Anytime Fitness.
1. Try supersets.
“Supersets are great for burning more calories, without adding weight,” says Forsing. In case this is Greek to you, a superset combines two exercises using opposing muscles, done back-to-back, like a bicep exercise followed by triceps, or a leg extension followed immediately by a leg curl. And yes, immediately means no rest in between the exercises!
2. Add a move.
Got your plank nailed down? Add something to increase the level of difficulty or number of muscles worked. “Try kicking up a traditional plank by adding a move such as a one-arm row, a leg lift, hip tilt, or leg twist,” says Forsing. Or, if you’re used to doing a straight crunch on the stability ball, try going to the side to hit your obliques. Lift one leg to decrease stability. You get the picture — be creative!
3. Move your feet.
Sometimes, just a slight change of stance will really change up the muscles worked. Take, for example, calf raises. Try them with your feet facing straight ahead, and then try at an angle — both facing outward and in. Feel the difference? A key here, though, is to continue to focus on safety, so always keep your knees aligned without going out over your foot. The same safety rules that apply to a basic move still apply when you change your position.
4. Switch it up.
Adding weight, instability or even reversing a motion can all be great ways to mix things up. “Variations of standard lunges, such as adding a barbell or trying out a reverse lunge are great for restarting that muscle burn, says Forsing, suggesting that beginners start in a forward position with no added weight, then add a barbell behind the neck, keeping the head back — making a double chin will help hold your head back. “Now you’ve changed your center of gravity to activate your core,” he says.
5. Walk the other way.
“Going in a backward motion on an elliptical or trying out a direction change on the treadmill is an effective way to activate your hamstrings and glutes,” says Forsing. Go forward for about five minutes, then back for about five, maybe 15 to 20 min total. You can throw some sideways steps in there, too!
6. Add variety.
If you have a standard cardio routine, try varying your intensity, speed, incline, or interval length on the treadmill, or build a simple circuit using a few machines, suggests Forsing. But remember, if you’re switching machines, you should transition quickly to maintain an elevated heart rate. Change speed, intensity, incline on the treadmill, do intervals with hard efforts, then easier ones.
If you have a regular circuit — either cardio or strength — that you go to, change it up in anyway you see fit. “Even just do everything you’ve always done and do it backward,” says Forsing. “It changes which muscles fatigue first,” and that changes how hard different muscles work in the beginning of the workout and at the end.
Are you good about changing up your workout? I am with most things, but if I’m leading myself in a yoga flow, I really struggle to change up the order. I’m just so used to what I always do! —Kristen