6 Signs You Need to Switch Up Your Workout
These factors might be holding you back from making some serious gains
1. You’re losing interest in your workout
Let’s face it: If you’re doing the same routine, on the same days, in the same order, with the same load, your mind—and your body—is going to get bored. And since losing interest in working out is one of the top reasons people quit their exercise program, you need to figure out what’s sapping your interest, fast.
“If someone is bored with their workout, it’s probably because they have no purpose or incentive in the first place,” explains trainer Tony Gentilcore, C.S.C.S., owner of CORE in Boston, Massachusetts.
He suggests attaching yourself to a performance-based goal—say, increasing lower body strength in order to crush a challenging mountain bike course—which will give you purpose in your training and make working out less boring (To get strong glutes, try these hip thrust variations).
2. You’re getting hurt all the time
Pain beyond simple soreness in a muscle area after working it is a sign that something’s not right.
If these pains start to show up when you’re doing a certain movement, this could be a sign you’ve reached a threshold pattern called pattern overload—an injury to the soft tissues resulting from repetitive motion in one pattern of movement, explains Jack. For instance, you might keep noticing pain in the front part of your delts when you’re doing movements like overhead shoulder press or bench press.
“If someone is constantly getting hurt—whether it’s Crossfit, running, powerlifting, or bodybuilding—more often than not, it’s a volume issue,” says Gentilcore. That means you’re probably working that specific part way too frequently, or with too many reps.
If you’re doing more than your body can withstand, or making aggressive jumps in your volume on a week-to-week basis, you increase the likelihood of getting hurt.
3. Your workouts leave you beat instead of energized
Your workouts should give you more energy, not leave you feeling exhausted.
“If your internal acknowledgment of what it means to have a ‘good workout’ is that you should be crawling out of the gym each time you leave, then you know it’s time to switch things up,” says Jack. He explains that you should have at least one or two workouts a week that leave you feeling awesome—like you could do more, but you don’t.
Gentilcore agrees, and says that he would rather have guys leave the gym refreshed and wanting more. “Grinding out reps here and there is valuable, but when it’s a regular thing, it rarely results in consistent progress, and it affects your ability to recover.” Plus, it can put you in a mental drain, too.
Continually feeling sapped after a workout could signal overtraining, too—and that’s a definite sign you need to rethink your routine.
“If you workout four days or more a week, and you haven’t deloaded or taken a complete week off in three to four months, then you are absolutely due for a reset,” says Jack. So go ahead, take that week off, or at least schedule in a deload week, where you give your body a break. Try activities like swimming, yoga, or bodyweight only exercises.
4. You’re not seeing changes in the mirror
You show up and put the time in, yet nothing seems to be changing. If this is happening, Jack says you need to ask yourself one important question: Are my goals and expectations realistic? “When it comes to physique goals, the stakes are higher and the narrow of margin is smaller,” Jack explains. The food you eat and the training methods you follow both matter.
But if your gains have stalled? This can happen if you’re not working as hard as you think you are, or if you’re working too hard, and are actually overtraining, as we mentioned above.
Another reason: You’re not addressing any muscle weaknesses, says Gentilcore.
Think of it like this. Let’s say you have a weakness in your posterior chain, or the back of your body. If you don’t work on strengthening your glutes and hamstrings, for instance, they’re always going to be the factor holding you back from improving on your deadlifts. And if you can’t progress with your lifts, well, you’re not going to see results.
If you notice these imbalances, you should place an emphasis on incorporating strengthening moves for them into your workout. So for posterior chain weakness, you might want to try performing glute ham raises, kettlebell swings, deadlift variations, back extensions, step-ups, or hip-dominant lunges.
5. You’re losing strength
Nothing’s worse than hitting it hard at the gym and actually losing strength. If you’re training log is showing a decrease in weight—and not the kind on the scale—then you might want to pay attention to what Gentilcore has to say. “Almost always, this is a ‘too much volume’ issue. People have a tendency to add ‘stuff’ to their programs without taking something out. The belief is ‘more is better,’ which leads to putting quantity over quality.”
He also says that if you’re losing strength, you’re most likely doing too much and not allowing enough time to recover. “Guys are quick to ask about the latest supplement they should be taking to aid with recovery—save yourself the $80 and just go to bed.”
6. You’re replicating your workout day after day—after day
If your workouts are the same length each time you hit the gym, then it’s time to switch it up. If you find yourself doing the same exercises—the exact same way—and visiting the same machines day in and day out, it’s time to make a change. If you’re moving your body the same way all the time, then you need to incorporate some new moves.
And it doesn’t need to be just new exercises, either: Trying a new sport or even a new kind of workout class—say, try spin or bootcamp if you never venture out of the weight room, says Jack.