Should you vary your workouts day-to-day?

So you have built up the motivation to start going to the gym and lifting weights. Congrats you have gotten past the first step to start getting into shape! Maybe you have already done your research about what exercises you should perform to get the results you are looking for. But sometime during that research, you probably came across a site saying that to get the best results, you need to vary workouts every day. It claims that you need to “keep your muscles guessing” by changing exercises and number of reps each workout, in order to promote the process of break down and rebuild. This, in fact, is not true. According to Michael Clevidence, a researcher of exercise performance at Ohio University, it takes the muscles around 4 weeks to fully get used to the exercises, sets, and reps that you are performing. This means that the muscles will keep breaking down and rebuilding bigger for about a month into your workout routine. After these 4 weeks, you can simply change the number of reps and sets of each exercise that you are performing. This is where the 4 phase rotation comes into play.

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The 4 phase rotation, scientifically known as periodization, has been researched and been proven to most effectively improve overall fitness. The first 4 weeks of the rotation are dedicated to hypertrophy, also known as muscle growth. During this phase, you will perform 3-6 sets of 8-15 reps with 1-2 minutes in between each set. The next phase is the strength phase where you are going to be focusing on getting your muscles to lift the most weight possible. Throughout this phase, you will be performing 4-5 sets of less than 6 reps with 3-5 minutes in between each set. The third phase is the endurance phase where the focus is on improving how your muscles perform with light resistance over an extended period of time. For this phase, you will be performing 6-8 sets of 15 or more reps with less than 30 seconds in between each set. The final phase is the power phase which focuses on decreasing the amount of time it takes for your muscles to produce their maximum possible force. This sounds very similar to strength and in fact the 2 are very complimentary. Strength increases the maximum force your muscles can produce and power reduces the amount of time it takes to produce this force. Throughout this phase, you will be performing 5-6 sets of 1-5 reps with 5-6 minutes in between sets. For the power phase, focus on lifting the weight fast (but controlled). Like if you are bench pressing, imagine you are trying to throw the weight up and hit the ceiling (but make sure to actually hold onto the weight. For each phase, each set should be performed with a weight where it is challenging to complete the number of reps listed. So for the strength phase, you should be using near the max amount of weight you can possibly lift. After you complete the full 4 phase rotation, you can either restart it with the same exercises to see how much you have improved, or change the exercises in order to work different parts of each muscle group and to just add a level of excitement. By following this rotation, you will be able to improve your overall fitness instead of just hyper-improving one part of it.

Weeks Phase # of Sets # of Reps Rest Time
1-4 Hypertrophy 3-6 8-15 1-2 min
5-8 Strength 4-5 <6 3-5 min
9-12 Endurance 6-8 >15 <30 sec
13-16 Power 5-6 1-5 5-6 min

Visit to read more about periodization.

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