3 Simple Strategies for a Better Workout

STACK Expert Mark Bransky discusses three common problems that slow results in the weight room and tells how to solve them.

Nothing beats the feeling of improvement. The fulfillment you feel after conquering your mountainous workout routines can fuel you to new heights. You will push yourself longer, harder and faster.

The gym is typically our local watering hole for triumph and pats on the back. The weights allow us to better ourselves and meet challenges not faced in our day-to-day lives.

But what happens when the results slow down? The thrill of putting on one more plate than the week before leads to defeat instead of success. It's like a superhero who is bested by an adversary for the first time.


It's time to get creative. Obviously the old routine was not working. Let's change things up. But how?

Seeking your goal with exercise can be complex. What exercise should I choose? How many reps? How many sets? How should it change? There are so many ways to exercise, it's not uncommon to feel lost or to freeze up.

Here are some common mistakes and solutions to help you progress to your goal:

Progressing Too Fast

It's a fantastic feeling to push our limits to see what we can do. We constantly want to explore our various capacities, whether it's adding mileage to a run or a plate to the barbell, or attempting that darn muscle-up.

While overload is necessary to create change, sometimes our bodies plateau. We simply cannot continue getting faster and stronger. It's quite common for the rate we adapt to slow down. The problem occurs when we progress our routine disproportionately to the rate of adaptation. This may lead to problems such as injury or discouragement.

Patience is a key to quality results. Try these subtle changes to break past plateaus.

Aerobic training: Add time not mileage. It's common to add distance to cardiovascular efforts. But adding an extra measly mile adds up to 10 minutes of effort. Add 2 to 3 minutes of effort per session weekly and watch your aerobic endurance skyrocket.

Strength training: Increasing strength is a common goal. Choose a weight that is challenging for 8 repetitions. Train at that weight until you can complete 4 sets of 12 reps. If you do that two sessions in a row, it's time to add 5 percent to the load.

Progressing Too Slowly

Many of us have our "routines"—the same exercises week in and week out, maybe for years. Sure it's familiar, but are you actually getting the results you want? We all know insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result. It's time to plan progressions.

Changing an aspect of your routine daily or weekly has been shown to improve performance faster than changing once a month.

There are many ways to change up a routine. Think of your routine in terms of exercises, intensity and duration. Change one or two things every week.

Exercise Intensity Reps
Week 1 Barbell Chest Press   75%  12
Week 2 Barbell Chest Press   80%  10
Week 3 Dumbbell Chest Press   83%   8
Week 4 Dumbbell Chest Press   85%   6

Performing a workout that used to get results but now leaves you tired and stagnant is no way to achieve your potential. Increase load and reps for strength. For endurance, increase reps and reduce rest.

Changing the acute variables will subtly push your body every week. You'll get amazing results with very little effort.

Equally Consistent and Varied

The challenge for fitness enthusiasts is not whether we go to the gym; it's what we do when we get there. The typical programming pitfalls of aggressively pushing the body beyond its limits or milking an unchanging routine for all it's worth can result in the same thing: unsustainable results.

Subtle changes lead to significant results.

Decide on the purpose of your program, whether it's endurance, strength, hypertrophy or power. Change a small component of your workout each week and work toward your goal. The change will be subtle but consistent.


Rhea, Matthew R., Stephen D. Ball, Wayne T. Phillips, and Lee N. Burkett. "A Comparison of Linear and Daily Undulating Periodized Programs with Equated Volume and Intensity for Strength." The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 16.2 (2002): 250. Web.

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