12 Ways to Add Variety to a Stale Off-Season Workout

STACK Expert Jim Carpentier offers 12 suggestions to cure workout boredom and improve your results.

An off-season workout can get boring if you don't see results as quickly as you'd like. It's important to keep things interesting, because sometimes progress can be slow. Here are some tips to keep your workouts challenging and creative, so you keep going through the plateaus.

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Vary your workout time

Changing your usual workout time from, say, always after school to before school for a few weeks can change your mental approach and enhance each training session.

Vary your workout length

Who says you always have to train 30, 45 or 60 minutes to get a thorough workout? An intense 15-minute full-body workout can be just as productive as one spread out over 30 to 45 minutes.

Change or mix repetition tempo each set

Take 10 seconds to lift the weight and five seconds to lower it for 4-6 reps. Next, perform a set emphasizing the negative (eccentric) part of the lift by lowering in 15 seconds and raising in two seconds. Simply altering the repetition speed every set not only makes the exercise more intense but also gives it an innovative twist.

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Mix bodyweight exercises with free-weight exercises

Substitute elevated Push-Ups (feet atop a bench) for Incline Bench Presses and swap Pull-Ups for Dumbbell Rows. Substitute Barbell Squats for Step-Ups during your next workout for a refreshing change.

Change workout location

Instead of always working out in the weight room, take your workout outdoorsespecially during the warmer months. Use park benches or playground equipment for various bodyweight exercises such as Bench Dips, Elevated Push-Ups, Step-Ups or Pull-Ups. Use a medicine ball outdoors for several upper- and lower-body exercises such as Lunges and Press-Outs. Attach a portable cable to a post or tree branch for pulling movements.

Take shorter rests between sets

Reducing your rest time between sets from 60 seconds to 15 to 30 seconds not only intensifies a workout, but also makes training more time-efficient, particularly when you're scheduling workouts around other activities and academics. Shorter rests between sets also simulate the brief rests between sports action—better preparing you for games while improving your endurance.

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Reverse exercise sequence

Why always start workouts in the same exercise order? Mix up a full-body workout each time by doing back and shoulder exercises, then legs, then chest, and ending with core exercises, for example. Next session, begin with core exercises, then train legs, chest, and back and shoulder exercises.

Change up resistance for each workout

For one session, use cables and a medicine ball for all exercises. For your next workout, use dumbbells or kettlebells for similar exercises. For the third workout, just hold a 45-pound plate for upper- and lower-body exercises such as Squats, Lunges, Step-Ups, Suitcase Walks, Press-Outs, Overhead Presses and Bent-Over Rows.

Switch from body-part workouts to full-body workouts

Instead of risking overtraining symptoms (e.g., joint and muscle soreness, physical and mental fatigue) by scheduling high-intensity specific body-part workouts five or six days per week, cut back on training volume by doing just full-body workouts on non-consecutive days two or three times a week to optimize recovery. Reducing training frequency may also enhance strength and size gains. On non-training days, focus on active recovery activities such as brisk walking, light jogging, stretching or yoga.

Mix supersets and compound sets with regular sets

To boost intensity and promote muscle growth and endurance, perform supersets and compound sets in conjunction with regular sets. Both supersets and compound sets involve performing two consecutive sets (without rest periods between them.) Supersets work muscles on both sides of a joint (e.g., work your quadriceps and hamstrings with Front Lunges immediately followed by Stiff-Legged Deadlifts.) Compound sets involve doing two consecutive exercises for the same body part with no rest (e.g., Cable Flys followed immediately by med ball Push-Ups target chest muscles.) Regular sets usually entail performing the same exercise with a specific rest period between sets (e.g., resting 30 seconds between 3 sets of Squats).

Include other conditioning elements during each workout

Instead of devoting each workout specifically to strength and muscle-building, focus on other conditioning aspects for peak sports performance. In a given 60-minute workout, do 30 minutes of upper- and lower-body weight training strength/muscle-building exercises, 15 minutes of speed/agility drills (e.g., multi-directional sprints), five minutes of muscular endurance exercises (e.g., as many Push-Ups or Burpees as possible in 30 seconds) and five minutes of cool-down static upper- and lower-body stretches for greater flexibility.

Do single-leg movements to improve balance

Doing all exercises standing on both legs, seated or supine on a bench definitely builds strength and size, but neglects another important sports conditioning factor: balance. Incorporate unilateral exercises such as Single-Leg Squats; perform Bent-Over Rows or Upright Rows on one leg; or do Push-Ups with one foot off the ground to improve balance. Bonus: Performing an exercise on one leg or with one foot off the ground also builds core strength by engaging the core stabilizer muscles to prevent you from falling.

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