There is a term in exercise science called the SAID principle. It stands for Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands. This means that the body will eventually adapt to the exercise demands that you place upon it. As this occurs, the body becomes more efficient at performing those exercises, and the results seen from those exercises become less noticeable. That explains why you can obtain excellent results with a perfectly designed 6 week exercise program, but then become disappointed when you stay with the program for another 6 weeks and see no additional results. Sometimes, rather than re-designing your entire training program, it can help to introduce a few simple variations to keep your body guessing and continually responding to exercise. Here are 5 basic strategies to infuse some intensity:
- Combine exercises. This strategy works especially well when combining upper and lower body exercises. For instance, if you currently are in a full body routine that includes a squat and a shoulder press, then combine those two exercises into a single exercise in which you perform a squat, stand, and perform a shoulder press. Other examples include a lunge and curl, vertical jump and pushup, or medicine ball lift and throw. The caloric and performance demands placed upon the body will increase as the number of multi-joint combination exercises increase.
- Cardio boosts. These can be infused into any exercise program. Rather than resting between sets, perform a set of 30, 60, or 90 second cardio boosts in your downtime. For example, if your program requires 4 sets of 10 benchpress, then run to stationary bicycle and do a 1 minute sprint between each set. You’ll burn more calories, make the bench pressing harder, and increase the metabolic demand of your entire workout.
- Take it outside. Any of those long, slow cardio workouts can become exciting and more intense when you turn them into an outdoor adventure. For instance, instead of your usual 45 minute jaunt on an elliptical trainer, grab a set of dumbbells or a weighted backpack and hit the hiking trails. The new angles and movements will be sure to throw a curve ball at your body. Don’t know any trails? Try www.hikingandbackpacking.com, then visit your home state. Other options included mountain bicycling, rollerblading, or a local sporting association.
- Change the center of gravity. Do you currently use a barbell for your lunges? Try holding a set of dumbbells or a medicine ball instead. On a leg extension or curl machine, change the location of the pad on your legs. For a cable exercise, try moving the cable up or down a few notches. By simply altering the angle of force application or the shape of the weight used, you can place your body in an entirely new situation.
- Work out at a different time of day. The body can even adapt to become more efficient during specific time periods. Have you been strictly a morning exercise individual for the past few years? Throw your body for a loop and hit the gym an hour after dinner. You will experience an entirely different exercise feeling. For even more benefit, if you currently exercise after lunch, turn lunch into a nap session and hit the gym for an early morning workout instead.
This list is by no means comprehensive. There are dozens of ways to keep your body from adapting to imposed demands. Try to follow this rule – do not go for more than 4 weeks without significantly changing a specific aspect of your exercise program. As a matter of fact, this is the same approach used by professional athletes to allow their bodies to continually become better, faster and stronger. Try it for yourself and experience rewarding results!
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Until next time, train smart,
M.S. PE, NSCA-CPT, CSCS