Changing Too Much?
We’ve all probably heard these phrases spoken in and around the gym:
“You gotta keep the muscles guessing.” “Change things up so your muscles don’t get bored.”
Bologna! This kind of gym lore attempts to give the muscles powers they just don’t have. While these popular notions may sound good and satisfy the criteria for “cool-sounding gym lingo,” they are hogwash. They’re based on the assumption that a mindless mass of meaty tissue that we call “muscle” is not mindless at all but possesses some kind of intelligence and personality. It’s like saying your muscles have the ability to judge your work-outs and hypothesize as to what your next exercise will feel like.
Maybe we should purchase a Nintendo game for our quadriceps -- you know, in case they get bored in their spare time.
The fact is that muscle is dumb as a rock. It can’t do anything without the power of your brain driving it. You don’t need to “trick your muscle”; you need to trick your mind because the mind controls the muscle. It is the mind that determines which fibers to recruit and how much muscle to use on any given exercise.
Don’t think you need to change exercises every two days. Sure you want to avoid getting into a rut and there’s definitely something to be said about your routine becoming, well, too “routine.” Sure, you don’t want to be like the sweaty guy at the gym with the bandana and high socks, who’s been doing the same thing for five years. However, there’s nothing wrong with following the same exercise regimen for a month or so. In fact, you’d be selling yourself short if you changed more frequently than that because you’d be abandoning the exercise prematurely. This will rob you of the adaptation and physiological benefits associated with mastering the exercise. Science says it takes approximately four to six weeks for your brain to get used to a certain exercise. Therefore, it takes about that long to realize the full body-shaping potential of an exercise and about that long before you need to actually change something in order to perpetuate progress.
As long is something is working, keep doing it. As long as you’re getting better at an exercise, keep doing it. When progress does slow down, don’t fully abandon the exercises: Try a change of grips or lighten the weight and lift at a different speed. You’ll know when you hit a wall; when you do, then add in a variation.
Here’s the point: People get good at things they do often. The things they do often determine how they look. Sooner or later your body will start to take on characteristics associated with what you do often, so choose quality exercises and do them often. Put this philosophy to the test and expect greater results than any of the gym myths about muscle boredom can ever give.