The best exercise for you: the one you’re not doing
When you think about exercise, it’s not just about what you’re doing. It’s about the opportunity cost: we measure an exercise’s value based on how it stacks up with what you could be doing instead.
This is why it’s so easy to be a perfectionist in health and fitness. Today we’re going to talk about what you’re not doing and how it could improve your life.
Read on if you want to make sure you’re not missing out on the results you’re training for.
What you are Doing
The routine you’re in is your best friend and worst enemy. It’s the reason you’ve gotten to where you’re at, but too much of it will rapidly lead to you getting stuck in the mud. If you’ve been training for more than half a year, you’ve probably experienced a little bit of this already.
This is called plateauing; your performance has been stuck in the same place. Maybe you’re coming to the end of your training as a beginner, or perhaps it’s a temporary blip in the smooth upward-trend of your progress. They’re both totally possible and finding out which it is will take a bit of time.
You adapt to the stresses you put yourself under on a daily basis. This mean that you’re going to ‘accommodate’ certain types of exercise and training-volume. That catch 22 is this: you have to train in ways that are specific to your goal, but you also have to make sure that you’re varying your training so that you don’t get stuck, bored, and stagnant.
The Best Exercise: The One You’re Not Doing
If you’re struggling with plateaus or you’re getting bored of doing the same thing repeatedly, the best workout is the one you’re not doing. The alternatives to your favourite or most common exercises.
Changing exercise selection is an easy and effective way to improve your training-response with very little effort.
This is essential if you’re a beginner, especially. During the early days of your training (or when you first switch to serious exercise), you can make great results and the best way to cement your long-term gains is to learn how to move better. A wide variety of exercises is key to developing a good foundation for the rest of your life.
If you’ve been training less than a year and you’re stalling on a certain exercise, one of the best choices is to use a different exercise (or multiple) for the same muscle group and stimulate new growth.
How do you pick the best new exercise for your goals?
Joint angle and muscle length play a crucial role in how we process specificity and variety. This is one of the easiest ways of varying training and providing a totally different training experience. This will develop the same muscles (mostly) and break the accommodation. You can spend a few sessions or weeks on this alternative then switch back and you’ll likely keep progressing!
For example, you can take out those seated presses and try a floor press for your shoulders and triceps. The same muscles, but different angles, different challenges, and a totally new training stimulus.
Focus on your weaknesses. This is a huge lesson by itself. When you look for alternatives, try and find what is weak and focus on that. It’s a great way to strengthen the weak link in your normal movement, and the change in stimulus will bring new growth and progress.
For example, if you know that your hamstrings are weak and it’s affecting squats or cycling, spend some time focusing on Romanian deadlifts or the dumbbell death march. These are great for fixing this particular problem, and you’ll see improvements in your squat and riding as a result.
ENJOY YOURSELF! You won’t hear this one often, but it’s a key part of variety. Your training needs to be enjoyable or you’ll stop turning up.
Variety can be about finding the fun in a workout and improving your adherence. If you’ve been doing the same exercise for 8-12 weeks, maybe it’s time to switch it up. Swap out those lunges for Bulgarian split squats – you’ll see rapid progress on a new exercise, different experiences in training, and the change will keep it interesting.
It’s a fine balance between specificity and variety. You need to keep marching towards your goals, but it’s important to remember that variety is great and there are many different paths to great fitness!