This is a frequently asked question. Currently, there are no research-based, standardized guidelines to follow, yet it is frequently reported that changing workouts will prevent injuries, and I’ve heard or read more times than I can remember that if you continue to do the same exercise for long periods of time that your body will eventually hit a plateau and the exercise will stop being effective. Guess what, there is no evidence to support either claim!!!
It is true that injury can occur as the result of training and not letting there body recover sufficently (for example, 10km of running every couple of days), but typically, in these cases, it’s not repeating the same activity over and over that causes the injury, but rather:
- a rapid increase in intensity or duration,
- not enough downtime left for recovery, or
- the individual has pushed their body beyond their physical capabilities
In fact, one could make the opposite argument; that an individual might get injured changing workouts. Consider, for example, someone who has been using the rowing machine four times a week for more than a year and then suddenly switches to the treadmill, but pushes too hard because they are fit, and winds up injured because treadmill running is more pounding on the joints than the Rowing Machine.
As for the body eventually hitting a plateau and fitness decreasing if you continue with the same routine, not only isn’t there any research to back up this claim, but biologically it doesn’t make sense.
That’s because your body maintains fitness as long as the stimuli remains consistent. If you consistently run five km’s every day at the same pace, then oxygen delivery and all the other physiological mechanisms responsible for fitness necessary to run this distance will remain constant.
It is true that in the first few weeks or months of a training program there is a learning curve where the body becomes biomechanically more efficient (for example, the more you practice golf the better you get), and when you move efficiently, you burn fewer calories than when you move inefficiently, but eventually you reach a consistent level of biomechanical efficiency and then energy expenditure and heart rate remain the same for the same level of exertion.
Take Olympic marathon runners. They do virtually no other activity to train besides running 60- to 70-plus miles per week and yet you’d be hard pressed to argue that their strength or endurance or performance diminishes over time. To the contrary, elite runners tend to improve performance over time.
In strength training, there is a technique called periodization where three training variables are manipulated:
- timing (monthly cycles during the year),
- volume (how many reps and sets you lift),
- andintensity (how hard or how much weight you lift)
An example of a basic periodization model would be to lift lightly with high reps (12-15) for two months to increase your muscular endurance and tone, then transition to higher weight and fewer reps for the next two months to build strength, and then take a month off to recover and let your body grow before beginning a new cycle.
Proponents of periodization claim that practicing the model will prevent injury, increase strength, and improve performance. There is some research to support these claims, but it must be stated that improvements will depend on the training status of the individual (untrained individuals will have better results at the beginning, rather than seasoned gym goers), and research shows that strength improves significantly even if the program is nonperiodized.
I know individuals who rarely change their workouts but maintain their fitness and remain injury-free. I believe, however, that there is value in the periodization model.
How often should you change your workout? Like I said, there are no firm guidelines, but you could, if you like, change your workout every 12 weeks so that you give the workout enough time to take effect on your body.
If you are interested in booking an Personal Training Session, Either online or face to face, please email Shanewalshfitness@gmail.com and I will be more than happy to help.