There comes a time in any program when the exercises become too easy. Time to load the bar up with more weight right? Likely not. The most popular and obvious progression to increase the difficulty of any exercise is to add weight, but chances are, it isn’t always appropriate.
Certain exercises like squats create a vertical compressive force on the spine. In that case, adding more plates may not always be the right choice. Beginners, for one, build strength extremely fast. Within the first few months, a new lifter may be able to add 30-40 pounds to their main lifts. Considering their skeletal and muscular systems are still adapting to lifting, constantly adding on pounds could potentially lead to injury. Advanced lifters also fall into the mindset of adding more weight to get stronger. At a certain point, sliding on more plates may do more harm than good. To prevent plateauing and encourage progress, lifters should tweak exercises every few weeks. Dan Trink, director of training operations at Peak Performance, modifies exercises frequently with his clients. “As a general rule of thumb I change exercises every 3 to 5 weeks. This gives the trainee enough exposure to progress in the exercise and learn the motor patterns but is short enough to avoid potential plateaus in developing strength.”
There are a lot of additional exercise varieties that can increase the difficulty of an exercise without focusing on extra poundage. Some focus on tempo whereas others provide a slight variation in exercise depth, speed, or direction. Trink uses a variety of progressions in his programs including “pauses in disadvantageous positions, altering tempo and total time under tension.” To help you advance your current program, we’ve provided our favorite methods to amp up your routine. Rather than solely focus on weight, add these variations to your workouts to increase strength levels and prevent plateaus.