With summer winding down and your focus shifting to upcoming school sports, now is a good time to think about how you can change up your workout to stay engaged and motivated.
Follow these six tips to revive stale workouts by incorporating variety and changing intensity.
1. Hold dumbbells overhead or at shoulder level during lower-body exercises.
This approach makes Squats, Step-Ups and Forward, Side and Reverse Lunges more challenging. Holding moderately heavy dumbbells overhead or at shoulder level simultaneously engages upper-body muscles such as the biceps (particularly when you use an underhand grip at shoulder level), shoulders and triceps and optimally engages core muscles. You can substitute a moderately heavy medicine ball, holding the ball at shoulder level or overhead.
2. Add isometric reps.
Instead of performing all reps in a conventional up-and-down movement with full range of motion, do some exercises using isometric reps to further challenge your muscles. Isometrics is a training mode in which the joint angle and muscle length remain fixed during contraction. Isometric exercises are done in a stationary position rather than moving through a full range of motion.
According to Dave Tuttle, author of 50 Ways to Build Muscle Fast, "isometric exercise can boost your gains by providing another stimulus for muscle growth. After a set of progressive resistance exercise, maintain isometric tension for 15 to 20 seconds without holding your breath. Strength gains from isometrics are specific to the joint angle trained, so try to mimic the action you did during your set as much as possible."
Isometric reps are especially well-suited for bodyweight exercises (e.g., Pull-Ups, Inverted Rows, Push-Ups and Wall Squats) and for barbell or dumbbell exercises such as Bent-Over Rows and Overhead Presses. Hold the last rep of each set for 15-20 seconds, or just do one long rep instead of 8-12 conventional reps as one set of an exercise, holding the contracted position for as many seconds as possible.
RELATED: Get Stronger with Isometric Training
3. Perform every exercise with one foot off the floor.
Training with one foot off the floor improves balance and core strength—two components of enhanced sports performance. Try this with Single-Leg Squats, Upright and Bent-Over Rows, Inverted Rows, Push-Ups, Planks, Bench Dips and Overhead Presses.
4. Perform all exercises upright.
Performing exercises while standing greatly promotes fat-burning metabolism and core strength compared to doing several seated or supine exercises. Excellent standing exercises include Squats, Deadlifts, Power Cleans, Overhead Presses, Upright and Bent-Over Rows, and Cable or Med Ball Lunges, Twists and Chops.
Boost size and strength, and burn more fat by doing standing combo exercises (e.g., Squat with Overhead Press, Side Lunge with Med Ball Press-Out, and Forward Lunge with Upright Row). Multi-joint upper- and lower-body combo lifts simultaneously move several joints per exercise, thereby involving more muscle groups, which stimulates overall muscle growth.
5. Experiment occasionally by performing core exercises first instead of last.
It's common to start with Bench Presses, Squats or Rows, saving abdominal and other core-strengthening movements for last. However, if you want to prioritize core-strengthening in the off-season, perform core exercises first, when your core muscles are fresh and you have the most energy, rather than later in the workout when fatigue has set in. Try V-Ups, Lunges with Twists, Seated or Standing Med Ball Chops and Twists, Mountain Climbers, Inchworms, Supermen, Bird Dogs, and Crabwalks.
6. Mix plyometric (explosive) reps with regular reps during each set.
Explosive reps build power and size, two other key sports-performance enhancing components, and combining the reps with regular up-and-down reps places added stress on the targeted muscle group. Examples:
- 1 set of 5 explosive Push-Ups (hands leaving floor between reps) followed by 5 regular Push-Ups
- 5 Jump Squats off and on a box immediately followed by 5 regular barbell or dumbbell Squats
- 5 Squat Thrusts immediately followed by 5 Single-Leg Squats per leg
- 5 Burpees followed by 5 Push-Ups
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