Most people think that they need to make frequent wholesale changes in their program on a regular basis in order to see results from their workouts. The theory is that you need to keep the body “confused” in order to keep it adapting and getting results. I personally do not think that is needed and unless you are a bodybuilder, it may in fact hinder your training.
Seriously, who likes to be crippled or unable to sit down and stand up for a few days after a workout?
One of my favorite pieces of training advice comes from Pavel Tsatsouline and goes something like “just do the same but different”. He is referring to the fact that you don’t need to completely change every exercise – you can slightly change one component of an exercise and create something new for the body to adapt to. For example, simply changing your foot width from narrow to wide on the deadlift creates a different movement that is still based on the same exercise.
By switching between minor variations of key exercises you accomplish two critical things. First, you allow yourself a better chance to learn and perfect key movements. If you are always switching exercises in a random way you do not get a chance to really ingrain the lessons that best will translate to the trail.
Second, you avoid excessive muscle soreness. Without getting too far into the neural vs. metabolic adaptations in the body as a result of strength training, when you switch exercises too often you create more micro trauma in the muscle. This micro trauma is small tears in the muscle and causes the dreaded Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS).
DOMS is also a signal for your body to build more muscle which is why it is prized by bodybuilders. For the average mountain biker it can really interfere with their life, though. Seriously, who likes to be crippled or unable to sit down and stand up for a few days after a workout? If you don’t like it you’re smart – this is actually a signal that the body is hurting and that the last training session may have been too much.
When you “do the same but different” you still get the strength building signal you are looking for without excessive micro-trauma and soreness. Look to make small changes in your basic exercises from month to month and try to stick with the same routine for 3-6 weeks. Doing it this way will lead to better results and less muscle soreness, and who wouldn’t like that?
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