I started working out about 6 months ago and I have run into an issue. I seem to keep doing the same exercises and using similar workout routines every time I go into the gym. I think I probably need to add some variety into my program and would like to know if you can provide a sample weekly workout routine that I can follow. I would like to train during the week and have the weekends off to rest and relax. I only have access to dumbbells at the small apartment gym where I train at so if you can include these type of exercises in a weekly routine that would be great!
You definitely want to always add variety into your workouts in order to keep your muscles stimulated with new and different exercises. If you do the same movements week in and week out, there is no reason for your muscles to adapt and grow bigger and stronger since they are basically receiving the same stimulus each time and they get accustomed to this level of stress. You should always try to shock each muscle group every time you train in the gym. You can do this in a number of ways. Some of the best things to do include:
- Changing your repetitions and sets (high reps, low reps)
- Choosing different exercises (machines and free weights)
- Using multiple training techniques (drop sets, slow reps)
You might try a training technique called periodization which is basically switching up your overall repetition range and volume each week. For example, your first week of training might be a “light week” where you will do high reps (15-20) and less weight. The next week will be your “heavy week” and you will drop the reps down to 4-6 per set and go super heavy. You can also adjust the periodization for your overall sets (volume). On your light week, increase the overall sets per muscle group to 8-10. Then on your heavy week you will decrease this number down to only 4-5 sets per muscle group. This way you can train with maximum intensity on your heavy day and really push yourself on each set since you have just a few to do for each muscle group.
Choosing different exercises when training a muscle group is extremely important also. You never want to do the same movements every time you train because as I described earlier, your muscles will simply get used to the stimulation and will have no reason to grow. You can use our huge database of exercise guides to pick and choose the right exercises to include in your workout routines. Remember to include different training styles into your workouts along with the traditional weight lifting movements. These can include bodyweight exercises like pull-ups and pushups which are excellent muscle building movements and provide a different level of intensity since you are using your own body weight to perform the exercise.
Using multiple training techniques and principles adds another element into your training routine and it’s an excellent way to really overload a muscle to make it grow bigger and get stronger. Different training techniques can include:
Drop Sets – Perform a set with a specific weight and then immediately drop the weight and do another set of the same exercise with the lighter weight. You can really push yourself and do double and triple drop sets where you decrease the weight 2 to 3 times and really burn out the muscle. An example of this would be standing dumbbell curls where you basically go down the rack. For example, your first set might be 10-12 reps with 45 pound dumbbells, then go down the rack immediately and grab a pair of 35 pound dumbbells and do another 10-12 reps. If you have any gas left in the tank, do another drop set after this and pick up the 25 pound dumbbells for another 10-12 reps. I can guarantee your biceps will be on fire after this intense drop set! You can apply drop sets to any exercise such as the bench press, squats and leg press but you will probably need the help from a few spotters to remove the plates off the barbell or machine if you want to drop the weight quickly and maximize the intensity!
Tempo Training – This is another principle you can implement into your workouts. Using super slow and fast tempo training adds another element of stimulation to your muscles. Super slow reps are basically when you lower and raise the weight extremely slow on both the eccentric and concentric portions of the movement. It should take you about 4-5 seconds to lower the weight and 3-4 seconds to raise the weight. You can even go slower than this but it all depends on how intense you want to make it. On the flip side, you can also use high speed training for more of an explosion when you push the weight up on the concentric portion. This is a great way to shock the muscle and this type of training also works very well for athletes who are training for sports since it really helps to develop power and strength in explosive sports like football and basketball. Just be sure to really watch your technique and always use strict form since you will be lifting the weight very quickly and you need to make sure to avoid any possible injuries.
For a sample weekly workout schedule for you, I really like the push-pull training method and it’s a workout routine I like to recommend. With the push-pull method, you’re basically using pushing exercises on one day and pulling exercises on the next. This is a great way to split up your muscle groups over the course of a week. Here is a sample weekly workout routine using dumbbells:
- Dumbbell Lunges (3-4 sets of 12, 10, 8, 6 reps)
- Dumbbell Squats (3-4 sets of 12 reps)
- Straight Leg Deadlifts (3-4 sets of 10-12 reps)
- Dumbbell Calf Raises (3-4 sets of 20 reps)