First is the need for progression. As you get stronger and adapt to your routine, your program should reflect that. The most common ways to progress in the gym are by increasing weight and repetitions. If at first you can lift 10lbs for 15 reps in any given exercise, you should strive to lift more weight or be able to perform more reps. Other ways to progress are in number of sets (volume), increased time under tension (how long it takes to move the weight), and level of exercise.
Level of exercise is an important aspect of progression that is often ignored. An example of this would be building strength in pushups on your knees to be able to perform regular pushups, and then more advanced pushup variations.
Let’s use building strength to perform normal pushups as an example. An incline pushup would be the most specific, because it engages your core just like you would in a normal pushup. It’s just a little regressed. A pushup on your knees would be more general, because it doesn’t engage your core as much. A plank would also be more general because it engages your core, but doesn’t require any pressing. Lastly, in this example, a seated machine press would be the most general, because you’re in a seated position (as opposed to facing the floor like a pushup), and there isn’t any core strength required for this exercise. However, a machine press still can be useful for building pushup strength, because you can focus on building JUST pressing strength.
Exercises selected for your program must be comfortable. If something hurts, don’t do it. If something doesn’t feel “right”, ask for help or try something else. The exercises you choose must also be modified or changed for different body structures, and individual limitations or injuries. Fit the exercise to the person, not the person into the exercise!
Besides the obvious factor of getting to the gym, you need to follow your program that is progressive and specific to your goals. Too much variation, or “changing it up” sacrifices consistency, and your whole program topples over. Not fun.
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