Everyone who’s ever embarked upon a workout regimen knows what it’s like to hit that plateau; you get frustrated, and simply increasing the length or intensity of your workouts only gives you diminishing returns. Our bodies are just too good at adapting to the workouts that we throw at them. That’s why it’s important to constantly adapt your moves so that you never get too comfortable or fall into a rut. Here’s how you can mix up some traditional workouts to make them more effective.
We all turn to squats to tone up those glutes and build leg-strength. But those big muscles adapt fast. One-legged squats are a good way to go, but you can extend the range-of-motion even more when you step up onto aerobic stairs or an elevated platform.
Lunges are a good start, and they also target your legs and butt. You can turn it up even further by turning to one-legged lunges, specifically with your off-leg held straight in front of you. You’ll be using one entire leg to lift your bodyweight, while holding the other aloft with your abs and hip-flexor muscles.
3. Triceps Dips
Who doesn’t want insane-looking arms? But if you’ve hit a plateau, the only way you’ll get more strength and definition is by doing plank-like pushups. Facing down, with your forearms flat on the floor, push yourself into plank position, keeping your elbows down. Then straighten your arms, using your triceps to lift your body up.
Crunches target too narrow a group of muscles, which tone up quickly, but make it hard to tone your entire stomach area. Here, you just want to go old school and mix things up with good old-fashioned sit-ups. Keep your back straight and hold your arms across your chest as you pull yourself up with the whole range of abdominal muscles. You’ll lose abdominal fat and develop that washboard look everyone covets.
If you really want to build your upper body, you have to confuse those arms, shoulders and chest muscles. Instead of simple up and down pushups, shift your weight fluidly from one arm to the other, moving your entire bodyweight from the right arm to the left. You’ll feel it immediately across all those tiny muscles you’ve been missing.
6. Dumbbell Curls
Your biceps will develop quickly with regular curls, and then you’ll get stuck. Instead of just adding weight, roll your curl into an immediate over-the-head press during each rep. You’ll target a plethora of other muscles, and your biceps will get worked in two different ways.
7. Bench Press
Using your arms together on the bench press is great for trying to build muscle. But working each arm individually is even better. Punch forward with individual dumbbells with one arm at a time, lifting your entire shoulder off the floor. You’ll be working a wider range of chest and shoulder muscle that way.
Burpees are brutal, and they get even more so when you add weights. Now, you don’t really want to clapping dumbbells over your head, so you can pull them up below your chin in the upright position instead. Take care to lift with your legs as you rise rather than your back.
9. Lat Pulldown
Building up your back is tough, but lat pulldowns almost always end up with you using your abs to pull more than your shoulders. Lying on your back, pulling dumbbell pullover forward over your head makes it a lot easier to target those muscles. If you place your shoulders up and have to hold your torso parallel to the floor, you can’t use your abs to pull them down because they’re busy holding your body rigid.
Bridges are good for building your abs, back and glutes. You can amp this up by doing them on one leg, and then pushing up the other leg fully extended. Your hip-flexors and quads will really burn.
Author bio: Matthew Stone blogs for LiveFitThrive.com. He is an avid free-runner and martial arts enthusiasts who writes about fitness, nutrition and health.