[Editor's Note: Tampa Bay Buccaneers Head Strength and Conditioning Coach Jay Butler is part of a rotating panel of Buccaneer experts who will be providing advice all season to those who have taken the UnitedHealthcare Get Fit! Pledge. In the eighth of our weekly installments, Butler discusses the reasons that a new workout regimen might not be returning the desired results, and how to change that.]
Okay, you've taken the initial step. You've identified what you want to get out of your fitness program and you've listened to the advice of my colleagues as far as dietary changes, avoiding injury and following a detailed plan. In terms of your workout regimen, hopefully you have established some sort of routine that you have been able to stick with.
If you have established a routine, that's good, but now you want to make sure that you are changing it, evolving it. Last time we talked about "periodization," or the progression of weight and intensity in your workouts. This is something that you need to do over a period of time in order to get the results that you want. You can evolve your workout by changing exercises, adding volume or increasing intensity. There are a million different ways to train different muscle groups, and exercise variation is a very good way to keep making gains. You don't want to always be doing the same exercise or the same amount. For example, let's say that the bench press is a normal part of your workout. Vary your approach – go to a dumbbell bench press for a couple weeks or an incline press or some other variation to work your chest and triceps in a different way.
It's a good idea to keep your workout fresh and frequently change what you do. You can't always do the same thing, not only because different workouts will develop different muscle groups but also because, mentally, you need that variety to stay interested and engaged. You'll see better gains with variety, because your body is going to adapt to what demands you put on it. You need to challenge it in new ways or you'll find yourself stuck at the same level.
This is Week Eight of your program, if you started with us at the beginning of the Get Fit! initiative. You should be seeing some gains at this point. If you're not, please don't get discouraged, but do realize that you have to make some changes. You should be advancing in your workouts – that periodization we discussed – and if you're not, there could be a couple of reasons.
One could simply be effort. You may need to try a little harder, to push yourself just a little more. You also may need to get more rest. All of the things you've read about here over the last two months – nutrition, setting goals – are an important part of this process, and so is rest. You need to let your body recover. Getting enough sleep is as important as the workout itself. You need to take care of yourself. Hit the gym, eat healthily – I know Kevin [Luhrs] has given you a lot of good nutritional advice – and rest.
Listen, there's a reason why you're doing this. You want to get results. If you're not making gains, you need to re-examine your plan and potentially make some changes to your habits and routines.
That said, let me also make this clear: It takes time. More and more these days, I think people expect immediate gratification. The truth is, the process of getting fit is a slow and steady one. Remember that you have only been at this for seven or eight weeks. If you're making any kind of incremental progress, then you're on the right track. Sometimes people get discouraged when they look in the mirror every day and don't see a difference from the day before. Don't fall into that trap. Instead, measure your progress from the point where you started seven or eight weeks ago to now. Has there been improvement? If you're truly sticking to your regimen, you can probably say yes, and that should encourage you to stick with it. Remember that what you're trying to do here is make permanent changes to your lifestyle that will make you healthier, stronger and happier in the long run.
You should definitely see some improvement after seven or eight weeks. If you haven't, then again, it's time to re-examine what you are doing and make some changes so that you can get the results that you want. Remember: Variety will help you both physically and mentally, and periodization in your workouts will keep the results coming. Good luck and stay strong!
- Buccaneers' Head Strength and Conditioning Coach Jay Butler