New Exercises Reap Greater Gains

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New workouts, new benefits.

Do you know what makes humanity such an interesting species? Apposable thumbs? Our love of cat videos? Good guesses, but not quite; our best feature is adaptability. With a little time and brainpower, we can adapt to just about any situation, both on purpose and instinctively. Unfortunately, in the realm of exercise, this actually works to our detriment. When you perform one kind of exercise too much, your body gets used to it and you hit the plateau. Your body has adapted to the particular pressures of your favorite exercise, but without those pressures, your gains are dramatically reduced.

This is why it’s important to switch up your routine on a regular basis. You don’t even have to change it drastically; just a slight shift in focus can get you going up a hill again instead of gliding across the plateau. That’s the extra wrinkle about our inherit adaptability: it’s highly specialized. We adapt, but we adapt to very specific things. Change the stimulus even a little, and as far as your muscles are concerned, it’s like an entirely new experience.

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To give you an example, let’s say you go for a jog every day. It works your legs, flexes your lungs, and all that good stuff. But after a week or so of that, your legs have learned to anticipate that particular flavor of pressure, and you’ve instinctively adapted your breathing. However, what if you replace that jog with light cycling? It’s effectively the same thing, leg-focused cardio, but because the motions are different, that previous adaptation doesn’t apply, and your body has to start over.

If you take advantage of these adaptational blind spots, you can get in some really great workouts. Yeah, it’s a little weird to have to trick your body like that, but I guess that’s just one more skill we got from adapting, right?