Swellin To The Jammiez: The Spice of Life
Every metalhead worth their salt knows the value of variety. Hell, there are more genres of Metal than there are bands; listening to just one of those genres would be like eating only ginger beef at a Chinese Buffet; undeniably tasty, but ultimately boring and stupid. Likewise, the value of variety cannot be understated in a good workout routine. Adding some variety in a fitness routine keeps the muscle guessing on a neurological level (neurological strength is so fucking underrated it makes me want to scream), forces stability muscles into action, and keeps the dreaded bore of routine away. But how does one add variety to a lifting routine? Don’t fret your pretty, ponytailed little head. Paris Hilton is here to help you add some variety to your swole sessions and to the jams you spin while getting swole!
- GET A GRIP!
I find that one of the easiest and most effective ways to add variety to a routine is by simply switching grips on your exercises. Not only will slight differences in your grips feel different, they may also be working on muscles you’ve inadvertently neglected for years! Chin ups are a prime example of this. Don’t stick to just to the dull-as-dishwater neutral grip during your chins, challenge yourself to try a different grip on each set! This will isolate different back and stability muscles, as well as allow you to hit them in a minimal amount of time.
Something I also see a lot is that people will typically hit their chest flies (both lying dumbbell and cable) with a medial grip (palms facing inwards). Although this is a common way to hit flies, the problem with this grip is that you are isolating the shoulders more-so than the chest. If you want to get a good chest pump in order to fill out that white V-neck nicely and impress the fly honeys, try switching your grip to an inferior position (palms facing the floor). I know this sounds like a small change, but just give it shot and feel the difference. The smallest changes can have the biggest differences!
*Hannibal For King is the fucking master of using a variety of grips in his workout routines! I steal many of my core exercises from him because of their versatility (inb4 steroids because that could not be more obvious).*
- ONE LIMB IS BETTER THAN TWO
For athletic training, typically a program will include a variety of power exercises such as squats, deadlifts, and cleans, rather than isolation exercises such as leg presses or bicep curls. The reason being is that these exercises are much more effective for building stability and core strength, increasing explosiveness, and improving overall bodily awareness. The only problem is that these techniques can be difficult to master and quite daunting to a beginner! However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t add these principles to your routine to benefit yourself.
If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times: Dumbbells are the greatest exercise invention on this planet. They always have been, and they always will be. One of my personal strong points is my core strength, yet I very rarely do core workouts. The reason being is that I usually lift with dumbbells, so my stability muscles have to worry about balance, stabilization and carrying the load. With all of that work, core workouts just aren’t that necessary for me. Besides adding to your core strength, using dumbbells has another often overlooked advantage: the fact that you can work one-limb at a time with them.
The reason that this is such an advantage goes back to the neurological strength I was talking about. When you exert force with a dumbbell on your dominant side, both sides of the body are actually getting stronger! The nervous systems has a tendency to perform in symmetry, so when you hit an arm curl with the right arm the same synpatic messages are being sent to the left bicep. Consequently, you are actually strengthening both limbs! The synaptic receptors of the muscle multiply and strengthen in response to use, even visualizing a physical skill or weightlifting technique can make the muscles stronger! The implication that this has for you is that if you are stuck with weight on something like a bench press or deadlift, try adding dumbbell bench press or single leg Romanian deadlifts to your routine. You would be amazed what a difference training a single limb over both limbs simultaneously can make!
- CHANGE THE “FIT”
No, I don’t mean your ‘fit. Whatever you wear at the gym is just fine, no one is looking. Believe in yourself! No matter what you’re wearing, you probably look fine as fuck!
What I am referring to is the Frequency, Intensity, and Timing of your workouts. Lately, I have been hitting a plateau with the standard 5 day per week different muscle group split. I switched it up to a 4 day per week full body split and have been making more progress than I have in a long time! The reason being is that my body has gotten used to my old routine and has adapted. Skeletal muscle needs to be placed under stress in order to grow both neurologically and physiologically! Obviously, I changed the frequency, but a big part of making better progress is due to the fact that I also changed the intensity by adding plyometric exercise, Olympic lifts, and gymnastic based training into my lifting routines.
There’s many other ways you can change intensity, the most common is increasing the weight you are lifting. If you can’t change the weight, up the sets, if you can’t up the sets, then up the reps. My favorite way to increase intensity without changing the weight is by upping the sets and reps as well as doing my exercises slowly during the eccentric (muscle lengthening) phase of the exercise. For example, during an arm curl be sure to let the weight down nice and slow in order to keep the muscle working for a longer period of time per set. Milliseconds are hours as far as the muscle is concerned. This concept is known as “Time Under Tension”. When you slowly relax a muscle, it stays under tension for longer; meaning that it will take the troponin and tropomyosin in the muscle longer to unbind and form complete relaxation. By doing this, the skeletal muscle will respond by producing more calcium binding sites in the actin of the muscle. More calcium binding sites means that the muscle will be able to contract easier using less ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate: the main fuel source of aerobic & anaerobic muscle fiber). As a result, you will be able to lift more weight for a longer period of time, all while using less energy!
You can apply the Time Under Tension principle to the Timing portion of FIT, as well. By decreasing your rest times, you can put the muscle under more stress in a shorter period of time, even if you have to sacrifice some weight to do so. Another aspect of the timing you can try changing is the time of day you choose to lift. Typically, males produce more testosterone in the evening, and ladies peak in the morning. So physiologically speaking these are the best times for your respective gender. However, everyone is different and have peak times during the day that’s the most optimal for them. In order to figure out what part of the day works for you, I recommend recording the time in your workout log (if you don’t have one, get one!) that you lifted and what your energy levels and mood is at that time. That way, you can review it and find out what times of the day consistently yielded the best workouts for you!
- TRAVEL THE WORLD
Finally, another way I introduce variety into my health routine is by exercising in new places! Sometimes, seeing the same faces and using the same equipment day-in day-out may become a drag. Mix it up a bit! Try doing a bodyweight workout at a local playground, do some yoga at home, try a completely new activity (if your city has a trampoline complex I suggest trying that, not only are those places the most fun you can have with your clothes on, they’re also EXCELLENT for building core strength), switch up your running route, or even try a new gym if you have the time or resources to do so! It’s amazing how invigorating something new can feel, and even more amazing how that feeling can produce incredible workouts! So go ahead, get up off the couch and try something new today!
In the next rendition of Swellin To The Jammiez, I will be covering the underappreciated importance of rest, recovery and relaxation has on an exercise program. What jams do you spin to unwind? What jams do you spin while keeping your body in motion? Do you have any burning questions regarding recovery in an exercise program? Lemme know in the comments!