Routine is good but it is important to keep switching one’s workout regimen as it’s the key to stimulating different muscle sets and preventing boredom
Fitness today is a very loosely used term. In actuality, it is a combination of strength, flexibility, endurance, agility, balance, coordination and speed. Ideal fitness, experts say, can be achieved through a workout variety that helps work on each of these areas. Just as a balanced diet is imperative for the body, a combination workout helps control muscle growth, as well as aid weight loss.
It’s true that any workout is good for the body, but there comes a time when the body reaches a workout plateau-when it stops responding to a particular training routine/form of exercise or a repeated exercise programme. To break the inset equilibrium, one has to stimulate the body by a combination of various forms/techniques or types of workout.
A mixed workout also makes exercise non-monotonous and interesting. “If done well, it can generate the desired impact in the overall training strategy. You can focus on different body parts dedicatedly and shift focus as and when needed,” says Delhi-based fitness expert Meenakshi Mohanty, who suggests analysing the training regime based on strength or aesthetics, endurance building or aerobics.
Variety for the win
According to Mumbai-based Luke Coutinho, holistic lifestyle coach, integrative medicine, adopting a variety is good as every workout helps challenge, build and strengthen a different aspect of fitness. “Your six-pack or size-zero figure doesn’t determine strength or fitness. Many people go to the gym and call themselves fit. They may be fit, but some aren’t as fit as they claim to be. I come across so many gym-goers who can lift heavy weights, but not their own bodyweight. They can do a deadlift or pulldown, but struggle through a pull-up because it recruits multiple muscles and because they haven’t explored any other form of fitness,” says Coutinho, adding, “Instead, one should develop real fitness. While you perform weight training with additional weights, also add bodyweight exercises. Some who want to lose fat, but only do yoga, expect results from it. While yoga is a great lifestyle tool, it is important to also engage in some bodyweight training to build lean muscle. The leaner muscle you have, the easier it is to lose weight and rev up metabolism. It doesn’t have to be intense. It can be a combination of walking, yoga, dance, bodyweight training, skipping rope, etc.”
While changing training strategy, it is most important to figure out the intended goals. “See how your current training regime is. You can bring variation by contrasting basic training style with its polar opposite. For instance, if the general workout is slow, bring in agility. You can do this by doing the same workout faster or introducing a new workout that forces you to speed up. But always consult an expert to ensure you don’t create complications in the long run,” says Mohanty.
Exercise is a fundamental element for living a well-balanced life, believes Mumbai-based Swapneel Hazare, strength and conditioning coach, and founder, Shield Fitness gym. He enjoys coaching people to achieve their fitness goals and has worked with many celebrities such as actors Hrithik Roshan, Arjun Kapoor, Tusshar Kapoor, Angad Bedi and Sagarika Ghatge, cricketers Hardik Pandya, Zaheer Khan and Yuvraj Singh, and kabaddi players Vishal Mane and Rishank Devadiga, among others. “Mixing different workouts helps combine various movement patterns, leading to increase in strength, flexibility and mobility. Learning new methods of training will also make your workout sessions interesting. There is also reduced risk of overtraining by providing timely adequate rest to different muscle groups. It prevents your body from getting into a comfort zone,” he says.
Challenge the body
Hazare suggests combining different movements to stimulate the body. “Taking adequate rest and sleep to recover and combining it with a variety of nutritious meals also helps,” he says. For instance, one can mix different types of training such as weight training, HIIT (high-intensity interval training), HIIRT (high-intensity interval resistance training), Tabata, calisthenics, aerobics, boxing, MMA, swimming, cross-training, Zumba and yoga. One can also use equipment like dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells, TRX, battle ropes, etc, to expose the body to different planes/axis of movement. Also, it is important to choose workouts one enjoys. “There is no point in enrolling yourself for a dance class, but not enjoying it and at the same time expecting results out of it,” says Coutinho.
Revamping an old workout routine also helps, says Mumbai-based health coach, holistic nutritionist and fitness expert Pooja Bhargava. “A well-rounded exercise programme has endurance through aerobic activities, through functional exercises and muscle training. Several gyms and certain apps like Asana Rebel, Nike Training focus on a blend of different workouts and have helped people lose weight. These programmes work as they combine the concept of muscle confusion, using targeted exercises to constantly challenge the body to avoid plateaus. It’s imperative to change workouts in order to avoid muscle stagnation and boredom,” says Bhargava, who suggests an alternate routine of cardio and muscle training that goes a long way in complementing the purpose of each. “Cardio builds endurance, enhances oxygen supply in lungs and increases blood supply to cells. As blood and oxygen are delivered more efficiently, muscle strength training is able to recover and build new tissues. For those who focus on building muscle, this means that muscles build faster when strength training is paired with cardio. Likewise, a runner will benefit with a stronger strike rate if the muscles are stronger,” she says.
The advantage of cross-training is quicker result, says Roshini Gilbert, VP, services and fitness, HealthifyMe, a health and fitness app that offers a multi-pronged approach to help users with medical conditions like diabetes, hypertension, thyroid, cholesterol and PCOS. “Cross-training means training different muscle groups, body parts and energy systems in the body by using different equipment, activities and modalities. It is a combination of cardio workouts and strength training by mixing together, say, cycling, bodyweights, machine weights, treadmill, etc. The advantage of cross-training is the achievement of quicker results with respect to calorie burn, metabolism boost and strength gains,” says Gilbert, adding, “If you want to improve overall fitness with respect to your lung power and heart pumping, and at the same time target muscle development and bone density, then this is ideal. When doing repetitive workouts, there is a tendency of overuse injury for a particular muscle. When cross-training, you are not overusing a particular muscle. Rather, you are putting your entire body to use, preventing overuse injuries. Muscle imbalances are quite common when you do one particular type of workout.”
Gilbert suggests avoiding the same routine week after week. “To get the best results, keep the body guessing with newer movements… cross-training does that,” she says.
Keeping a balance
Luke Coutinho shares the pros and cons of mixed workouts
A good way to break weight loss plateau
Prevents boredom because there is variety
Can help develop various aspects of fitness
If planned well, can give overused muscles, joints and ligaments a chance to recover and repair
Adding variety may not be a suitable choice for all, especially those suffering from a health condition (for example, injury, high blood pressure, etc)
Can be a limitation for those who get too comfortable with a specific workout routine
If not planned well and mindfully with adequate periods of rest and recovery, one can risk overtraining with possible chances of injury