20 Ways To Mix Up Your Strength Training Routine

by tinareale on October 14, 2013

If you read this blog then you know how much I think strength training rocks. I started strength training at the ripe age of nineteen years old. I would hit up my basement gym with my sister and a Cathe DVD a few days a week. Then, I started researching more on my own and joined a gym, trying out various training techniques. A decade later you can still find me hitting the weights in the gym or even popping in a new Cathe DVD (yep. still my absolute favorite DVD trainer!) and doing so with a smile on my face.

How do I not get bored with years and years of strength training? It’s not like running where I can find new races to experience to keep that motivation high. It’s not like I’m getting stronger and stronger and stronger. I’m fit, sure, but definitely less strong in what I can lift compared to when I did fitness competitions. So I don’t have this whole continued improvement in new strength goals driving me. So what is it? I truly have fun and it never gets old because there is always so much variety.

Variety with strength training? Oh, yes. TONS! It’s how I can always put together and try out new things to pass along to you all in Move It Monday posts and in the eight week Best Body Bootcamp programs. I could keep this all to myself, but I’m here to share my secrets with you today – the various ways I mix up my strength training to keep it interesting. Go ahead and have fun with it!

Mix Up Your Strength Routine

No, not the type of splits done in gymnastics. Body part splits. The breakdown of what muscles you will hit in each workout.

  • Full Body – As you can imagine, this style of training hits all of the major muscle groups (legs, back, chest, shoulders, biceps, triceps, and abdominals) in a single workout. This set-up will work each muscle group in 1-3 workouts a week.
  • Push / Pull Split – This split breaks the body down into muscles that go through a pushing motion (quadriceps, chest, triceps, front of shoulders) and muscles that go through pulling motions (hamstrings, back, biceps, rear delts). You work only the push muscles on one day and only the pull muscles on a separate day. Each group receives a more focused workout 1-2 times per week.
  • Upper / Lower Split – Switch between workouts that focus on solely the upper body and solely the lower body on alternate workouts. Each group receives a more focused workout 1-2 times per week.
  • Body Part Split – Each workout focuses solely on one (or maybe two) body parts. For example – Chest, Back, Arms, Legs, and Shoulders all done on a separate day. This plan works each muscle group once a week at a higher training volume.

Layout of Exercises
After deciding which workout split to use, choose a layout for the individual workouts.

  • Straight Sets – Complete all sets of each exercise one at a time, before moving on to the next exercise in the workout. Great when aiming for a heavier workout.
  • Super Sets – Complete two grouped exercises back to back with minimal rest. Rest 30-60 seconds between sets. Finish all sets of each group before moving on to the next group of exercises.
  • Circuit Training – Do ONE set of each move in the circuit back to back with little to no rest in between. Rest 1-2 minutes after completing all exercises, then go through the circuit completing all moves back to back again. Continue that pattern of all exercises followed by a brief rest until the workout is completed. A wonderful way to fit in cardio and weights with one workout.

Types of Exercises
There are so many different styles of exercises. I love them ALL.

  • The Basics – Squats. Deadlifts. Bench Presses. Rows. These moves have been around forever because they work. Don’t shy away from them.
  • Body Weight Exercises – Just because something doesn’t use equipment doesn’t mean it is easy. These types of exercises challenge the body effectively…and can be done anywhere. Bonus!
  • Stabilization Exercises – Adding a component of stability and balance to a move gives an extra challenge and forces the muscles to work in new, more functional ways.
  • Plyometric Exercises – Add a few high intensity moves to a workout to not only increase the heart rate, but also increase power and lean muscle.
  • Compound Exercises – These moves challenge more than one body part at at time and can help make effective use of workout time. Plus, they often require more stabilization.
  • Functional Exercises – These exercises mimic everyday movements or a common range of motion in a specific sport or activity. They help to build strength, stabilization, and endurance where you need it.

Rep Schemes
Determine the number of reps for the individual exercises in your plan.

  • Lower Reps (8 and under range): Challenge strength with lower reps at a heavier weight. You will NOT bulk up! Instead, you will cause your metabolism to soar and add more definition.
  • Moderate Rep Range (8-12): Increase strength and endurance with moderate weights at moderate reps. This rep range is a great solid base for a general workout.
  • Higher Reps (15 and up): Build up endurance for particular movements while using slightly lighter weights. Your muscles spend more time under pressure.
  • Pyramids: Increase or decrease the number of reps completed in each set. For example, start with 15 reps on the first set, then 12 on the second set, 10 on the third set, and 6 on the fourth set, while increasing the weight with each set. Or start low and work up in the number of reps.
  • Drop Sets: Instead of stopping a set at the point of fatigue, lower the amount of weight used in the exercise by about 10% and continue to do as many reps as possible at the lower weight. Drop the weight a second or third time if desired to reach maximum muscle fatigue.
  • Timed Sets: Instead of shooting for a certain number or reps, set a timer and complete as many reps as possible with good form for the duration of the allotted time.
  • Tempo Sets: Train a lower number of reps but using a tempo much slower than normal or holding the weight for a few counts in the middle of the movement (for example, at the bottom of a squat).

The above are all a few of the ways I liven up  my training plans. I switch a few of the above variables out every 2-3 months at the least and sometimes even every couple of weeks. Each of these layouts provide different benefits, so I make sure to include them all in my various workouts. Variety is the spice of life progress!

Your Turn – What is the last way you switched up your workout?


1 Linz @ Itz Linz October 14, 2013 at 7:40 am

one of the reasons i love strength training… never get bored! so many ways to mix it up!!

2 Miz October 14, 2013 at 7:46 am

um WOW?
you nailed em all.
I need to do SUPERSETS today.
I love em and havent employed them in far too long.

3 Fiona @ Get Fit Fiona October 14, 2013 at 7:56 am

I find taking a class once in awhile helps me to stay interested and motivated. I’ve been going to a yoga class for the first time in almost a year. Sometimes it’s nice to have someone else figure out what you’re going to do instead of doing it yourself. Finding new workouts also helps too.

4 tinareale October 15, 2013 at 8:06 am

Totally agree. I think that is why I still like a good workout DVD about once per week. I like not having to plan something out and it also gives fun new ideas.

5 Madeline @ Food Fitness and Family October 14, 2013 at 7:58 am

Seriously awesome information!! Thanks Tina – inspiring as always ;)

6 [email protected] October 14, 2013 at 8:22 am

You really know your stuff Tina!! Great post!

7 Heather Murphy October 14, 2013 at 8:49 am

Great post! Since beginning strength training a few years ago I have discovered so many different ways to do it and it honestly never gets boring! Even small variations make a huge difference in the routine. Thanks fore sharing!

8 purelytwins October 14, 2013 at 8:59 am

awesome tips!

9 Ang @ Nutty for Life October 14, 2013 at 9:26 am

I love that you compiled all of this into one post. The basics of strength training can be confusing for people new to the game… like me! I am familiar with some of these concepts, but not all, so I find this listing particularly useful. Have a great Monday!

10 tinareale October 15, 2013 at 8:06 am

Glad its helpful! And I’m always just an email away if you have any questions. :)

11 Melanie @ Nutritious Eats October 14, 2013 at 10:29 am

So many good tips. Love weights (most of the time at least). ;)

12 Tessa @ Amazing Asset October 14, 2013 at 12:24 pm

I always look forward to your tips on strength training Tina, you consistently have helpful information! I want to share this with my friend who has recently gotten into ST! It’s been a favorite of mine lately (though more than lately, for months now), as you can always change things up and never get bored with one routine

13 Marla-Deen October 14, 2013 at 12:29 pm

Strength training is my favorite and “go to”. I love circuit training these days because there’s so much variety you just can’t get bored and you get a total body workout. A big bang for the buck! Thanks for the reminders to add all the other great stuff, too!

14 Laura @ Mommy Run Fast October 14, 2013 at 12:43 pm

And this is why I love BBBC…. you do all the planning work for us! Awesome post, Tina!

15 Lauren (@PoweredbyPB) October 14, 2013 at 2:45 pm

I love strength training, I haven’t done any for 2 weeks now as I was tapering for a half and have taken a full week off exercise so I am ready to get back to it! I love doing different rep counts as well as targeting different body parts on different days. I will be without a gym for a while as we are moving so I will be challenging myself to more at home workouts.

16 Stephanie October 14, 2013 at 9:23 pm

Wow, I love this advice. This is everything I need to know about strength training.

17 Tara | Treble in the Kitchen October 15, 2013 at 5:11 am

I love this!! It’s always good to have some options for mixing things up :)

18 Coco October 15, 2013 at 7:31 am

These are great ideas — and why I love your Best Body Bootcamp! When I do my own workouts I mostly do full body supersets.

19 Mellissa October 15, 2013 at 9:47 am

I have to change it up to keep motivated in the gym, I can’t keep doing the same thing or I will be so bored.

20 Stephanie @ My Freckled Life October 15, 2013 at 2:59 pm

LOVE THIS! Doesnt get much more broken down than this. I think there is so much strength trainin mumbo jumbo out there that sometimes it’s easy to get bogged down in all of that instead of really just looking at the basic formula for putting a workout together. It doesnt have to be rocket science! This definitely has been a great reminder to me on ways that I can change it up in the gym as well!

21 Katie @ Gettin' My Healthy On October 16, 2013 at 9:27 pm

This is crazy. Very informative! Never realized how many different ways you could weight train.

22 Cori @ olivetorun October 22, 2013 at 5:15 pm

GREAT info once again Tina, thanks for sharing!

23 Anna Crouch October 27, 2013 at 5:50 pm

Seriously–best info I have seen compiled about the basics of weight training! I have heard of all of these terms, but I didn’t know what they were or how to use them! I’m saving this post and will definitely reference it!! Thanks so much

24 A Home Personal Trainer Glendale area November 13, 2013 at 6:23 pm

And when your stuck as to how to change your routine then hire an experienced personal trainer cuz some of the advanced muscle building and weight loss routines could easily get you injured.

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