September 25, 2017

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Exercise Swaps: Do This, Not That!

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What can the movie Goodfellas teach us about working out? Released in 1990 and starring Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci, Goodfellas was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture, and Pesci won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. It’s one of those movies that many people will watch simply because the story is so compelling and the acting is spectacular.

Now how does that relate to exercise? Even though it is widely recognized by the American Film Insititute as one of the best movies of all time, no matter how many times you watch Goodfellas, it becomes a little less interesting with each viewing because you know exactly what is going to happen and when. The same is true when you work out—the more often you do a particular exercise or workout routine, the less your muscles respond to the stimulus.

Repeatedly performing the same exercises with every workout causes the body, specifically the nervous system responsible for activating the muscles, to adapt to applied stimulus, which eventually leads to diminished results. The technical term for this effect is accommodation, which is often referred to getting stuck on a plateau. Whichever term you choose, the outcome is the same: No matter how creative or intense the workout, your muscles will stop responding to the exercises, much like your brain adapts to watching the same movie over and over again.

If you find you’ve been doing the same exercises for a while and are stuck on the proverbial plateau, here are five exercise swaps you can use to enhance your workouts. To add an extra boost, each of the exercises focuses on just one limb at a time, which allows you to focus all of the nervous system activity into those specific muscles. This is an effective strength-training strategy than can help you bust through any plateau.

Old Exercise

New Exercise

Reasons to do it

Lunges

Bulgarian split-squat

The Bulgarian Split-squat emphasizes the glutes, hamstrings and adductors to create hip and knee extension during the upward phase of movement in the front leg. The key is to sink back into the hip during the lowering phase and push your foot into the floor as you return to standing.

Hold a single dumbbell (or kettlebell) in front of your chest. Perform eight to 10 reps on each leg,

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