Tip: The New-Exercise-Only Week

Flex your programming muscles, make your joints feel better, and accelerate progress. Here's how.

Use All New Exercises for One Week

Next Saturday night, take a few minutes to sit down, grab a pen and paper or your preferred Notes app, and literally write down every exercise you did over the last seven days.

Most likely, you'll come up with flat bench, back squat, and conventional deadlift (the big three, of course). There's probably a barbell overhead press in there, and maybe a dumbbell row, chins, dips, and lunges if you're smart. If you did at least one set of it, write it down.

Now, for this coming week, your mission is to keep training with the same split (though not necessarily the same sets and reps) but NOT use any of those exercises. It could be as simple as using semi-sumo deads instead of conventional, dumbbell bench instead of barbell, and neutral-grip chins instead of pull-ups.

Or you could finally decide to start pressing the kettlebells your gym has stashed in the corner, hopping on the leg press you made fun of for no valid reason, and using the preacher curl machine that pretty much every bodybuilder with big arms has used.

Why Do It?

  1. It'll make you flex your programming muscles. If you simply don't know how to effectively train without your precious Big Three, you've got some learning to do. Not being able to rely on the same-old-same-old means, you've got to put some effort into thinking about why you're using a specific exercise, and then make an intelligent choice to determine the next-best tool for that job.
  2. It'll refresh your technique on exercises you haven't used in a while. Brushing the dust off "old" exercises is never a bad thing, especially if it reminds you how much you like throwing big weight overhead in dumbbell shoulder presses, which gets you to plug them in more consistently for the next month or two.
  3. Lastly, this will not only give your joints some variety from the wear and tear they're typically beaten down with, but you'll automatically be using different support muscles and providing new growth stimuli. So don't be surprised if you have more DOMS than usual this week, as your muscles are being hit by new angles and in slightly different patterns.

The old cliche is true: If you do what you've always done, you'll get what you've always got. But even if you've gotten decent results, a bit of strategic training variety will always help to kickstart even more progress. First, the change itself is different and new. Second, if/when you return to your previous "usual training," it's another change that brings even more results.