Every now and then, I’ll have a conversation with someone who tells me they’re bored in the weight room. This usually reminds me of two things:

  1. The first time I stood my ground against a client that wanted a different workout every time she came in.
  2. Times when clients said the same, then quickly asked me to stop making them do variations of a single exercise.

To say it in the most straightforward way possible,

You are doing something wrong if you feel training is boring.

Between the number of exercises, variations, hand/foot/body positions, types of equipment, and other options, the possibilities are enough to keep you busy for years to come.

If you’ve lost interest and feel frustrated by a lack of progress, that’s different than boredom. Maybe you’ve been doing the same stuff for way too long and need something new. This isn’t necessarily boredom, but it is definitely time for something new!

The easiest way to keep from getting bored is to keep your brain stimulated. By this, I mean regularly add new things to your training program and pay attention through every rep of every set you perform. This is your cure for “training boredom”, better results, and fewer injuries!

6 ways to keep training from getting stale

1.Change exercises or learn new ones

Easiest way to change your program is to change the exercises.

Let’s say you’ve been doing lunges recently. Instead of adding more reps, swap this exercise with a split squat, step up, or lateral lunge. These are still multi-joint lower body exercises, but with different positions and movement patterns.

This changes the feel of the exercise and targets the muscles differently. This may not seem like a big change, but it is enough to keep your program fresh and maybe even get you a little sore.

2.Use different equipment

Dumbbells. Barbells. Machines. Use them all! You aren’t tied to a single type of equipment

Staying with the lunge example from earlier, you could perform the same exercise using different equipment. If you do lunges with dumbbells in each hand, try loading one side only, using a kettlebell in the front rack position, or a sandbag.

Try lunges with different equipment. Same movement, but the position and equipment change the feel and emphasis!

The same goes for upper body exercises like rows. If you’ve always used dumbbells, try a kettlebell, barbell, mini bands, cable machine, or your own bodyweight. The movement is similar, but each of these has a different feel.

3.Change the sets, reps, rest time, weight, or tempo.

Even if you don’t have access to lots of equipment, you still have plenty of options to keep your training interesting.

Do you stop after just three sets of bench press? The party just got started! Try adding more sets before moving to the next exercise.

Instead of this…

Try this…

I dare you to say “I’m bored” after training this way…

Maybe you’re short on time and need to get a full session done in 45 minutes or less. No problem! Try shortening your rest between sets. Watch the clock and keep your breaks to 45-60 seconds. Bye-bye boredom!

Adding more sets and changing rest time are only two examples. Other options include:

  • Decrease the weight and increase the reps
  • Increase the weight and decrease the reps
  • Change the speed of your reps
  • Eccentric only or “negative” reps
  • Add a half or quarter rep to the end of each rep
  • Isometric holds, like a pause at the bottom of a squat
  • Lift “explosively” through the concentric phase

I could keep going, but I hope you get the idea. Changing sets, reps, and lifting tempo are some of the best ways to change your program without the need for more equipment, longer workouts, or added training days.

4.Train in a different environment

Sometimes a change of scenery is enough to recharge the batteries. Train at a different gym with different equipment, a different layout, and different people.

This is my new “go to” cure for when I’m feeling burnt out. A few months ago I was in a rut and not feeling like myself. A friend invited me to train at her gym that weekend, and it was amazing!

Driving to a different gym, a chance to use new machines, and being around some very fit and strong people felt good!

More importantly, it broke me out of my routine.

If you live in an area with several gyms, I recommend changing the environment from time to time. It will either shake you out of your rut or make you appreciate what you had before!

5.Pay attention to something other than your main goal

Whether you’re training for fat loss, strength, or muscle gain, the path to your goal won’t be a straight line. Expect to have times when progress is good, times when you’re standing still, and times where it feels like you’re losing ground no matter what you do.

Seriously, this is what progress looks like!

This is normal, don’t sweat it!

It helps to have more than one goal or something else to focus on during these times.

If your goal is building muscle, for example, you could track your progress in certain lifts, like the bench press, squat, or pull up. Building muscle is a slow process. As long as you’re consistently doing what needs to be done, you’re going to grow, but it won’t happen overnight.

Paying attention to other areas allows you to see how far you’ve progressed in more than one way. This shows that what you’re doing is working, and gives you “small victories” to celebrate that will keep you excited to continue, especially when progress is slow in other areas.

6.Perfect your technique!

No matter what you’re training for, your technique matters!

Don’t let your mind wander, and definitely don’t go through the motions to get the set over as fast as possible. Slow down, pay attention to what you’re doing, and watch your progress take off!

Pay attention to every rep of every set. Does it take 10 or more reps for you to “feel” an exercise? It shouldn’t. Are you actively contracting the muscles involved in the exercise? Are you moving through the full range of motion? If not,

I said paying attention to your technique makes your progress take off, and I mean it! Better lifting technique isn’t the end all, be all fix for everything, but you want to use every tool at your disposal to get the best results possible from your time in the gym.

This is an easy one that doesn’t require supplements, longer workouts, or more days in the gym.

You’re already lifting and doing the exercises, might as well do them right!

Now that you know what to do, here’s a little help with how to do it. These rules are not exactly set in stone, so the best thing to do is pay attention to how your body responds and make your decisions based on that. Experience is the best teacher, so get in there and start figuring it out!

Guidelines for making changes to your program

Change one or two things at a time

While doing the same thing over and over leads to stagnation and boredom, too much change at once will overwhelm you. Any changes you make to your program should make sense and be based on moving you closer to your goals. Don’t just change a bunch of things to mix it up and get some “muscle confusion” going.

Be smart about it!

For example, increasing the weight, reps, and sets all at once is unlikely to lead to progress. Changing one or two would be much smarter (and easier on your body!). Keep the weight the same but increase the number of reps per set, or increase the weight and do more sets of fewer reps.

Simple changes for big progress

Changes don’t need to be massive or complicated to produce new results. You don’t always need new exercises, more weight, or extra equipment to continue making progress.

Something as simple as a different hand position on an exercise is enough to target different muscles and provide a new stimulus to adapt to. Biceps curls are a perfect example of this. If you always perform barbell curls with your palms facing up, try turning your hands the other way.

Same equipment, same movement, but you’re working a different muscle.

The same goes for pull ups and rows. Changing the position of your hands or the width of your grip gives the exercise a different feel.

Instead of looking for new exercises, try a different hand position or grip width for upper body exercises. You can do the same with lower body exercises too, just change your stance, foot position (toes out on a squat, for example) or try a single leg version of the same movement.

Change roughly every 4-6 weeks

Along with “how do I update my training program?”, how often to update is up there among the most asked questions about resistance training. As with most training related questions, the answer depends on a number of factors.

This is one of the  reasons I recommend keeping a journal of your training sessions. You’ll be able to see how you’re progressing over time and making changes becomes much easier.

For general fitness purposes, change your program roughly every 4 weeks. This guideline gives you plenty of time to adapt to the changes and make progress.

If you have more specific goals, pay attention to how you’re responding to the workouts and how you feel afterwards. Are your numbers still going up? No need to fix what isn’t broken! Keep going with what you’re doing.

If you notice a drop in workout performance or you’re feeling run down and beat up, it’s time for a change.