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Everything Works–For Six Weeks–Then It Stops Working

“The world hates change, yet it is the only thing that has brought progress.”–Charles Kettering

One of the most frequent complaints from gym members and physical therapy patients is that they exercise but see no results.  They consistently ride the elliptical, attend yoga class, and run, but make no progress in how they look, move, or feel.  The common feature to almost all of these clients is that they have done the same activity at the same intensity for a prolonged period of time.  The human body is a master at adaptation and the only way it will change is if you alter your exercise activity on a regular basis.

In athletic training, the planned alteration in training stimulus is called periodization.  Periodization is a method of dosing your exercise workloads to promote peak performance.  The athlete works at a specific regimen for four to six weeks and then the program is changed before physical adaptation takes place and progress stalls.

Older and more experienced gym goers should alter their fitness routine every three to four weeks.  The changes do not need to be major.  Increase the weight you lift and lower the number of repetitions–four sets of six repetitions instead of three sets of ten repetitions.  Get off the recumbent bike and add some drills to improve your gait and enhance balance.  Expand your training tool box and learn how to use a new device– resistance tubing, medicine ball, kettlebell…

For fat loss, choose what strength coach Dan John calls inefficient exercise.  Over the weeks and months, the elliptical session you have been performing three days a week burns fewer calories because your body becomes efficient in that activity.  Find activities that are unfamiliar or that can be loaded to make them more challenging.  At Fenton Fitness, the Jacobs Ladder and rope drills are my first suggestions.

Most programming changes make training more difficult and produce greater delayed onset muscle soreness.  This is all part of creating a new stimulus that the body finds challenging.  In three or four weeks, the sessions will be less demanding and you will be ready for another alteration in the training cycle.

Change is good but frequently neglected.  The best results have come with regular alterations of fitness programming.  Remember that change can also be a period of rest.

Michael S. O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS

Discover the difference between muscle soreness following exercise activity and pain you should be concerned about in “Do I Have A Problem?”.  Jeff Tirrell gives advice for women on optimizing performance  and Mike O’Hara discusses training priorities for those over forty.

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