Every person who works out has gone through this question at some point, that is of course the question of, how often should you change your workout routine .
Whether you are pretty new to lifting and still trying to figure things out, or whether you have been exercising for a while yet realized you don’t know the answer to this question.
The answer is actually quite important because it can make or break your progress in your workouts.
I am going to outline piece by piece the answer to this question here in this article, so if you were looking for an in depth answer, you have come to the right place.
If you were looking for some quick, bullsh*t answer, with not much context or education behind it, then this may not be the place for you *insert emoji of me shrugging my shoulders here*.
Yet I know you want an in depth answer, otherwise, you wouldn’t be ready to read every single word of this article without skimming over any of it….
Perfect then, let’s get into it, shall we?
How Often Should You Change Your Workout Routine?
Why Should You Change Your Workout Routine?
Ever heard of the saying “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”?
Well, kind of. In regards to how often should you change your workout routine, I would say this saying doesn’t necessarily hold as much weight (ha! Get it?!).
Some people think you can do the same workout program over and over for YEARS and get results.
While have some people done that and seen results?
Sure, but people also used to send messages with f*cking note cards taped to birds, or use to get around with solely horseback instead of cars.
Just because some people saw progress doing something one way, doesn’t necessarily mean there isn’t a more productive and efficient way.
Hence, us evolving as a society of humans always looking to innovate and improve.
I digress, the point being is, yes you should be changing up the workouts you do.
For various different reasons, in fact, let’s go over some of the main ones right now so that you can be educated.
I am a firm believer that the more educated you are on a topic, the likelihood of you succeeding at said topic is much greater.
Thus, let’s get to learning, Jack.
1. Overuse Injury
Whenever someone asks me “how often should you change your workout routine” one of my first answers as to WHY they should change always goes to overuse injuries.
Think about it for a second.
When you are repetitively doing a specific exercise, your
- connective tissue
- and muscles
are all taking the same force week after week after week, right?
It’s the same movement pattern, challenging in the same ranges of motion, and repeating over and over the same stress.
No matter if your form is in fact good with the exercise, the fact remains, you are still hammering that same movement pattern over and over.
Eventually, what can happen is, your body can basically break down and develop an overuse injury.
Because you have done the same movement pattern over and over for so long, it just becomes a bit too much for your body to handle for various different reasons.
This is where you get these “little aches and pains”.. Sore elbows here… Cranky knees there.. Overly tight hips here..
These start off as “little” aches and pains, yet over time since you are not switching your workouts up, these little aches and pains turn into bigger, more serious injuries.
I will give you two quick examples.
Let’s say someone is doing a sumo deadlift, you know, like this right here.
Now, I know not everyone can have as beautiful of a lifting face as I do here, but stick with me.
Doing sumo deadlifts inevitably are going to place some stress and pressure on your hip joint due to the wider stance you get.
So, over time, if you ONLY do sumo deadlifts, and you NEVER switch up…
You are asking for some sort of overwork / overuse injury on your hips. They simply are getting taxed and stressed at a high level week after week and if you don’t give them a chance to lessen up a bit by changing up your workouts, they can surely scream back at you via injuries.
Now someone might say “Well I do conventional deadlift so it isn’t as bad!”.
You’re missing the point.
Cool, you don’t do sumo deadlifts. Conventional deadlift inevitably puts a bit more pressure on your spine and hamstrings.
Therefore overtime, your hamstring and spine can develop an overuse injury to them as opposed to your hips.
It’s not one specific move, it is any move that is done too frequently over a period of time.
Or let’s take a chin up for example.
I see a lot of people try to get better at doing chin ups so they have a chin up party at the gym week after week after week.
Which, if you are doing something like the Grease The Groove Method (A low intensity, high frequency method for improving a specific lift) then that’s one thing.
But doing them with high intensity and effort week after week, I have seen really tend to f*ck up people’s elbows, wrists, and or shoulders.
Again, simply just due to the fact that you are repeating this same plane of motion movement pattern for a bit too long.
So while there is merit to keeping the same workouts for a certain period of time (we will talk about how long a bit later), if you do it for too long too frequently, it can surely backfire.
This is one reason why it is important to change your workout routine.
2. Challenging The Muscle From Different Angles
A second reason to change up your workout routines is due to you wanting to challenge the muscle from different angles.
I will use your back (more specifically mid / upper back ie traps, rhomboids, rear delts), biceps, and hamstrings as an example.
If we are talking about training your mid back muscles, these are big muscles that have various different functions in the body.
Therefore, to only train it from one angle would just quite simply make no sense.
For example, let’s say you are doing a 1 am dumbbell bent over row to work your mid back (like this here below).
That is a horizontal pulling movement.
Awesome, but you are missing a key component of training from a vertical pulling movement.
Throwing in something like a wide grip lat pulldown would be a great work your upper back in a vertical pulling pattern.
You can also do a close grip lat pulldown to once again work your mid back muscles from a different angle of pull and resistance.
You can also hit your mid back by doing a seated cable row variation instead of a dumbbell bent over row variation!
I could go on, but the point being is, you can only fit so much in a weeks worth of a workout routine.
For you to be able to hit your back muscles from various different angles, you are more than likely going to have to change up your workout routine from time to time to focus on these different angles.
Let’s take your biceps as an example as well.
You can work your biceps in the shortened position (this is typically when your arm is out in front of you doing a bicep curl, we will touch more on this in the next section).
Something like a preacher curl you can see here below.
Okay, so you can hit your bicep in the shortened position using a preacher curl, sweet. That is with the resistance (the weight) coming from down below you.
BUT, you can also hit your bicep in the shortened position from above doing something like a 1 arm high cable curl, like you see here.
Cool, but you can ALSO hit your bicep in the shorten position hitting something like a crouching cable curl where the weight is actually coming from in weight of you, here as you can see below.
Again, as you can see, you can work the bicep with just one angle.. Sure. yet inevitably you are under training that muscle for both maximizing strength and developing the muscle for aesthetics purposes.
Finally, we can touch on hamstrings.
You can hit your hamstrings from something like an RDL, as you can see here below.
You can hit your hamstrings from something like a bridge or thrust, as you can see below.
Or, you can hit your hamstrings from something like a curl, as you can see below.
Within even these variations, there are multiple variations you can choose from as well.
Again, point being, for you to get a fully developed muscle, you will need to hit the muscle from all angles.
If you ONLY do one or two exercises, there is really just no way to make that happen.
3. Challenge Muscle From Different Ranges Of Motion
Whenever we talk about how often should you change your workout routine, we have to mention this one as well.
I spoke on this in the previous section, but your muscles can be challenged in different areas of the range of motion.
It can be more challenging at the bottom, at the top, in the mid range.
Let’s take again biceps and glutes this time.
When talking about biceps, you can work your bicep in a shortened position or a lengthen position.
Something like a crouching cable curl like I showed you above, that is working your bicep in the shortened position because your arm is out in front of you.
But, you can also work your bicep in a lengthened position.
This is when your arms and shoulders are extended behind you and when your bicep is fully stretched, that is when it is challenged the most. Something like this 2x arm face away curl right here.
You can also challenge the muscle in the mid range by something like a regular dumbbell bicep curl.
This means it has the most resistance and the most challenging around the middle part of the rep as you curl up.
Then again, as you saw from above, even with these variations there are different angles you can hit the muscle from.
To get a fully developed bicep muscle (or ANY muscle) you need to be hitting it from different angles.
Simply just doing ONE or TWO exercises over and over more than likely will not cut it.
You will need to have some variation to your workouts.
We can take your glutes for example as well.
You can do something like a hip thrust, which is going to challenge your muscle in the shortened position (at the top when you are squeezing your glutes).
Or, you could something like an RDL, which is challenging your glutes in the lengthened to mid range position.
Or, you could do some sort of split squat variation, which is challenging again in that lengthen to mid range position.
Without going TOO much more in depth, you can see again, there are many different exercises that can make sure you challenge the muscles in these different ranges of motions.
Yet again, if you only do the same exercises over and over, never changing up your workouts, you won’t be able to have this happen.
4. Different Goals
When talking about why you would change up your workout routine, you can (and should!) also change up based on different goals.
For example, I run something called my Clubhouse. This is where I create new workout programs every single month for the people inside.
I am writing this in 2022, beginning of September.
Thus Far in the Clubhouse our workouts have focused on..
January – March = Strength focused
April – June = Hypertrophy focused (more muscle building)
July – September = Powerbuilding ( a hybrid between powerlifting and “bodybuilding”
For each of those “focuses” that we had, there were different workouts!
From the rep ranges, to the exercises, to the amount of exercises per workout, to the amount of sets per workout.
For example, when we are focusing a lot on strength, we are going to incorporate more work in the lower rep ranges (1-5) than we would if we are focusing on muscle building, which may be more in that 6-12 rep range.
Or, if we are primarily focusing on muscle building, we maybe won’t pick exercises like a deadlift from the floor.
This is because a deadlift from the floor isn’t a GREAT muscle building exercise, therefore while we focus on building more muscle, we take that movement out. We may swap it for say some sort of Romanian Deadlift variation to focus more on glute and hamstring hypertrophy.
When we are focusing on power building, we focus on some lower rep strength work, but not so much that it takes away from our overall muscle building component. We don’t go so hard on the strength side that we can’t do our isolation “muscle building” exercises at the end like lateral raises, bicep curls, leg extensions, etc.
We might also do something called “top sets and back off sets”, I can link a video on that here below.
Therefore when talking about how often should you change your workout routine, I think taking the current goals into consideration also plays a role.
We wouldn’t keep the same exercises, reps, rest times, etc for different goals. That would just be plain silly!
Also, yes, you should be going through some phases like this because the strength work will bleed into the hypertrophy phase. The hypertrophy phase bleeds into the powerbuilding phase, etc.
This is why following a real strength training program is so important.
Another reason to change up your workout routines is simply for more enjoyment!
I have coached people for over 6.5 years now as I type this.
All of my clients, whether they are inside the Clubhouse or the people we work with 1:1, everytime they get their new workout program they are STOKED!
It’s like Christmas all over again!
There are new exercises, new reps, new sets.
New angles to hit the muscle from, new challenges to take on.
Changing up your workouts can give you that “new” stimulus, which for a lot of people, they enjoy that!
Unless you are like just so dialed into bodybuilding and this is your entire life, most people can’t do the exact same workout program over and over to truly enjoy it.
You may say you do.. But I know it’s just because you don’t feel like switching your workouts, or because you don’t know how to change your workouts.
Getting that “new” stimulus and almost a “new” dopamine hit can be advantageous because what happens when you enjoy your training more?
You push harder with it.
What happens when you push harder with it?
You see more results.
What happens when you see more results?
You wanna keep going with it. Ain’t nothing more motivating than seeing results, right?
That is why changing up your workouts can actually help your results continue to flourish.
How Often Should You Change Your Workout Routine
So.. How Often Though?
Phew, alright, I just covered 5 main reasons above on why I believe you should be changing up your workout routine.
Honestly, I could go on and give you more reasons why, but I will cap it there for now. This doesn’t need to turn into a dissertation.
I hope you got the point that yes, you should be changing your workout routines up.
Now, how often should this be taking place? Let’s talk about it.
My recommendation for how often you should change your workout routine is typically every 4-8 weeks.
Let’s talk about why that number in particular.
First off, this allows you enough time to have something called progressive overload.
Progressive overload is a topic worthy of an article in of itself (actually, I did write an article about progressive overload, you can read it HERE when you are done this one!) so I won’t go super in depth.
Yet think of pogressive overload as simply the “thing” that causes you to change your physique, build muscle, get stronger, the whole 9.
It’s by far the coolest kid in school.
If you don’t have progressive overload, you are missing out on optimizing and potentially even seeing any progress at all what so ever.
Think of progressive overload is simply just “doing more”.
I am going to put a picture here of one of my 1:1 online coaching clients workouts.
Notice how from week 1 to week 4, in basically every single exercise, they improved?
They did more weight or more reps, right?
That is progressive overload. They did more!
This is what you need to make changes to your body and see results.
Therefore, if you are changing your workouts every 4-8 weeks, that is ample time to have this progressive overload.
Now, if you are changing your workouts every WEEK, no, that is not ample time to have progressive overload.
You can’t even progressive overload if you are doing something new each week. If you did goblet squats one week, then a split squat the next, then a barbell back squat the next, how can you get better at any of that over time?
You can’t. You’re just doing “exercise” at that point, not following a program.
Also, week 1 and 2 you really are just getting used to the movement, let alone being able to do more with it.
So usually at least 4 weeks on one program is what I recommend to allow for this progressive overload to happen.
We also talked about earlier being able to avoid overuse injury.
Typically speaking a 4-8 week span is a great time to allow for progressive overload, but then still not get overuse injuries from specific movements.
Also talking about hitting the muscles from different angles and ranges of motion, if you take your glutes for example, 4-8 weeks is a great period of time to work in certain exercises.. Progressive overload with them… crush it..
Then bam, swap it out for a new set of exercises to challenge the muscles from different ways.
As well as speaking from anecdotal coaching experience, usually around that 4 ish week mark, MOST people start to get a bit burnt out from doing the specific exercises and are “ready” for a change by that point.
Therefore again, keeping intensity high by keeping enjoyment high and exciting can lead to better progress over time.
Last but not least, this is a great period of time to allow for potential different goals to be worked in.
If let’s say you change your workouts up every 4 weeks.
You can have 2-3 4 week blocks with a hypertrophy phase, 1-2 blocks with a strength phase, and on and on.
Giving an ample amount of time to smash the goal, while still being able to include all that we talked about above.
How Often Should You Change Your Workouts Secret Hint : Deload Weeks
Another reason I like switching up after every 4-8 weeks is due to something called a deload week.
If you want to listen to an in depth podcast I’ve done on deload weeks, I can link that HERE .
Essentially what a deload week is, you are slightly decreasing your intensity and volume for a week.
Intensity is how heavy you are lifting / how close you are lifting to failure.
Volume is the amount of sets and reps you are doing.
Let’s say on a regular week, you are doing 3×8 reps with 50lbs.
On a deload week, you are lifting say 3×6 reps with 40lbs.
Why would you do this?
Well, when we workout we accumulate stress and fatigue.
If we just keep accumulating that stress and fatigue to never let it come back down, that is where people either stall out on their progress or get injured.
You can’t just keep linearly progressing with your workouts forever and ever or else we’d all be lifting cars above our heads by now.
Therefore with changing your workout every 4-8 weeks combining with a deload week…
You can crush workouts for say 3-4 weeks, get after it hard, accumulate stress and fatigue…
Then take that deload week to let the fatigue and stress come back down, your body will have a “supercompensation” effect, you will be able to recover better..
Then bam, be ready to push hard again for 3-4 weeks.
This is a great way to make “linear” progress over time.
The reason I brought up deload weeks is because the way I program deload weeks, whenever a client gets a new program, the first week is a deload week.
Well because again the first week of a new program you are going to learn the new moves, get the new routine down, etc.
This is a great time to take a deload week, then be able to push hard for 3-4 weeks after that, increase weight, increase reps, etc…
Then bam, take your deload week, switch programs, and keep on repeating.
Not Only How Often Should You Change Your Workouts.. But WHAT To Change In Your Workouts
I know this is question you may have and unfortunately, for all the information I have given you for free in this article, this is a question I can’t specifically answer for you.
Not because I am “holding out”, I mean f*ck I just wrote this entire article for free.
Simply because the answer to that question is one big fat “it depends”.
You may change exercises, reps, sets, days per week, rest time, there are so many variables to tweak.
Typically speaking every 4-8 weeks I change the..
- Exercises / Exercise Variation (going from maybe a reverse lunge to a bulgarian split squat, or a dumbbell bicep curl to a cable bicep curl from what we talked about above)
- Reps ( maybe we are shooting for 6-8 reps in the first 4 weeks on squats, then to focus more on strength we focus on 3-5 reps in the next 4 weeks)
- Sets ( if we are trying to bias a muscle group for more growth or focus, maybe we do 10 weekly sets per week to 15 weekly sets per week )
- Tempo ( maybe we change going from 3 seconds on the way down in a squat and a 2 second pause, to only going 2 seconds on the way down and no pause to work on more explosive strength )
The list could go on as it would really just depend on the program you are doing.
I cannot truthfully tell you without writing a program for you, but hopefully the information from this article gives you at least an idea of what to do.
I can also link an article I wrote HERE on how to potentially structure your workout programs that may help as well.
How Often Should You Change Your Workout Routine : Final Word
Well, there you have it. I am hoping that was at least one of the most in depth answers to how often should you should change your workout routine you will find across the interweb.
If you enjoyed this article, feel free to share it with a friend.
Furthermore, if you are interested in getting some programming done for you to take out all of the guesswork and planning in your workouts,
Feel free to check out my Clubhouse HERE where I write new workout programs each month.
Or, if you were more interested in 1:1 coaching, you can fill out the form HERE To potentially work with our team.
Hope this helps and look to chat soon.