Beating the Dead Horse Workout

by Matt Weik

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result. This is exactly what happens with the “beating the dead horse workout.” So many people do the same thing every time they are in the gym that they plateau and don’t see any changes in their fitness level or their physique. They keep telling themselves and others that they are putting in the time and work at the gym, but no changes are being made. You can only do the same thing so many times before your body adapts and you need a different stimulus to be present to “shock” the muscles and force change. This article will help you notice when you’re in a plateau and how to get out of it.

It’s dead already…leave it alone

You know exactly what I’m talking about—and maybe you’re living proof of this as you’re stuck in a rut right now with your workouts and progress. You see the people walking into the gym doing the same exercises, with the same weight, with the same reps and sets, that it’s like clockwork. Or that same person lives on the treadmill every day going the same pace for the same duration of time. I’m bored just thinking about it. You need to change things up and keep them fresh!

Generally, when you’re in this phase, you’re not seeing the scale change, you’re not seeing your weights going up on exercises, and the only thing that’s changing is your frustration level. You know the “shock and awe” effect that takes place to get a reaction out of people? The same principle applies to your health and fitness. When you want a reaction out of your body, “shock and awe” it.

Same old same old workouts

If you aren’t seeing any results from your time in the gym, you need to take a look at what you are doing from the time you walk into the gym to the time you walk out. Do you see repetition? Change it up. Add more weight, and lower the reps. Use less weight and use a higher rep range. Add an extra set or two. Utilize drop sets or work out with a partner and focus on forced reps at the end of sets. Rather than doing steady state cardio, utilize intervals. Try HIIT or Tabata. Swim instead of continuously pounding your joints on the treadmill. Or if you always use the treadmill, switch to the bike or stairmill. There are so many different things you can do to change up your workouts that you have no reason to ever get stuck in a rut or get bored with your training.

What are you eating?

We all know that the food you put in your mouth will ultimately make or break your results, regardless of how hard you train or how long you spend in the gym. If you are eating the same foods every day (whether they are healthy or not), your body won’t necessarily change (for the better). If you are eating 2,000 calories a day, and your maintenance calories are 2,000 a day, you can’t expect to lose or gain any weight dependent on your goals. In order to change, you need to force change. To lose weight you’ll need to be tracking your calories and remove 500 calories each day from your diet in order to lose a pound per week. If you’re looking to gain, then add 500 calories per day and make adjustments from there.

Play with your macros as well. Each of our bodies reacts differently to macronutrients such as carbohydrates and fats. Maybe your body does better with higher fat and lower carbohydrates? Or maybe vice versa? The key is that you can’t go off of the recommendations put out by the government and follow the food pyramid—we don’t have a one size fits all plan for health and fitness. And if you believe we do, take a look around you and see how obesity is plaguing our country. Think that plan is working? It’s not.

You aren’t putting in the effort

We touched on it briefly at the beginning of the article, but, if you aren’t putting in the effort, you can’t expect to get much from it. I’ve seen plenty of people in the gym who walk around, take extended rest periods, sit in the sauna or steam room, stop to talk to friends, flirt with the opposite sex, sit on equipment scrolling through social media on their phone, etc. If you aren’t committed to pushing yourself in the gym, don’t expect to see accelerated results. In fact, don’t waste other people’s time and simply don’t even go to the gym. You’re taking up equipment that people who are dedicated actually want to use.

Just because you have a gym membership and show up, does not mean all of a sudden, your body is going to give you a pat on the back for taking the initiative and automatically do you a solid by flipping on the fat burning switch—if only it worked that way. You need to challenge yourself at the gym and use your time wisely—not only to help with achieving better results, but your time is also valuable, so why would you want to spend more time there than you need to? Get in, hit it hard, and get out. It’s as simple as that. People already complain enough that they don’t have time to exercise, don’t be the person who explains to them that you spend more than two hours a day exercising, you’re doing yourself and them a disservice.