If I was to say there was one key to effective training, it would be sticking with it.
Its easy for anyone to start on a training program and see big jumps into the first couple weeks. Sadly these aren’t really from getting stronger, just the body adapting quickly to the program and getting skilled at the exercises. After a month or so the progress slows to a much slower pace. This is the point where one of two things happens.
Either the trainee gets bored with his program, unhappy that he’s not adding big weight to the bar every week, or lots of reps, and he changes up his routine. Now his body is shocked to do something new, something that it can adjust to quickly just like before. And the trainee thinks he’s getting much stronger cause those fast gains come again during that adaptation period. Really though he is just spinning his wheels.
On the other hand is the trainee who sticks with it. Who grinds through week after week on the same routine. Satisfied to add a rep here, a bit of weight there. This is true progression. Multiply this training by months and years and you’ll find someone who will become truly strong.
Now don’t be ashamed if you’re in the first class of trainees. We’ve all been there, I know I certainly have, and its just human nature to want to do new things. But if you want to make real progress you must stick with it.
Reaching that point where the gains stop coming fast is really reaching the top of your current strength levels. If you’re an experienced trainee this time may come faster in about two weeks, but if it’s a completely new exercise about a month is right. So sticking with the exercise is going to require you to push harder, to add little by little. There is no way around it and it doesn’t really matter what form it comes in, whether its more weight, more reps, longer or shorter times or any other variable. You are forcing your body to get stronger.
True, at some point you’ll have to change up your routine to some degree. You must shock your body at some point with something new. But instead of doing a full 360 like going from all bodyweight exercises to a good quality barbell routine you should implement small changes. Do one arm presses instead of two. Weighted pullups instead of bodyweight. Changing your reps and sets instead of the exercise. These small changes are all that’s needed to keep the progress going.
Honestly, you can stay with the same exercises all year long for the most part. Its good to switch it up every once in a while even if just for a single workout. However, consistency is key. If you want to get good at deadlifting, nothing will substitute for deadlifting. Just change up the manner in how you do it. If you have a basic routine throw in a curveball every so often. This will satisfy your desire for trying something different and confuse your body a bit (which is a good thing). But you must resist the temptation to jump ship completely. After that change-up, return to your normal routine and continue on.
The problem with changing your training is you don’t know if you’re making progress on anything but the exercises at hand. So when you stop doing pushups to do a military press and you don’t try pushups again for months, you might be stronger in the press but will you be at pushups? If you’re changing exercises every month you’ll never know where you’re at.
But once you have a good routine (and there are so many available), and its pointing you towards your goals, just stick with it. What makes a routine good is not so much what it involves (with exceptions of course) but the fact that you do it consistently over time.