To make progress in your workout, you have to get comfortable with each exercise — to perform it with proper form and muscle-building intensity. But there's such a thing as too comfortable: A point when your muscles can predict what's coming and stop growing. When does that happen? Some experts say six to eight weeks (but experts also told us to drink six to eight glasses of water daily, which had very little scientific basis). Avoid guesstimates and listen to what your body's telling you. Here are 5 things it has to say about when it’s time to go back to the drawing board.
"No pain, no gain" isn't just a cliché. Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is a result of microtrauma to connective tissues when we put our muscles under stress. You don’t want to feel like you’ve been hit by a truck — too much soreness will reduce the intensity in the gym and sap your motivation. But being able to feel that you’ve been working out is good: It’s a sign that you’re damaging your muscles through exercise. The repair of that damage is one of the three processes that make muscles larger and stronger over time. (The other two are mechanical tension and metabolic stress).
Some guys go to the gym just to maintain their physiques, but most of us want to make some positive changes. To get stronger and to look better by increasing muscle and reducing fat. You ought to see the effects of a workout program within four to six weeks of getting started, provided that you’re paying attention to what you’re eating as well. Keep an eye on the mirror, and take pictures to gauge how your body is adapting to how you’re working it.
Workouts should get easier over time. It means your body is adapting to the movement and load, executing the work more efficiently. But there will come a point when the exercise becomes too easy. If your seventh or eighth rep is about as easy as the first or second, it’s time to increase the weight (so those last few reps are a real challenge) or change up your routine completely.
Although a workout should be challenging, it should still be enjoyable. It’s hard to enjoy anything if it feels like a slog. If that's the case, it's time to reshuffle the deck. Making gains in the gym is about adherence, and if you’re feeling blah, you’re far more likely to phone in a performance or skip the last few exercises. The result? You lose strength and muscular gains and momentum. So devise a routine that doesn’t put you to sleep.
One of the great perks of having a challenging exercise routine is that it kicks your appetite into high gear. That's your body's way of telling you that it need fuel to repair and build muscle. If your furnace has died down, your body's saying that you're dragging ass in the gym. Redouble your efforts, and you’ll see a spike in your appetite. That means you’re back on the right track.