Getting Clients Out of a Rut


Are your clients stuck in a rut? A rut has been defined as a grave with both ends kicked out and a rut is often the graveyard for many trainees’ fitness endeavors. Strong measures are required to climb out of a rut and that often translates into change. Change is a big part of life and is often a necessary element in keeping a trainee going strong. Trainees can be reluctant to change but once they do they start to move ahead again. When the trainee steps away from the “same old stuff” they often gain new motivation and stimulation for growth. By shocking the trainee with a significant new challenge you can help them bust out of the rut.

Change of Pace

There are several ways to bring change into a trainee’s program. One of the best is the element of time. The time a trainee takes between working sets is a control element that can be adjusted to change the stimulus on the body. There is a natural tendency for a client to drift toward more and more rest time between sets. It has been said that a common tendency in the human race is to slide backwards—to revert to comfort. Humans have a natural, innate desire to take the easy road. And this results in sneaking in barely noticeable increases in the rest time between sets. The way to combat this backsliding tendency is with a strong change—deliberately shortening the rest time between sets. This will radically change the workout, and will also radically change the body.

The typical trainee rests at least two to three minutes and sometimes more. The body’s neuromuscular system grows accustomed to the same stimulus, including the rest time and becomes stale. Changing the interval of rest gives the body a new hurdle to clear. This is particularly true of a shortened rest time (60 seconds rest or less between sets), which pumps up the pace of the workout. When you do this, the body responds with much more evident gains. One element to be aware of – the increase pace, with a shortened rest period – should not be employed forever. A good approach is to use the shorter rest period training for a cycle of roughly six weeks. The one-minute or less of rest between sets is a super change of pace for a month and a half and will yield significant training gains, particularly in the muscles. Again, don’t get stuck here as it can cause overtraining fairly rapidly. Use a six week cycle, then revert back to the traditional two to three minute rest intervals. By employing this high intensity cycle a couple times a year the body can be jolted out of complacency and to a new level of gains. The use of the minimal rest intervals also makes the traditional rest routine more productive when the trainee returns to it.

Change of Workload

There is a second approach to shocking the body out of a monotonous rut and that is with an overload routine. A specific exercise or muscle group is selected and it is overloaded with a larger-than-normal amount of training. This style of training was employed by Arnold Schwarzenegger during his development phase and yielded impressive results. Arnold and friends would take an exercise like the squat and perform it for a few hours of high repetition, high set activity. A session or two of concentrated work on an exercise like the squat will challenge the client to surge ahead. These shock style workouts are best with compound movements like the squat or bench press or even something like the chin-up. Have your client use a higher repetition range and perform a high set range as well. The weight load will need to be lighter to accommodate this change as the higher sets and repetitions will really tax the trainees system quickly. A shift in the repetition and/or set range will force the trainee’s body to respond and also force them to concentrate more on the new routine. As with the minimal rest workouts, these shock sessions should be employed minimally, in a quick cycle.

Change of Style

The style of the exercise can also be changed with good effect. Most trainees’ workouts are centered on a bodybuilding style routine. However, powerlifting and/or explosive, Olympic style lifting routines are great rut busters and work the body in a different manner than the trainee has been accustomed to. Both powerlifting and Olympic lifting routines are entirely different animals than bodybuilding style workouts and force the trainee to fully engage in the workout. These types of workouts will also force the client onto a new learning curve, which is beneficial as well. As with the other training approaches, use the change of style in a cyclical fashion.

One of the worst places for a trainee to be is in a rut. The prescription for this problem is change. Significant change that equates to shock and awe. A change of pace, workload and/or style will all do the trick for new motivation and training momentum that will lift the trainee right out of the rut.


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