When is the time to change the training program?
Maximizing muscle growth is the ultimate goal of every fitness athlete and enthusiast, and it requires a combination of several factors, including exercise selection, proper technique, and adequate recovery. While some people may opt for a simple approach of doing only one or two exercises for a particular muscle group for years, it may not yield the best possible results.
Regional hypertrophy differences exist; specific exercises can stimulate particular muscle fibers more effectively than others. Therefore, using the same exercises or set of exercises for a long time may limit growth potential by missing out on small but significant swaths of fibers. For instance, hack squats are excellent for growing parts of your quads that leg presses don't stimulate as well, and vice versa. Similarly, different exercises can activate somewhat different combinations of muscle fibers.
Variation in hypertrophy is essential, but it must adhere to the specificity principle and not be done for its sake. It can be used to improve stimulus potency when movements become stale, to allow overuse-related damage to recover or to support the retention rather than growth of muscle when needed. In the long term, even retention promotes growth by allowing future gains to occur.
Knowing when to change exercises is crucial to maximizing hypertrophy. If you have been doing bench presses for the past two months, and the last three workouts were all-time personal records, you don't feel any unusual connective tissue pain during the movement. Bench presses get you a great pump, and you feel your whole back being worked by them. You should definitely keep this exercise in your training program. However, suppose you experience sharp pain in your left shoulder joint while doing bench presses. In that case, you should replace the exercise in the next week or change the training program unless you can solve the pain problem with an adjustment to your grip, rep speed, or other elements of your technique.
Similarly, if you have been doing skullcrushers with the barbell for the past three months and have not hit any personal records, and your elbows are hurting, you should almost certainly switch to at least exercises or training programs in the next week. For example, instead of barbell curls, you could try hitting your biceps with a hammer curl or any other exercise you feel comfortable doing.
In conclusion, variation in exercise selection is essential for maximizing hypertrophy, but it must adhere to the specificity principle and not be done for its sake. Changing the training program every few weeks is advisable to ensure you optimally stimulate all muscle fibers. Always listen to your body and make necessary changes to prevent injuries and maximize your gains.