When I was playing professional racquetball, one of the biggest challenges of continuing to improve my game was that it took more work to achieve smaller changes. The difference between the top athletes was narrow and incremental improvements could make the difference between winning and losing.
Rather than devising new methods or trying to be more creative, I found that returning to basics and cleaning up stroke mechanics or footwork were a better use of my time. I call this regressing to progress, or going back to focusing on a deeper aspect of something familiar.
Most of my clients have been with me for a long time, so the challenge of keeping them improving and progressing becomes very similar to what I needed to do to improve my racquetball game (and still do to improve my own healthy lifestyle).
Often we bump up against sticking points, or impediments to progress. We seek the new diet, or the hot workout routine to break through our lack of results. These may keep us interested or motivated for a time, but inevitably we will wind up bumping up against a new lack of progress.
There’s nothing wrong with seeking stimulation in the form of newness, as long as we understand the purpose. New exercises and ideas are great to try out to see what we might want to incorporate, but they aren’t going to be the final answer. In fact, there is no final answer, merely experimentation and learning.
Which brings us back to the original concept of regressing to progress. Try regressing your exercises by slowing down the tempo, going deeper into the targeted muscle group by focusing on core stability and more fully contracting the muscles. Refuse to perform a lazy rep by making each one as correct as possible.
Regressing your exercises also engages you mentally, which is just as important as being engaged physically. Connecting your brain to the muscles you are using increases your workout quality. If you’re going to exercise, why not make the most of your time?
Often, in order to complete the exercises with stricter form, you must reduce the amount of weight, or perform fewer repetitions. It may feel like going backwards, but the increased attention to basics will result in a stronger foundation and ultimately allow you to progress further than you otherwise could have.