I’m So Bored! 3 Engaging Ways to Banish Workout Boredom
We as humans don’t handle boredom very well.
In fact, a study led by the University of Virginia showcased our poor capacity to sit alone with our own thoughts. Most subjects in the study would rather be doing something – anything – than just sitting alone being bored.
Even more alarming is that some of the participants in the study would willingly engaged in harmful, unpleasant behavior – like shocking themselves – instead of being bored.
Case in point? We don’t know how to be bored.
But if we look at achievement, it requires some boredom. Repetitive tasks done over and over again to yield a result. This plays true in fitness as well.
However, we see this type of I-can’t-sit-still behavior causing people to bounce from training program to training program and hopping from diet to diet instead of remaining under the constraints of tested methods. Essentially choosing to shock themselves with bogus methods instead of being bored using the methods that actually work.
According to Dr. Irving Biederman, a neuroscientist at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, our brains have something to do with this impatient, fidgety behavior. An overlooked factor is our Opioids – a chemical in the brain that gives us pleasure.
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A new experience will stimulate and release opioids and give us that rush or that sense of wow. Then, the brain is hardwired to seek more reward. But if no new stimulus is provided, the euphoria is nowhere to be round. We become bored. As you expose yourself to the same experience or activity less neurons are firing, and you’re not as aroused. Things become stale – you lose the thrill.
This is probably most evident with fitness.
Once the newness of the state-of-the-art periodized training plan wears off the default reaction is to search for something new. When the flashy diet gets old, it’s time to hunt for the next trend.
It’s the way we’re wired. So, instead of trying to completely re-wire how we behave, it’s easier to tweak your approach rather than trying to re-invent fitness to satisfy our thirst for variance.
Barbells and dumbbells aren’t going anywhere. They’ll be the kings of the iron game at least in our lifetime. Therefore, the tools and movements you’ll be learning in this articles will augment the tools and movements that have stood the test of time.
The advantage you’ll be walking away with after this articles is twofold. One, you’ll have a back-pocket full of tools you can count on to inject some variance into your training (so you don’t end up wanting to gauge your eyes out from training boredom). Two, all of these movements are variations of the classic moves you do with a barbell or dumbbell – just with a different vehicle.
You’ll be pushing, pulling and swinging your way to more enthused workouts which leads to a better body.
When things get slow and monotonous you need to break out from your routine and incorporate new movements – like kettelbells, suspension straps and sandbags – so that you can sustain motivation and continue to make solid gains in your route to a chiseled physique.
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3 Engaging Ways to Banish Workout Boredom
#1 – Kettlebells
Just a few decades ago, if you mentioned kettlebells anywhere outside of Eastern Europe you’d be lucky if somebody knew what you were talking about.
Today, kettlebells are stocked in warehouse training facilities and housed in garage gyms across the country. Heck, they are even found in commercial gyms now.
There are a few key benefits to kettlebell training.
The first one being that the movements is a great alternative for people who have low back issues. Dr. Stuart McGill, professor of spine biomechanics found that kettlebell swings showed a reversed polarity of posterior shear at L4 and L5 when compared to traditional posterior chain movements like the deadlift and good morning.
For those who want to improve body composition and strengthen their backside but are unable to perform normative movements, the kettlebell swing serves as a perfect alternative.
Secondly, the kettlebell used a tool influences you to move a load that amplifies the ballistic movement pattern which makes the kettlelbell feel heavier than it is. This benefit allows you to load a heavy kettlebell without increasing the risk of injury. Think of ballistic as a bullet – one moment of potent acceleration (the hip hinge) followed by a fluid coasting of movement. This prevents the lower back from being overloaded beyond what it can handle.
Lastly, kettlebell movements are convenient. In the park, in your garage or in your spare room, you can attack a series of kettlebell movements for a killer workout.
What you’ll need:
To have an expansive experience with kettlebells, you’ll want buy three of them. One at 16kg, one at 24kg and one at 32kg. From pulls to swings, and from curls to presses, you’ll be able to keep things fresh for a while with a set of kettlebell swings. Here are a few movements to try:
The Russian swing
You’ll hover a bell on the floor with your feet shoulder width apart. You’ll initiate by grabbing the handle with both hands. You’ll lift the bell between the legs and give a slight back swing to create an opportunity for the hips to thrust forward. Once the bell returns towards the front, bring your hips with it to extension. The hip drive will cause the bell shoot up to eye level.
Let the bell fall between your legs to initiate the next rep. You should exhale on the swing and inhale on the return.
Single arm press
You’ll rack one bell with one arm. The bell should rest on your bicep and upper forearm when racked. Your feet should be shoulder width apart – your glutes should be turned on along with a tight midsection. From here, you’ll press the bell overhead. As the bell ascend you’ll rotate your arm in corkscrew fashion finishing the movements with your palm facing forward.
Establish a stance with your feet right outside of your shoulders and toes pointed out slightly. Hold the bell from the base – your hands will be under the bell with the handle facing up. Then, initiate the movement by pushing your hips back and down.
As you descend, be sure your knees track outward and not forward over your toes. Stay in your heels. When you get to the bottom, it’s okay to have your elbows push your knees out.
#2 – Suspension Trainers
Suspension trainers, like TRX, offer some great benefits.
First, they are incredibly portable – so if you want to get a workout in your bedroom, or while you’re on vacation in the Bahamas the TRX makes this possible. All you need in addition to the straps are a door jam, a tree or some other stable anchor, and you have access to a wide variety of movements.
Suspension training takes body-weight movements to the next level by leveraging your body’s relationship to gravity. The beauty of the setup is that a lot of movements are scalable. Meaning, by adjusting angles, the relative difficulty can be scaled up or down depending on the trainees capacity.
Here are a few movements to try:
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You’ll grab the handles and face the anchor point with your feet shoulder width apart. From here you’ll straighten your arms and then walk your feet a few steps toward the anchor point to allow your upper torso to lean back. Before you pull be sure to engage your abs and tighten your glutes.
To initiate the pull, you’ll want to engage the lats and back muscles first and then follow through the pull from the elbows. Pull your chest to the handles and then lower yourself to starting position to repeat.
TRX pistol squat
Use a similar set as the TRX row but hold your arms in front of you at a 90-degree angle with your elbows by your sides and the handles at chest level. There should be some tension in the straps.
You’ll initiate by pushing your hips back and down on one leg – your off leg should be extended out in front of you. Proceed to break parallel with your squatting leg while you hold onto the straps. Once you hit the hole, squat up and return to starting position.
TRX push up
You’ll adjust the straps to hang about a foot off the ground. Then you’ll set up by grabbing each handle with your palms facing each other. Extend your feet out as you normally would in push up position. In the top position be sure to have a tight mid-line and engaged glutes (don’t let the hips sag).
The instability of the straps will put you into a battle against gravity – causing your stabilizing muscles to work overtime. Lower yourself until your front delts touch the straps and then push yourself back up to starting position.
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#3 – Sandbags
The first upside to sandbag training that often gets overlooked is that it’s incredibly practical and cheap. All you need is a duffel bag, some sand and about 30 minutes to put it all together. You could have a potent tool that can be used for several movements for about $50 bucks.
When people talk about stabilizing muscles, it’s hard to put it into context until you wake up the next day feeling sore in places you didn’t know existed. There’s arguably no other tool more effective stimulating stabilizing muscles than the sandbag. It’s awkward, and constantly challenging multiple muscles groups at each turn.
Here are a few movements to try:
Bear hug squat
Grab a sandbag and hug it across your chest. Assume squat position with your feet. Then perform a squat by pushing your hips back and keeping weight in your heels.
Sandbag push press
You’ll grab the sandbag on the floor by the power handles. From here, clean the sandbag to the racked position (so it’s sitting across your upper chest and front delts). This is the starting position.
From here, you’ll perform the push press with three cues – the dip, the drive and the press. The dip will happen at the knees while you keep the sandbag racked. The dip will be about 10% of a full squat. Then, you’ll extend the knees and hips for the drive. Lastly, you’ll take the sandbag overhead with the press after the knees and hips have extended
This is a no frills movement that serves as a great finishing tool. However you see fit, you’ll carry the sandbag as far as you can. Once you have to cease and put the sandbag down the drill is over.
Getting bored is inevitable.
However, the sliver lining is found in how you react to boredom. Will you jump ship and pursue some circus based method? Or will you objectively look at the situation and realize that some purposeful variance is permitted?
If you prefer to react with the latter, you now have a handful of tools you can use to mix things up with your training. You can be move forward with assurance that by augmenting your training with these movements you won’t be letting the wheels fall off and pursuing some bogus methods.
Fold these movements into our approach and you’ll keep things fresh, preventing your training from becoming as exciting as watching the grass grow.
“Just Think: The Challenges of the Disengaged Mind.” Science. N.p., n.d. Web. 8 Jan. 2016.
“Kettlebell Swing, Snatch, and Bottoms-up Carry: Back and Hip Muscle Activation, Motion, and Low Back Loads. – PubMed – NCBI.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. N.p., n.d. Web. 8 Jan. 2016