Is It Bad To Do the Same Workout Every Day?

Fitness

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Young woman exercising with a kettlebell outdoors

We’ve all been there: obsessed with one specific workout, whether it’s a so-hard-it-hurts HIIT class, a makes-your-bod-rock Pilates class, a zen-AF yoga class, or a gives-you-literal-life regular run. It’s not always easy to exercise, but looking forward to this particular workout helps with motivation, so it’s pretty much the only workout that gets done. But is repeating the exact same series of exercises every time you break a sweat bad for your body?

“Finding a type of exercise you enjoy so much that you want to do it every day is a gift,” says certified personal trainer and fitness nutrition specialist Rachel Trotta. “But it’s smart to plan your week intelligently, so that your recovery is built in, and you can see the results you really want without burning out.”

In other words, if you’ve found a workout you love, hurray! Research shows enjoyment is one of the main reasons people adhere to a workout regimen, and anything that motivates you to move your body is a good thing. And when it comes to certain workouts, like strength-training, repetition can be key. But there are reasons to at least try to mix other workouts in with your favorite go-to. Below, experts unpack some of the arguments for variety when it comes to designing your exercise regimen and offer suggestions for mixing it up like a pro trainer.

The Downsides of Doing the Same Workout Every Day

1. You’re Not Allowing Time for Recovery

If you’re repeating the same workout every single day, you may not be giving your body adequate time to recover, which can end up working against your fitness goals.

But just how important recovery is depends on the type of workout you’re repeating, says Trotta. For example, if it’s a well-balanced strength-training regimen or a daily yoga class that hits a variety of muscle groups, you may not have to worry about recovery as much as you need to if your workout is higher in intensity, such as distance running or a high-octane HIIT class.

“Some kinds of exercise tax the nervous system, but this isn’t a bad thing as long as sufficient recovery happens — you tend to come back stronger and more resilient,” says Trotta. “But if you’re exerting this stress literally every day, or almost every day, you might experience the opposite effect from overdoing it. Your performance will suffer, you’ll feel more lethargic, random injuries will pop up, and you’ll probably even see unwanted changes in body composition.”

In Trotta’s experience, the most common culprit for “overuse” injury from repetition is running. “It’s important to know that running is a unique type of cardio exercise because of the power and impact involved. Your muscles have to absorb and translate a lot of force, especially at faster speeds,” she says. “If someone’s primary mode of exercise is running, it’s critical that they take one to two rest days a week, and vary the intensity of their training day to day.”

With strength training, however, progress actually requires repetition. So Trotta says it’s important to build a routine that allows you to switch up your target muscles throughout the week. “With strength training, for example, overuse only tends to happen if someone is training the same muscle groups too frequently — like doing back-to-back leg days — and is overreaching their abilities every time they walk in the gym,” she says. “Even then, I wouldn’t necessarily use the word ‘overuse’ — it’s just not very organized programming, which should allow for ups and downs in intensity and proper rest between training days.”

2. You’ll Hit a Plateau

If you do the same workout every day, your body will adapt to the workout over time. Repeating a workout is great in the beginning, especially as motivation. You start to get good at those specific movements and with that comes not only physical, but mental changes as well. However, your body will eventually hit a plateau,” says Nike Well Collective trainer Julia Brown. “You then slowly lose the motivation because you no longer see the results and begin to feel discouraged.”

Strength training, says Brown, provides a great example of this. If you’re constantly doing the exact same workout and not adding the proper progressions, you won’t see results. “Any movement is a plus; however, if you have specific goals in mind, they might not be as achievable doing the same workout three to four times a week compared to following a tailored program,” she says. “Having the proper balance in your workout regime allows you to not only move better, but continuously challenges yourself mentally and physically.”

3. You May Get Bored

While you can reap the psychological benefits of engaging in a workout you love long after your body has adapted, you may eventually adapt mentally as well and grow bored. This can cause you to be less mindful in your movements, and eventually lose motivation to hit the gym altogether.

4. It Could Lead to Over-Exercising

In some cases, says Trotta, repetitive exercise can become a compulsion of sorts. “Sometimes, people over-exercise in pursuit of weight loss, or they do a specific type of exercise because they’ve heard that it will ‘give them’ the body they idealize,” she says. “Body image anxiety can strongly influence exercise behaviors, causing people to tune out important clues about overtraining, like excessive fatigue or pesky injuries. I especially find this with running or HIIT classes — it can turn into a ball-and-chain routine that must be done to prevent weight gain.”

To figure out if you’re over-exercising or exercising too repetitively, Trotta recommends clarifying your goals. “Are you trying to get stronger? Build muscle? Boost your mental health? Manage your weight?” she says. “Simply knowing why you’re exercising can help you create a healthy roadmap that avoids burnout.”

How To Create the Right Workout “Recipe”

When it comes to optimally training your body, there is actually a formula of sorts to follow, says Trotta. “When we’re trying to create a healthy and effective weekly exercise schedule, we’re not just looking at frequency or the type of exercise — we’re thinking about undulations in intensity as well,” she says. “A smart ‘recipe’ is to have a large base of low-intensity movement, like lots of walking, two to three days a week of moderately vigorous exercise, and one to two days a week of high-intensity exercise.”

This means, Trotta says, that you don’t necessarily have to do completely different workouts throughout the week to add the variety your body needs. For example, if someone loves to run, they can get a lot of miles in every week without injury if they’re intentional about the types of runs they’re doing: mixing it up between easy paces, speed runs, intervals, etc.

“If someone loves high-intensity classes, they can go to that class a lot if they mindfully push themselves harder on some days while coasting on other days,” she says. “Even with a Peloton bike or treadmill, you can choose shorter HIIT workouts a few days a week, with easier intervals, runs, and paces on other days.”

In some cases, you do need to change things up a bit more, however. For strength-training clients, Trotta recommends vigorous strength training three to four days per week, with walking and various forms of cardio mixed in on the other days.

But there is one caveat. “If someone uses running as their cardio between strength-training days, it’s important to ‘pick a lane’ and commit to which sport they’re trying to improve at the moment, because one needs to be moderate to allow the other to make organized progress,” she says.

Trotta reiterates the importance of incorporating specific types of variety within a strength-training regimen, too. “You can vary the exercises used for a specific muscle group, and this can be effective in terms of varying intensity,” she says. “For example, if you’re working on squats, you might be focusing on barbell back squats. But it can be smart to just do barbell back squats at your max once a week, and work squats in other ways on other days — Smith machine front squats, leg presses, heavy goblet squats, and more.”

Working the same muscles from different angles and at different intensities can somewhat help with injury prevention by stimulating different parts of the muscle to engage. “I write most of my clients’ programs with this kind of variety built in — it gives them more flexibility at the gym, and also helps to prevent mental burnout,” Trotta says. “But you have to be careful about too much variety, because you won’t make progress if you don’t repeat a particular exercise often enough.” For example, if you only do barbell back squats once a month, you’re probably not going to make significant progress in increasing the weight you’re lifting.

If you’re unsure of whether or not you’re properly varying your strength-training regimen or allowing for adequate muscle recovery, Trotta says there are a few questions you can ask yourself. “Is the weight too heavy? Are there at least two days between the same muscle group being worked strenuously? Are you clearing soreness by the time the next workout rolls around?” she says. “On the lifestyle side of the equation, you can also take a look at sleep and nutrition, to ensure that you’re providing yourself with sufficient recovery.”

Ultimately, Any Exercise Is Good Exercise

While the ideal workout regimen includes a significant amount of variety (for all the reasons listed above), it’s important to remember that some movement is better than no movement. So, if mixing it up is going to demotivate you, it’s better to be a creature of habit then to end up with no exercise habit at all.

“The statistical reality is that most people don’t get enough physical activity, and it’s incredibly easy for people to fall off the wagon with their exercise,” says Trotta. “So if someone is highly motivated by a specific class and essentially won’t exercise otherwise, I understand why they might go every day, even if, in some ways, it’s not in their best interests.”

Her advice for these folks is to “go hard” with their chosen workout a few days a week, “go easy” with it on the other days, and plan to rest one day per week. “While it might not be an ideal arrangement from the point of view of perfect exercise science, it’s miles better than not exercising at all,” she says.

Image Source: Getty / OLEKSANDRA TROIAN

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