It doesn't matter if you're training to lose fat, build muscle, or both.

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If you want to make progress, you must always try and increase the resistance you’re using. To improve, you need to continually increase either the weight you are lifting, or the number of repetitions you perform with a certain weight. Just performing 10 repetitions with a 20lb weight, week in and week out, is a complete waste of time. If you don’t push your body, it won’t adapt (i.e. get stronger, firmer, or more toned).

Always enter the gym with the goal of improving on what you did last time. Even if the improvement is only small, it doesn’t matter. What’s important is that you are making progress.

Of course, you won’t be able to progress at the same rate forever. The nearer you get to your genetic potential, the slower the gains will be. This is known by exercise scientists as the ceiling of adaptation. In short, what it means is that the longer you’ve been training, the slower your progress will be. But don’t lose heart! Even though you might not be adding ten pounds to your bench press or squat every few weeks, you can still keep improving. Here are a few ideas:

1. Use a different repetition range
If you always train using 6-8 repetitions, try 8-12 repetitions, or even higher (20 or more). This is a great way to “shake up” your training and force your muscles to adapt in a different way.

2. Use different speeds
Many people train using the same controlled speed all the time. While it’s true that controlled movements are superior to uncontrolled movements, this doesn’t mean that you can’t use faster lifting speeds, to stimulate and attack different fibres in the muscle. For example, use a light weight on the bench press, but use a fast movement on the lifting phase of the exercise (when you lift the bar from the chest to arms length). This is a great way to stimulate the type II muscle fibers, and will also increase your power and strength.

3. Try new exercises
Change your routine every 3-4 weeks. Even if it’s just using dumbbells instead of barbells. Dumbbell deadlifts, for example, are a great alternative to conventional deadlifts. They feel different, and will give you that nice ache the next day (the one you got when you first started training!).

It’s also absolutely vital to log and record what you’re doing in the gym. If you don’t have a plan - in writing - then you will simply not make the progress you deserve. As such, it’s vital that you keep a training diary. Don’t moan that it’s too much time or effort! All you need to do is write down what exercises you do, how many sets and repetitions you’ve used, and the weight you’re lifting. The only people that don't buy or use training diaries are the ones that know they aren't making any progress! You'll be amazed how quickly you achieve your goals, once you write them down.

If you’re getting bored with leg curls, why not try adding some partial deadlifts to your hamstring training programme?

The hamstrings (the large muscles at the back of your thighs) are often neglected. Many people simply throw in a few sets of leg curls at the end of a leg workout. However, to ensure balanced development of the thighs, it’s vital to train both the quadriceps (front thigh) and hamstrings with equal effort.

Partial deadlifts (also known as the Romanian Deadlift) involve bending forward and lowering a barbell down to the mid-point of your shins (roughly half way between your knees and your feet). The knees are kept slightly bent, and your back should remain in its normal slightly curved position throughout the movement.

Here’s a sample leg workout for you to try next time you’re in the gym:

Squats: 3-4 sets of 6-10 repetitions
Leg Extension: 3 sets of 8-12 repetitions
Partial Deadlift: 3-4 sets of 6-10 repetitions
Lying Leg Curl: 3 sets of 8-12 repetitions

Some important points to remember:

1. Use the first two sets of each exercise as a warm-up, then take the final two sets to the point of muscle failure.

2. Don’t perform this routine more than twice weekly (once a week is enough for most people.)

3. Make sure to stretch your legs at the end of each workout. Stretch both your quadriceps and hamstrings for 20-30 seconds each.

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