Variety is usually one of the staple principles in designing training programs. Variety can be used for different purposes:
- Progression – starting with a basic exercise and progress it to a more difficult variation.
- Adaptability – varying the exercises frequently ensures continued adaptation of the muscles.
- Interest – prevent the clients and athletes of becoming too bored doing the same exercises all the time.
While I’m not going to argue against any of these reasons for using variety, I will certainly make a point that variety is not always desirable.
Strength development is a good example. If you’re trying to improve strength, rotating exercises too often can be counterproductive. There is an important neural adaptation that takes place when you’re gaining strength that is due to your body getting more efficient at performing a specific movement pattern. When you switch exercises around too often you don’t give the central nervous system time to adapt, so you’re potentially limiting your gain.
As you become a more advanced lifter, there is more and more value to working with percentages of your 1 rep max (1 RM) to prevent overtraining and injuries. This is something that might be hard to do if you’re constantly changing your exercises around because it becomes pretty hard to know what you’re 1RM actually is for each of them.
Those are 2 pretty big factors to consider for any intermediate-advanced lifter.
But then, does variety becomes obsolete?
No. There is a way to get the best of both worlds. A way I have found very efficient throughout the years is to stick to your main lifts ( a small handful of them) in pretty much all of your programs, but use variety in your assistance exercises. For example, you would put a deadlift as a main lower body lift in 3, or 4 consecutive programs, but use different assistance exercises in each one of those programs; let’s say a Cable Pullthrough on the first program, a Stiff-Legged Deadlift on the second one, a Good Morning on the third, and a Rack Pull on the fourth. You can also use variety with your core exercises, and your corrective work if you want. That way you make consistent progress off of your main lifts, while getting variety from your assistance exercises, and therefore ensuring adaptability and interest in the program from the athletes or clients.
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