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  • Michael Keane

Variability in Training

Is there more than one way to reach my goal?


“There are many roads to the same destination.” – Some wise dude at some point in time


Last week, we spoke about deload weeks and why it’s so important to include it in our training. Stephen enlightened us as to how taking a step back from training either completely or by decreasing the amount of volume (amount of sets and reps) and/or intensity (amount of weight) over the course of a session can catapult our results through the principle of rest and recovery. The same can also be said for the principle of variability.


People in general don’t like change. They want to do what they are comfortable with because change is scary. This is all too true when it comes to training. People find a program and work that program to the best of their ability. After a while a few things happen.


1. We tend to get bored and lose motivation 2. We stop seeing gains, get frustrated and lose motivation and 3. Injuries start to creep in due to overuse or overtraining of certain movements and muscle groups decreasing our motivation and our ability to train. All 3 hinder us on our way to reaching our goals.


Why does this happen?


These 3 situations tend to come about because we don’t use variability in our training. No matter what our goal is, there are many roads to the destination. The principles will always remain the same, but the methods can be manipulated to avoid boredom, continue to see gains and decrease the risk of overuse injuries.  


What is variability?


Variability is changing the movements we perform to create muscle “confusion”. This forces the body to adapt to the new stimulus which will induce gains we need to progress in the main lifts we want to improve. For example, if you trying to get stronger, changing out a high bar back squat to a safety bar squat or a front squat can change the stimulus enough that will force you move in a different way. This in turn will activate different muscles that still lead toward you gaining strength albeit in a more well-rounded fashion.


What is it not?


Variability is not changing exercises every week for the sake of changing exercises. There should be a level of transferability from what the goal is to what the exercise selection and variation is. For example, if you are looking to build strength, doing an overhead squat, while a perfectly good movement, is not going to help you get stronger in the same way a safety bar squat or front squat will.


So, what’s your point?


While mastering a movement is all well and good, variability will be the principle and factor that will allow you see sustainable results over a long period of time and make you a well-rounded lifter while keeping you interested, motivated and safe.  Changing exercises every block, which could be every 3 to 6 or 7 weeks, is a great way to not only increase your repertoire of exercises, but to hit muscles in a different way so that you develop weaker parts of main lifts (squat, deadlift and bench) even if you’re not a powerlifter.  


My next article will be on rep and set schemes that can help you get the results you want as part of your practice of utilizing variability in your training.

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