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18 June, 2012
Too Little Or Not Enough Variation – Finding The Balance Between Consistency And Variety.
Creating not enough variety is one aspect of training that is most commonly done incorrectly by everyday gym users, but surprisingly trainers seem to go to the other end of the spectrum and create far too much variety for their clients, often in an attempt to create interesting and entertaining programmes. Unfortunately all at the expense of the clients progress or goals (and quite often I believe to entertain and keep themselves interested more than anything). But lets focus on the first mistake – not creating enough variety in programmes! Remember the goal of training is to overload the body so it has to adapt by getting stronger. However like anything the body can get incredibly used to the same movement patterns and techniques. You have to shock the body to overload and stimulate new muscle tissue and if you want muscle hypertrophy, thus creating variety is a key component for that hypertrophy to occur. I think one prime reason for members not to have variety in a gym is quite simply comfort zones. People are creatures of habit and we like to stick to those habits – they make us feel safe and comforted. I have seen people stick to the same programmes in a gym for over three years or more. Well unfortunately we have to break those habits and create variety that offers us overload and progression. How often do we need to change? Well that is answered in the above topic “Too little or too much rest between workouts (tip no 5)”, as soon as you start to not improve from workout to workout, then you should change your routine. Changing to what is answered in the next section “Periodisation or lack of it”. If you really like your routines and are not prepared to change your routine too much then at least changing your reps (still lifting a suitable weight that allows you to go to failure for the new rep bracket) or simply changing the grip from a wide grip to a neutral grip (or doing both is even better). Depending on your genetic make up you will plateau between 3 and 6 weeks. The key here is to create that variety, change your programme every time you plateau, once you have done the new programme a couple of times it will be within your new comfort zone. And you will also have to leave your ego at the table – if you lift a higher rep bracket, it will mean that you will have to drop the weight – however it is all to create stimulus and overload which ultimately leads to hypertrophy. Do not stay on the same programme for too long, your time in a gym is valuable and it should not be wasted, work hard and then move on.
The other side of the coin is adding too much variety. I have seen people with trainers get taken through a new routine every time they set foot in the gym. Quoting the great Ian King
“Doing a programme for the first time is about learning which weight should be used, getting used to the new demands and rest intervals, even the second time you do the programme the body is still learning, the neurological system needs time to adapt, it is not until the third and fourth time you do a programme that the personal bests are gained.”
Therefore trying something new every time is not the best approach, stick to a new routine, get better at it, plateau and then move on to do it all again. Do not allow your trainer (if you have one) to entertain you – you are not there giving your sweat for nothing – you are there for results.