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Exercise Routines vs Variations

Posted 215 Days Ago in: Training, Genetics


Do you love your routine? Or do you enjoy changing it up? And what's better? We investigate the benefits of both and help you to decide

How’s your training going?

If you’ve already got into the groove and have been training for a while then you know that after seeing massive results in the beginning, things start to get a little more, well, frustrating.

You find that your routine is convenient – whatever it is:

Chest on Monday, back on Tuesday, legs on Wednesday, shoulders on Thursday, bis and tris on Friday with abs every day… and weekends dedicated to full-on cardio sessions. This may not be your routine, but you get the gist.

It works for you and you’ve been doing it for months, but the results have dried up and you may feel like your stagnating, the word plateau is whispered in dark corners…

You may have even skipped a day or two because you just don't feel as motivated as you do before. Your rationale could be that if you let yourself lose some conditioning and training and get a little out of shape then you’ll come back a little more motivated.

But it doesn't have to be this way. You probably just haven’t mastered the art of training progression and variation.

The truth is that your body is not stupid. Maybe it’ll feel like it's a little out of its depth in the beginning, when you first start training like a demon, but over time it gets used to it – just like it got accustomed to late nights out and days spent watching soul-sucking television on a diet of junk food akin to a polar bear setting up shop for hibernation. The trick is that you need to keep your body guessing, or else you’re never going to get anywhere. It’s like a kid with ADD being forced to sit watching paint dry all day. Don’t kill your body’s creativity – show it another way.  

And this is where variation comes in…

For sportsmen, even they need to keep their bodies guessing with fresh new challenges, and this is why they include periodized training into their workouts. As studies succinctly put it: “applying periodized planning to team sports poses unique challenges due to the variety of training goals, volume of concurrent training and practices, and extended season of competition.” The variation increases the scope of their goals and challenges athletes to improve themselves throughout the season so that they can reach their targets continuously and go on to compete at a higher level.

Now, we know you aren’t all athletes, but the same concept can be applied because we are all human, are we not?

Basically, variation is about incorporating changes in aerobic training and resistance training, which stimulates weight loss, forces you to engage other muscles such as your core, and reduces your injury risk.

Aerobic Training

Aerobic training is so diverse that it is easy to progress and challenge yourself. Just take the general ways you can train yourself at the gym: running on the treadmill, swimming, elliptical, spinning, cycling, rowing, swimming, aerobics classes.

All of these pose a new challenge to your body and forces you to engage different muscles, breathe in different ways, and compete at a higher level to achieve results and meet your goals.

At a deeper level, you can set different difficulties in the way you approach these exercises. You can do this by incorporating more high intensity interval training or joining fitness classes that require that you do things at a more challenging level. By doing this you can be certain that your body won’t plateau as it will be faced with a new challenge to overcome every time you hit the gym.

Strength Training

The basic premise around strength training is to lift heavier when a certain weight range becomes easier, but that’s not where it stops. If this was all you could do then eventually you would plateau no matter what.

Strength training can be made to be more challenging, resulting in bigger, leaner muscles, by aiming to do more repetitions centred around eccentric loads, which means concentrating the movement slowly downward for something as simple as a bicep curl and then completing the curl normally. This will help to increase your flexibility and the length of the muscle.

Another way is to vary the way you work a certain muscle group as well. If you’re stuck in the habit of doing a bench press and pec fly for chest then get creative and use dumbbells, or cables which adds to the resistance created. Variation of the actual exercises you do will keep your body guessing about what it’s going to do next. This is also exemplified by doing weighted and one-legged squats instead of the usual run of the mill stuff.  

Additional Training

If you’re going into the gym every morning before work, getting in a session, and then leaving, doing the same thing over and over again and wondering why you aren’t seeing massive gains or the weight loss results you want then there’s definitely something amiss.

Clearly, you need to be doing something different so here’s few a little solutions for you: join one of those high intensity fitness classes you see people blasting themselves in, incorporate Pilates and yoga into your exercises on rest days, and expanding your horizons by going on trail runs outdoors. The competitiveness doesn't have to stop there. You can also try out different outdoor activities and even train for an event like an Iron Man or Warrior Race that will force you to do things differently.



Your body needs variation and progression. You can’t let it get used to what it’s doing or let it stand still because it is capable of so much and needs to be spoken to on a variety of levels. Including variations into your workouts will ensure that your body becomes more capable of doing a myriad of exercises and methods of training and will also prevent you from plateauing.



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