Variety – Not Always Your Best Bet.

Variety – Not Always Your Best Bet.

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One of the reasons people love Flow Fitness is the seemingly limitless options we have regarding membership types, classes and personal-training packages. Let’s face it, people love variety, and the more options people have, the more likely they are to stay members. People also evoke this philosophy when it comes to their training and literally change their routine every time they come in or beg their trainer to “mix it up” during sessions.

In theory, constant variety may sound like a good idea as you eliminate “boredom” and promote “muscle confusion” (which is an overrated concept not backed by research as a superior method of training).  However, too much variety in your training program could actually put a damper on your results as you will have a difficult time tracking your progress in certain movements (essentially you’ll never know what is working in your program and what is not). Further, this lack of consistency in certain exercises can lead to injury, as you really need to repeat various movements several thousand times to ensure safe execution.  Conversely, people that come in and do the exact same routine every single day for several months will find diminishing returns as the body quickly adapts to the “stress” it endures and you find yourself at the same level of fitness you started at. Regardless of which category you fall into, neither is a favorable long-term option for success

The recipe for success should include a training plan that promotes consistency of exercises with small “tweaks” made along the way to ensure that the body continues to adapt over a three-to-six-week period (after which you will want to change your training plan).  Though three to six weeks may sound like a long time to focus on the same routine, there are some small changes you can make to your workout that will pay huge dividends in the long run. Below we have listed some of the main variables you can change to keep your workout fresh without completely revamping your day-to-day workouts.

Volume: Volume is a great way to “shock” the system into adapting through varying the amount of reps and sets done in a workout (assuming you use a similar weight). For example, if you are the type of person who does the same routine of three sets of 10 of 100 pounds on your squat, you can spice it up by increasing the number of sets to 6 (yes I said 6). This increases your volume of training from 30 reps to 60 reps and the body will adapt in order to handle much higher volume in the future. You can also get similar effects (up to a certain point) if you increase the number of reps of a particular exercise (this is more applicable for body weight training).

Intensity: When we use the word “intensity,” we are talking about the amount of resistance lifted. Using our 100-pound squat as an example, we can increase the intensity of the exercise by increasing our weight by 10 percent or 10 additional pounds.  In the case of increased weight, your total volume may go down, but the heavier weight will spark additional neural adaptations as well as promote additional muscle recruitment, leading to further physical adaptions without changing the type of exercise.

Rest Time: This is often an overlooked variable that people really don’t factor into their training program, but should. Rest intervals are crucial, especially if you are trying to increase your intensity (remember, intensity refers to the amount of resistance lifted). A “refreshed” nervous system is crucial if you want to push more weights multiple times and it is recommended you rest between two to five minutes if you are attempting big lifts. To have more of a conditioning effect, shorten your rest period to between 30 and 90 seconds.

Time Under Tension: T.U.T training (also known as cadence training) is another method of adding variety to your training program. The basic concept is: The longer we keep the muscle under tension, the more the body will have to adapt to these new demands. To get an idea of how this works, go back to your 100-pound squat: During the down phase of the squat, slowly go into your squat with a four-count cadence. At the bottom, hold this position for a one-count cadence, and as you begin the upward phase, go at a two-count cadence (this equals a time under tension of approximately seven seconds). Once at the top, immediately go into your downward phase again for your second rep. More likely than not you won’t be able to hit the 10 reps at this cadence, but the amount of “time” spent under stress should more than make up for the lower rep count.

Try changing some of these variables in your current routine before you jump ship on what you are doing, and see your results improve drastically!

 

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