Variety in Exercise

We’ve observed some people perform the same or virtually the same workout week in, week out for months and even years. They or someone else has built a workout that the trainee feels addresses all of their needs and they stick with it to the point that it’s no longer giving them what it once did.

Besides the risk of overuse injuries from continuously and exclusively working the same movement, there’s the mental burnout where they become sick of the exercises and start skipping workouts.

It’s perfectly understandable, we want something that isn’t overly complicated in terms of variation and easy to remember.

Some people manage to incorporate variety in exercise by mixing different exercise modalities e.g. resistance training, spinning and running while others are fairly consistent in changing their workout routine every couple of months. Both of these approaches work but there is another.

What we sometimes recommend is for people to run different workouts concurrently, looking to progress in each of them. Say, someone is resistance training at home three days at a week, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. We could choose Monday to be a day they focus on building their strength, so lower rep ranges, straight sets, with weights that challenge. Then, Wednesday may be day for them to build their cardiovascular capacity, so perhaps an EMOM protocol or even a circuit of exercises with minimal rest between circuits. Finally, Friday could be a day when they do a hybrid of both e.g. antagonist pairings of exercise, with short rest periods and moderate weights. Here’s an example of this type of workout. You don’t have to follow this specific example, though, you could just mix some of the workouts on our programs page looking to try different variants of moves on specific days while ensuring the full complement of movements is addressed and incorporating the principle of focusing on different qualities on certain days.

If you’re looking to do the workout outlined or mix and match the workouts from our programs page and you want to workout from home then a good list of the optimal mix of home workout equipment, i.e. it won’t cost the earth but will give you loads of options, can be found on our modest equipment setup page.

Don’t confuse this approach of concurrent training with over-variety where you’re changing for change’s sake, there’s actually structure and progress along a number of dimensions with this approach to increasing your variety in exercise. Within each day, you’re striving to improve e.g. using the layout above, you’ll try to increase resistance on Monday, try to improve on volume of work done for a given time on Wednesday and, again, a combination of the two on Friday.

All of the workouts will still be built around the fundamental movement patterns with just some slight variation from day to day so you are avoiding overuse while still building proficiency.

Interestingly, high-level powerlifters, weight-lifters and bodybuilders have similar methods for incorporating variety and avoiding burnout. Two of these you might be interested in reading further are Daily Undulating Periodization and Heavy/Medium/Light patterns.

So, remember introducing variety into your workout programs can keep you progressing and avoid stagnation.