The body doesn’t like changes, it is as efficient at a molecular level in changes that allow homeostasis and as lazy to macro changes of its status. Everybody once in their life have tried to loose fat or gain muscle mass and everybody knows how hard it is. What usually happens is that body reacts well in the first stages as you are making changes, but then it becomes less sensitive to the same changes and it starts stalling (adaptive response). Variation is necessary in order to positively shock the body with different stimulus and force it to keep on improving. The job of your body is to adapt in any situation to be always efficient. Your job, if your goal is influence your body composition or your fitness level, is to continually make changes in order to prevent the adaptive response,
Every stimulus that the body receives corresponds to a specific adaptation, by the specificity principle, that is the most important variable in training.
There are three big ways to create variation in training:
- EXERCISE CHOICE. Beginners athlete obtain gains simply improving their technique, that passes from being rough to be acceptable. The passage to an acceptable form to a excellent technique is harder and it requires a lot of practice. During this period of time, the body receives a lot of stimulus that result in continuos improvements. More advanced the athletes is, less changes are necessary to be effective. So there are several tools to “trick” the body, like using variation of the main exercises. Boards in the bench, elastic bands and box squat are just some examples of that. Their effectiveness is due to their capacity change some line of tension and compression that can potentially lead to injuries, without change the main pattern of movement. In other cases variation are chosen in order to fill up some weakness of an athlete.
- LOAD/REPETITION/SETS. Variation of the load strategy has a huge importance. Load must be choose compatibly with the training periodization and the goal you aim. Bigger volume are requested for a mass gain, while higher intensity are necessary to stimulate the nervous system and increase strength levels. Together with the differentiation of the intensities, numbers of reps and sets must be handled and planned.
- REST. The Rest between sets, exercises, single training sessions and between training blocks is a key parameter to allow the desired adaptation. Neural works (strength training) need long rest time; hypertrophy goals need short rests instead, in order to fatigue the largest number of muscle fibers.
An other issue when you apply variation in training is its amount. If no variations are applied, as said, the risk is to stop improving and start stalling; if you over apply them you could not have the right transfer or no strength adaptation. Variation of the exercises and of the other training parameters quoted before, must be always choose accordingly to the specific phase and the specific goal that you have.
By the other hand excessively frequency in variation can lead to no adaptation at all. Give your body the time to see some results and monitor them. if you don’t track your workouts, together with the loads used, the sets, the reps and time of rest, you won’t be able to observe the changes, then recognize if you are improving or not. Beast web portal gives you the chance to track every workout, makes for you analysis and comparisons between different training sessions and allow you to export them in a Excel file.
Below you can see the final widget of a workout, where the app gives you a resume of your weekly progress;
In conclusion: your body will continue to adapt and it becomes more efficient at the demand it is called to perform. It is a never ending process. Variations are mandatory but specificity is more important. Don’t forget your specific goal and work for it.