The body doesn’t like change, it is as efficient at a molecular level in changes that allow homeostasis and as lazy to macro changes of its status. Everybody has tried to lose fat or gain muscle mass once in their life time and everybody knows how hard it can be. What usually happens is that the 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 a 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 to influence your body composition or your fitness level, than you need 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. Beginner athletes obtain gains simply improving their technique, that passes from being bad 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 stimuli that results in continuous improvements. The more advanced the athletes is, the fewer changes will be necessary in order to be effective. So there are several ways 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 changing the main pattern of movement. In other cases, variation are chosen in order to work certain weakness of an athlete.
- LOAD/REPETITION/SETS. Variation of the load strategy has a huge importance. Loads must be chosen based on the compatibly with the training periodization and the goal you are aiming for. Bigger volumes are used for gaining mass, while higher intensity lifts 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) require long rest time; hypertrophy goals need short rests instead, in order to fatigue the largest number of muscle fibers.
Another issue when you apply variation in training is its amount. If no variation is applied, as said, the risk is that you will 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 mentioned before must always be chosne accordingly to the specific phase and the specific goal that you have.
On the other hand, excessive frequency in variation can lead to no adaptation at all. It is important to give your body the time to see some results and to monitor them. If you don’t track your workouts (loads used, the sets, the reps and time of rest) then you won’t be able to observe the changes or see 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 allows 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 become 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.