8 Ways to Add Variety to Your Training

If you’re a fitness enthusiast, you probably get really excited when you start a new program. The novelty of the new movements, modalities, etc. is just so invigorating. However, that novelty fades pretty quickly for most folks. After completing a round or two of the program, you feel apathetic towards your training again. Of course, this doesn’t happen to everyone. Some people get amped up each and every time they get to work out. But for others, the thought of doing another session with the same routine is just plain boring. That’s why it is essential to have a program that fits the needs of each individual. Some people like boring. Others need constant variety to spice things up. So, if you find yourself being turned off by your training as of late, it would be worth learning some new tricks. Let’s dive into some of the best strategies out there for sprucing up your training program.

Mix Up Your Rep Scheme

A lot of times, people get stuck in a certain rep range. This probably stems from a need to make sure their training plan is ‘optimal’ for a given goal. Some prioritize getting strong by lifting in the 1-5 rep range. Others might lift in the 8-12 rep range to maximize hypertrophy. It may be true that certain rep ranges are better for certain goals (lower reps for strength). However, that doesn’t mean that venturing into other rep ranges is bad.

Sometimes it can be fun to get a sick pump even if your goal is to get as strong as possible. Just because something isn’t the most optimal scientifically, doesn’t mean it has no merit. In reality, the most ‘optimal’ training program is the one that you can adhere to the most. So, if you’re feeling a bit turned off by those 5×5’s, try training like a bodybuilder for a few sessions. The variety will help you in many ways. Not only will you still make gains despite the higher reps, you may find you enjoy the heavy stuff a lot more upon returning to your normal training.

You can read more about how rep ranges affect your training by reading this article on rep ranges

Try New Movements

The squat, bench press, deadlift, overhead press, barbell row, and pull-up seem to make up the core of many training program. There is no doubt that these movements pack a serious punch if your goal is to get swole and strong. But sticking to these exercises each and every workout will eventually get old. The first thing you can try is modifying these movements slightly. Instead of a barbell squat, try a dumbbell split squat. Instead of a standing overhead press, try a seated Z-press. There are literally thousands of different variations of the core movements that will get the job done.

Additionally, you can start adding some fun accessories to your training. You don’t always have to train exclusively in the foundational movement patterns. Adding some flies, shoulder raises, and biceps isolation work can help tremendously. And hey, who doesn’t like a pair of well sculpted biceps! Just make sure you take into account the extra volume so that you keep recovering between sessions.  

Tempo

People often overlook movement speed as a big factor in training. We are usually focused on lifting a weight as fast as possible when it comes to getting strong. That way we can get more reps and practice the lift more. But sometimes it is beneficial to slow things down. Implementing pauses or slow eccentrics are great for many reasons. First, they can expose weaknesses in your movement patterns. Second, they fire up metabolic pathways and will help to build connective tissue integrity. And third, they offer a nice break from the norm in terms of movement variety.

Sure, a back squat with no tempo is already challenging. So maybe you don’t want to apply tempo to your main sets. But what about doing a couple sets of heavy squats and then a couple sets with tempo? You could use a 3 second down portion to really burn the hell out of your legs and finish off the squat session. Or you could use some pauses to promote explosive movement out of the bottom. Either way you work some new angles while also breaking up any unwelcome monotony.

Change Your Training Split

We all have a preferred way of breaking up our training throughout the week. Upper/lower, push/pull, full body, body part split, you name it. However, if every Monday for the past 3 years has been chest day, staleness can set in. Sure, your brain likes routine. But when it knows what to expect out of your workout on any given day of the week, that routine works against you.

The changes don’t have to be major either. Maybe change the order of your workouts for the week. Or perhaps switch from a body part split to a full body split. These little tweaks can be enough to breathe some new life into your motivation to train. And as a bonus, the new stimulus might actually boost your ability to make some gains in the gym.

Supersets

People can get tired of the monotony of weight lifting. Thirty seconds of hard effort followed by several minutes of rest. What do you do with all that wasted time? Check your Instagram feed, talk to other people in the gym, snap a few selfies? Seems like a lot of wasted time. So what if we eliminated some of that rest by combining a few exercises into one? Whether you call it supersets, circuit training, or even a metcon, stringing a few movements together in a row can be a welcome break from the norm.

The key with supersets is knowing how to construct them. If you are going to superset exercises that hit similar body parts (pull-ups and hammer curls) then you’re still going to need to rest enough to let the biceps recover. But if you combine complementary movements (pull-ups and shoulder press) then you can continue moving without taking big breaks between supersets. Either strategy is fine as they both represent a change from straight sets. Just find which one jives well with you and use as necessary.

Cardio?

Okay I know most of you treat cardio like the plague. So if the thought of doing some aerobic exercise makes you want to throw up, just skip this section. But for those who are not opposed, adding some cardio to your routine can be a great way to change things up. The issue is that most people think of cardio as running outside or on a treadmill. But there are so many alternatives. Get on a bike and explore new parts of your town. Jump in a kayak and row through the lake or river. Hike up to an amazing view at the top of the nearest mountain. Do some sprints in the pool. Incorporate these and you’ll definitely get a great workout for both your cardiovascular system and your arms/legs.

You can read this article to learn more about how cardio can help you get stronger and fitter.

Cardio, variety

Incorporate Some “Free Days”

Having a fully structured, periodized training program is all the rage these days. It is true that this may be the best approach to getting big and strong. However, you can still call some audible along the way. Giving yourself a day each week to go in and just have fun may be the best decision you can make for your long term success.

Remember all the fun you used to have when you first started lifting weights? You just went in and winged it until you were satisfied with the work you had done. Having a “free day” will help you revisit that feeling once again. Of course, now you’ll be better at putting together an effective training session. That means these free days will actually help you progress rather than hurt you.

These free days can be anything you want from cardio or metcons to a beach muscles pump session. It would be best to avoid 1RM max outs on these days for obvious reasons. But a well thought out sessions is sure to breathe life into your training routine!

Let Someone Else Write Your Program

Designing your own training program can take a bit of the magic out of working out. You get used to the movements which makes it difficult to try new things. Even worse, you tend to second guess everything you write and stress over the specifics. The best way to make sure you try new things is to simply remove your own bias.

Letting someone else program for you is a great way spice up your training. Most of the time, they’ll give you different exercises and modalities that you might not have tried on your own. The best way to do this would be to hire a professional coach. However, that’s not your only option. Handing the reigns over to a good friend or significant other can help as well. You might also consider following one of our carefully crafted workout templates. They may not be 100% customized to you but they will at least break up the monotony and take the guess work out of it.

Conclusion

In the end, adherence is most important when it comes to your training. The most optimally written program is still worth nothing if you don’t stick to it. Finding ways to add variety and enjoyment to your training is key in creating long term adherence. For some that simply means lifting heavy stuff on a consistent basis. But for others, more novelty is needed to stay engaged in the workout program. If that sounds like you, give the above strategies a try. If you do, you are bound to find something that catches your

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