Tutorial Thursday #22 – variation is king!

Variation is king!

5 tips for a more diversified training

p>My muscles just won’t grow! I haven’t had any strength gain in weeks! I can just barely get myself motivated to workout!

If these thoughts sound familiar to you then it is definitely time for a new training plan!

aerobis gives you the 5 most useful tips to optimally diversify your training.

1. Change the intensity!

Instead of training with the same weights and the same amount of repetitions all the time you should offer your muscles some increase. In order to improve strength and endurance, and to promote muscle growth and other signs of adaptation, the body needs impulses that are above threshold. This can be achieved by an increased intensity and/or volume of the load. Common examples for this are:

  • pyramid training: with every set you increase the weight while lowering the number of repetitions
pyramid training scheme
  • ladder or level training: you increase or decrease the number of repetitions while maintaining the training load, often until complete exhaustion
ladder training scheme
  • super sets: a certain muscle or muscle group is trained until exhaustion with different exercises without breaks in between sets.

2. Care for some coordination?

Training with the same equipment or at the same machine all the time kills your intelligence! The intelligence of your muscles and your central nervous system, that is. E.g., if you train overhead presses in a machine with guided movements your muscles and the individual fibers will quickly get used to this kind of motion. Especially the coordinative requirements of a two-dimensional movement will stop creating new impulses soon. Thus, there can be only one solution: incorporate other machines, barbells, dumbbells, or your own bodyweight into your training. If you work with the blackPack you can, e.g., change the sand filling with water filling. You will quickly realize how different even the same exercises feel. You can replace exercises with other exercises every couple of weeks. With these new movements you will improve your inter- and intramuscular coordination and create new impulses for your muscles to adapt and grow.

3. Are you predictable?

You arrive at the gym and everybody instantly knows at which machines you will train in which particular order? Not today! You should try different protocols to spice up your training routine. How about some tabata or AMRAP? No, that’s not a new kind of disease but certain training protocols that will give you new challenges:

  • repetition method: completing a certain amount of exercises, sets, and repetitions with an adequate amount of rest
  • challenge: completing a certain amount of exercises, sets, and repetitions as fast as possible (task-oriented)
  • high intensity interval training (HIIT): predetermined work time, short breaks
  • duration method: e.g. long runs
  • as many rounds/repetitions as possible (AMRAP): predetermined time, highest number of reps/sets, continuous. You can find a workout example here.

4. Use the full range of motion!

To effectively challenge the muscles, sinews, ligaments, connective tissue, and all the other involved structures with a movement you should train in the full range of motion. Thus, it is best to kiss the ground during a push up and to hang low during a pull up. If a muscle is fully lengthened or stretched it has to put in more work to fully contract. Only then can it become employee of the month. You gotta help it get there!

5. designing your break

Many of you may know the saying: the muscle grows during your breaks. This doesn’t refer to the breaks between two sets, though. I’m talking about the rest day here. Depending on training intensity, focus, and volume you should plan one or 2 days for regeneration. During this resting phase your body tries to re-energize and get ready for the next intensive exertion. Cell structures are being (re-)constructed, blood vessels for a better nutrient supply are being formed, and the energy storage is recharged. If you want to know more you can continue reading here.

The bottom line is…

Boredom will not get you anywhere in the long run and you won’t achieve your goals. Just recently, I have read about a phenomenon called ‘boreout’. This is similar to a burnout syndrome, however, it occurs when you feel that you are constantly working below your capabilities. Although this term refers to a psychological condition that has been observed in the workspace I think the reference to the training world can be made. If you constantly workout below your own capabilities you will kill your motivation and your goals become more and more unreachable. Training should be fun, not a chore! Do yourself a favor and make variation part of your training plan. Mix up exercises, intensity, volume, duration, breaks, and loads constantly. Take a look at our blog, for instance. Under this link you can find all of our Fabi’s Functional Fitness Frenzies in which you will find exercises, exercise explanations, workout protocols and their description, and lots of photos to guide you. Maybe this will give you some inspiration for your next workout. After all, variation is king!

How about you? How do you bring variation into your training? Do you have any tips that you would like to share? Let us know in the comments below!

Sportive greetings,
Your Fabien

Author: Fabien Mpouma

Fabien is bachelor of arts sportscience (DSHS) and since his studies he is working in the sector of health- and rehabilitation sports. He was course instructor for several institutions in the field of rehabilitation and mental and physical disease. He has a lot of experience in prevention with adults, youths, and children. He worked as regional manager for Outdoor Gym and now as a Personal Trainer and Foodcoach. Since 2014 he is Manager for Training & Education and Head Coach for aerobis. In 2016 he opened his own facility for Personal- and Grouptraining in his hometown Siegburg. Stay in contact with Fabien by sending him an email

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