The Art of Movement Edition 35: Training Principles 6 - Variation
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For the rest of this year, I wanted to use my newsletter to summarise some important principles of training which I thought could help the average person understand training and exercises better. These are concepts we need to take into consideration when identifying the best way to put our next foot forward in pursuit of our exercise goals.
Edition 35 - Training Principles 6: Variation
It’s no secret that in order to meet your objectives, it is not enough to just go through the motions once or twice and call it a day; along your journey you need to find new ways to challenge yourself so that you can keep reaching new and improved levels of performance. This is known as variation, not only an extremely important training principle, but one with many caveats also (because there is such a thing as too much variation). Training variation basically just means systematically adding different components and intensities to the exercises you typically carry out. This means switching things up from time to time so that your body never gets used to the same old routine and training volume. However, this may seem like an overwhelming process for people who aren’t accustomed to adjusting their training very often. There may also be people reading this who vary *everything* *all the time*, who need to learn not to vary just for the sake of it. This week's edition will introduce you to the importance of it, as well as the ways in which you can start implementing it into your regime.
What is Training Variation?
Variation is the process of introducing new elements to a workout in order to challenge the body in a different way, so that it doesn’t just adapt to one set of training stimuli and eventually plateau. It promotes versatility in your training capabilities, as well as accelerating both your mental and physical development when it comes to getting fitter and stronger. Essentially, if you want to keep seeing progress, you need to be open to trying new things in your training. This doesn’t always mean that you have to completely revamp your routine from the ground up, but you should be mindful of adding new components every now and again at a deliberately selected point in your programme.
Why Is Variation So Important?
As mentioned, variation is important because it keeps the body from adapting to one particular type of training. Without it, you might experience a plateau in your progress as you reach your fitness goals. Additionally, variation is important for general fitness overall. Eg. Yes, you may see yourself as a distance runner, but you also need to focus on hypertrophy, maximal strength and lactate threshold. Or you may be a muscle-bound gym god who only ever trains big heavy reps, but the second you need to run for a bus you blow a gasket! Variation can be applied to almost all aspects of your training, including the intensity (eg. changing load or running speed), type of exercises (eg. switching from heavy 5 reps to light 12-15 reps), equipment (eg. trading barbell for dumbbells or cables), timings (eg. switching a 40-min run for a 20-min run), among other variables.
Build and Keep a Strong Foundation of Exercises
The first step towards good training variation is understanding when to do it - you must make sure that you have a strong foundation of key exercises you consistently nail in your routine. This means that you aren’t just throwing new variables into the mix without also maintaining a solid level of proficiency in the basics. It’s important to make sure that you’re aware of your current level of fitness and that you have a solid base for progressing in the future. You don’t want to start switching things up too quickly or you might hurt yourself in the process. This is especially true if you are a beginner, since you will likely progress faster than someone who has been working out for years. If you have been exercising for a while, it is a good idea to review your current routine to make sure that you have a balanced approach in the first place. You may want to make some adjustments to ensure that you are covering all of the bases and setting yourself up for continued success in the future.
Add New Exercises and Movements
Adding new exercises and movements to your routine can be a great way to introduce variation into your training. It can be helpful to think of this as a way of expanding your training repertoire, as opposed to completely overhauling the current one. The most important thing is to make sure that you are adding exercises and movements that are appropriate for you. It isn’t worth trying to do weighted pull-ups if you’ve never lifted a single weight in your life. There are so many ways in which you can tweak and add exercises or movements to your training routine. You might want to consider some of the following:
Replace one type of exercise with another eg. switch yoga for strength training, or weightlifting for pilates every 4-6 weeks
Incorporate activities like boxing or swimming to replace activities like running or heavy weights.
Try out new training techniques: Interval training, high-intensity training, or functional training, all applicable depending on your current training habits.
Consider incorporating new equipment into your routine, such as TRX, cables, dumbbells, kettlebells, resistance bands etc.
Change the intensity of your workouts by increasing or decreasing the amount of weight that you’re lifting, or the amount of time spent on each exercise.
Mix in some high-intensity sessions every now and again - we have talked about the Dark Place already! This is where you can put it into action. Drastically reduce your training volume, but commit to one very short, very intense session once per month instead.
“Curiosity cost the cat his gainz” ― Dr. Dan Cleather
Movement of the Week: TRX Push Up
3 x 10 reps
This tasty little number is a slightly more advanced pushing exercise, but brilliant for training core stability and control, as well as providing the shoulders with a big instability element to deal with. Start at a modest angle, not too steep (about 30-45 degrees) and lower yourself slowly by flexing at the elbow and extending at the shoulders. The fist should come to level with the chest with the body completely straight before you aggressively push the ground away from you back to the top position. Walk the feet forwards to make it easier and backwards to make it harder.
That’s all for this week! Please spread the word about my Patreon channel so more people can enjoy the videos and newsletters!