You have been warned: this will be a lengthy post.
But to be generous, I will make it easier to follow than the narration of Neil deGrasse Tyson in Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, or the Obamacare website. Above all, I’ll include copious amounts of bullet points, bolded titles, and sexy videos of me looking like Wonder Woman. Because, #muscles.
And in the name of brevity, I’m keeping the biomechanics and functional anatomy terms (and CrossFit hate) to a minimum. Granted, a lot of these variations incorporate basic biomechanics, so I’ll opt for “bro-lingo” to dumb everything down further.
Often, I get asked how I sprinkle in variety to my workouts to evade boredom and stagnation. There is a myriad of basic movements (squats, dead lifts, pull ups, push ups) and it’s easy to get tangled in the same patterns. So besides juggling butchers knives while squatting on a bosu, how much can we *really* tweak our lifts? How do we add in variety to our workouts? My politically incorrect answer would be: “It’s just like sex. Change the positions, tools used, and grips.” So yeah. That’s that.
Well, not exactly.
Since I’ve already exceeded 100 words, let’s dive right into 9 Ways To Vary Your Workouts:
Changing grip serves as an easy way to vary a lift. Whether you’re trying to add challenge or be gentle on your joints, here are several grip adjustments:
– Ball (<– skeptical about this at first, but DAYUM. Check out video here)
– Towel (<– if you are a wrestling, lacrosse, or basketball athlete, or simply want to win a world record for j*rking off, this one is gold for your grip. View video here).
There are countless ways to vary your stance. Want to isolate your shoulders? Try seated military presses. Or want more core and hip stability? Try half or tall kneeling military press to prepare you for the standing position. Tons of possibilities here with all movements including dead lifts, squats, and presses.
– Tall Kneeling
– Half Kneeling
3) Load Side
Load side is always fun to play around with because new muscles in your kinetic chain become turned on. Bilateral lifts (front squats, back squats, dead lifts) allow us to lift maximal loads. Unilateral lifts allow for heavy loads while adding a core stabilization component, although more research needs to be done here if we can safely 1RM one-sided. And for those of you who want more anterior core and quad work, front loaded would be your best bet.
– Bilateral (loading of both limbs)
– Unilateral (loading of one limb)
– Ipsilateral (loading of same side)
– Contralateral (loading of opposite side)
A lot would argue that various tools used do not elicit any significant differences in neuromuscular response. But how about doing a dumbbell military press versus the unstable characteristic of a bottoms up kettlebell press? The latter will call for more scapular stabilization. Or executing a dead lift with a barbell rather than a trap bar will activate more hamstrings and bring the hips through a fuller range of motion. Or lastly, performing triple extension with a barbell (i.e. power clean) instead of a medicine ball (overhead toss) may excite the central nervous system more.
– Trap Bar
– Resistance Band
– Medicine Ball
5) Muscle Action
Emphasizing different muscle actions will either increase or decrease challenge. Eccentric actions place more stress on the body and cause greater muscle damage, but they help to build strength. Typically, eccentric actions should be avoided during a deload week and right after losing your virginity (don’t ask).
– Isometric (plank variations, pallof press with iso-hold, chin-up with iso-hold)
– Concentric (step ups, sled pushes, sled pulls)
– Eccentric (nordic hamstring curls, eccentric lowering pull ups, banded kettlebell swings)
I wasn’t sure what to call this section, but some questions to ask are how are you executing your lifts? Using the paused variation (i.e. paused squats) allows you to feel the “sticking point” in which you are most vulnerable – at the bottom of the squat or “in the hole” in dude talk. This variation builds strength and confidence in the most “I-hate-my-life” position of the lift.
7) Added Challenge
This section is to hone your creativity. Any ways to add in extra work – holding your poodle while doing a one-arm pull up, strapping chains to your barbell squat, or arguing with your wife while performing Turkish Get Ups – these are all good in my book. But one of my favorites: hanging band training (HBT), which is a great way to recruit more muscle fibers and increase time under tension. Plus, it is a major balancing act of swinging loads. The video below shows what I call the “bitch exercise” because not only is it a bitch to perform, it is also a bitch to set up. Enter: HBT walking lunge.
– Resistance bands
– Weighted Vest
– Unstable surface
– Manual resistance (with a partner)
– Hanging Band Training (HBT):
8) Decrease/Increase Lever Arm
Increasing or decreasing the lever arm will add or decrease challenge from a specific movement. The easiest example is the plank. If you lengthen the lever arm, it suddenly becomes more challenging. Because, biomechanics. Because, abs of steel. 🙂
So what did we learn here?
Variety is simple and can be implemented at the bat of an eyelash.
AND. It is possible for me to make it through an 800+ word post with only TWO sexual references. Whoop whoop!
Give these a try with your clients/teams/mistress/yourself and let me know how you do.