Change it Up

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Today we are talking about exercise variability

LIFE HACK: Today’s life hack is simple, but effective. It is journaling. And I don’t mean writing a personal diary, though I believe that is very helpful, too. I mean journaling your workouts, your nutrition, and your life. This allows you to reflect on what you have been doing and what has worked. It is important to do this because not every meal plan or exercise program works for everyone, so if you truly want to have the best results, taking notes on your own failures and achievements you can greatly benefit your overall life success. As for personal journaling, I don’t think that you have to write in your journal every day. What I do is when I am feeling some sort of strong feeling, whether it is a huge positive feeling of achievement, or I’m feeling really crumby about a failure, I write it down. This allows me to look back on big moments in my life and know what to do and what not to do to make myself a happier, healthier, and more successful person.

So what is Exercise Variability? If you are a regular gym goer… you’ve made some progress, but now you’re stuck at a plateau, or maybe every time you hit a plateau, you have a lot of trouble breaking it.

Enter: Exercise Variablilty. This is a fancy term for: Changing it up. You see, your body is a master compensator, and at any point, your body will find the path a least resistance, so when you continually place the same stress on the body, it is going to figure out how to make that stressor easier to deal with, thus decreasing the results you get. Now in a maintenance scenario, this is not necessarily a bad thing. You don’t want to make any changes and you just want to stay where you are. In that case, the same ol’ same ol’ will do.

However, my guess is that you are going to the gym because you want to get healthier, whether it’s losing weight, gaining mobility, gaining endurance so you can chase your kids around the yard, or whatever it might be, I would have to assume you want to make a change. If you want your body to change, you have to change your workout.

If you provide your body with different stimuli, your body will HAVE to adapt to those changes. Now I’m not suggesting you change your workout up every day, or even every week, but I would certainly have a different goal for every month., and maybe every 2 weeks.

Cycle your workouts. If you are wanting to get healthier, you need to have a focus on more than just strength or endurance. It’s probably a pretty safe bet that you are neglecting SOMETHING.

What I am going to focus on today are 5 major areas: Stability, strength, endurance, power and flexibility.

Stability is your body being able to adapt to an ever changing environment. If you use the machines every workout, you are not exposing yourself to an ever changing environment, and this is not preparing your body to deal with some unexpected stressor that could cause an injury in your future.

On the flip side, strength is used for your body to produce as much force as possible. The machines are great for this. They provide an isolated environment that will allow very specific muscles to produce a great amount of force without worrying about dropping the weight or any of that.

Endurance is more of being able to produce a great amount of force for as long as possible. For example, running a marathon will require a great deal more muscle endurance than running a 5k or preforming a 1-rep squat max.

Power is a combination of all of those things. Power is the ability to produce as much force as possible, in as sort a time-frame as possible, in an environment that has variable stability. For example, and clean & jerk. The only stability in that movement is the bar the connects the weight plates. Everything from the ground to overhead is unstable. It also requires you to be able to lift a huge weight over your head very quickly.

Flexibility is something that, unless you are a yogi, most of you are skipping. If you are only spending maybe 10 minutes a workout stretching, you are neglecting your flexibility. Now I am not saying you should turn yourself into a human pretzel. When you combine too much flexibility with strength training, you are putting yourself at risk for injury, but if you don’t stretch enough, you are also putting yourself at risk.

Stretching allows your muscles to work like they are supposed to and helps prevent muscle imbalances and things. As you age, if you neglect flexibility, you are begging for trouble. All those people you see with hunch back could have LIKELY prevented that situation if they stretched a little more. I will focus on flexibility, mobility, and posture in next week’s podcast.

So how do you make sure you are training all of these and getting your best results? You gotta change it up. If I was to write someone a workout program, in most cases, I would begin by training stability for the first 2-4 weeks. After that, depending on their goals, we would do endurance and strength, then after I felt comfortable with their performance, we would do some power training. Roughly, I am splitting all of this up into cycles of 1 month per focus, depending on the client’s needs and goals.

Some extra notes for exercise variability are:

Rest time, contraction focus, strength-endurance-power focus.

Rest time is when you are training stability and endurance, keep your rest time short. If you are training strength, rest a little longer. Power… well that varies depending on what type of power training you are doing.

Contraction focus is actually a fairly large variable that many people just ignore entirely. What I mean is: Your muscles have 3 different contractions, and I bet many of you only worry about one of them. The contractions are concentric, which is muscle shortening, eccentric, which is muscle lengthening, and isometric, which is maintaining a certain length. Each of these contractions are important and you should spend time training them all. This is one of the easiest ways to change it up. A rep is more than just getting the weight up. If you do bicep curls every week, next time, try focusing on slowing down the lowering portion of the exercise. Maybe even holding the weight halfway through the movement. You will find that a weight you can normally throw around pretty easy can feel a LOT heavier when you have to move it slowly, rather than just letting it drop.

Finally, try changing the focus of your training every month or so. Instead of just trying to gain strength, try working on endurance for bit. I promise you will notice a difference in your body, and when you go back to lifting heavy, you will be stronger. There is a reason people are able to lift heavier when they take a week off of strength training.

There are several studies that suggest exercise variability to provide huge gains in several areas. Of the top of my head I can talk about a study that takes distance runners and gives them core exercises for 8 weeks and shows incredible increases in their 5k times. Another study shows adding power training to a strength training program provided greater strength gains than a program than only focused on strength exercises.

If you want to make gains, use this concept of exercise variability and take your fitness to the next level.

If you found this blog post helpful, don’t forget to share with your friends, comment your current training goals, and tune in next week when talk about posture and how it not only makes you look taller, but also contributes to injury prevention, overall fitness, and even mood.

Now get out there, and get after it!

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