Tag Archives: variation

How to make progress: Part 5 – Variation

“You must change exercises frequently in your workouts to avoid stagnation, confuse your muscles!”
Well yes and no.
To adapt and overcome you need to have frequent exposure to a stimulus, the same stimulus in fact. that way your body will have time to fatigue, react and adapt, if you chop and change what you do too often then you won’t actually create the stress you need and as such not progress in the most optimal way.
Exercise variation is not a bad thing by any means, however you’ll find the most successful programs are the most boring because they don’t have too much variation, and the variation they do have has a direct correlation/crossover to their main/staple workout.
Let’s say you’re wanting bigger legs, how can you achieve this?
Squats would be the correct answer.
Lot’s of squats.
Now, what you will find is that your accessory movements (the ones you do after the meat and potatoes – squat) can have some variance to allow you to stave off boredom, however these would probably change every 3-6 weeks depending on your personality.
For example;
Lunges with a parrot dumbbells could become pistol squats with a kettlebell or even a split squat, so a similar movement patter with a different emphasis on the loading perimeters.
The main lift would stay the same because to cage that too often would cause lacklustre results.
It’s a common problem that people want novelty in their training all the time, and while there is nothing wrong with this it offers little to no results for the majority of people. Chances are you may know a person who does different things all the time and looks great, well you’re not them, they’re there exception and you don’t want to base how YOU respond on them because you’re not them, no matter how much you want to be.
Consistency is the key to progress, don;t change too much and if you have to make changes try to do so under the guise of ‘Same but different’ – this means a similar movement patter with perhaps a variant on loading, position of the bar, tempo etc.

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The Magic 5

Some say number are the secret to unlocking the universe, if this is indeed the case then I believe the secret for a great many things can be found stowed away in the number 5.

Let me explain why.

When I look back at many of the great lifters of yesteryear such as Reg Park, Steve Stanko, Dough Hepburn, Steve Reeves, Arthur Saxon and many others of that time period they had a common theme in their training.

What was the common theme?

In their early days they all believed in the power of building their strength in the 5RM range (they did use 10-20 for legs on some occasions, but 5 was a staple too). If you are to build your strength and increase your 5RM then all of your other maxes go up as well. This number seems to hold the mythical middle ground that allows for good progression in both strength and hypertrophy because of the amount of weight you can lift along with the ability to add sets easily.

Obviously it is not to say ht the other rep ranges aren’t without their merits, however pushing out solid 5’s seems to be where the most progress is often found for the majority of people. 5 is a good building number, for weight on the bar and volume (sets).

How can you apply this to your training? Easily it the answer. Here is an example:

*All % are based off of 1RM. All working sets are done after warm ups. AMRAP = as many reps as possible.

Week 1 – 1x5x80%, 1x5x77%, 1x5x75%, 1x5x72%, 1x5x70%+ Back Off Set AMRAP x60%

Week 2 – 1x5x80%, 1x5x80%, 1x5x77%, 1x5x75%, 1x5x72%+ Back Off Set AMRAP x60%

Week 3 – 1x5x80%, 1x5x80%, 1x5x80%, 1x5x77%, 1x5x75%+ Back Off Set AMRAP x60%

Week 4 – 1x5x80%, 1x5x80%, 1x5x80%, 1x5x80%, 1x5x77%+ Back Off Set AMRAP x60%

Week 5 – 1x5x80%, 1x5x80%, 1x5x80%, 1x5x80%, 1x5x80%+ Back Off Set AMRAP x60%

After this 5 weeks you would then incase the weight on your 5RM by either 2.5/5kg, perhaps 10kg if you’re some kind of super human and then workout your subsequent % for the other sets accordingly and start the process above again.

If we said in week one your 1RM was 100kg that would make the first 1×5 80kg and your last 1×5 70kg. After hitting 5x5x80kg you may increase the weight by 5kg and have the first set being 1x5x85kg and the next sets decreasing in weight (82.5,80,77.5) until the last 1×5 is at 75kg. Make sense?

The general idea is to build your strength, sets and overall volume on your 5’s and in doing so you will notice that everything else gets stronger. The AMRAP set is simply to further stimulate hypertrophy and you will be looking at hitting 15-20 reps unbroken not his set with your prescribed weight.

You could do this on a one body part per day routine, or a simple upper lower split, perhaps a pull-push-legs. It’s entirely up to you and what you can fit in your training schedule. I would personally advice doing the following:

Day 1 – Squat, Press, Pull Up, Ab Roll Out – 3x fail

Day 2 – Deadlift, Bench, Bent Over Row, Hanging Leg Raise – 3xfail

Day 3 – Light Cardio or Off

Day 4/5 repeat days 1/2

Day 6/7 – Light Cardio or Off.

Keep the Week 1 Guideline for both sessions, it will help as a double progression method, meaning you will have confidently hit your desired weights/targets twice before adding that next set of 5 at 80%.

Now go, lift, progress and get the results you deserve.




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