Exercise variations

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Exercise variations, also known as differential training, is based on individuality, variation and no repetition of movement. Exercise variations induce neural self-organization and adaptation. This will help us to learn the best technique automatically and perform a skill in different situations. Researchers have shown that variations in a training program are important for adaptations, transfer and improvements after training.

Some possible variations during a training program:

  • Different techniques for the same exercise
  • Changes in the routine order
  • Different size and color of materials
  • Different environments
Be creative and you'll be able to make several variations!

Some advantages of exercise variations:

  •  Accomplishment motivation
  • Adjust to different situations
  • Different environments possibilities
  • Effectivity to improve skills performance
  • Improvements subsequent training
Exercise variations help us to improve our skills and prepare us for the unexpected situations we encounter in sports (e.g. a curveball).

Becoming an athlete, without having many recourses, is possible!

Exercise variations stimulate after training improvements, adaptations and transfer
An example of athletes that didn't have many recourses during their childhood, but could become athletes, is the South American soccer players. The reason for their success is training variations. It's possible that these kids didn't have the recourses necessary to practice in the best way possible during their childhood, but they played in different places, under varied circumstances. Some examples of these factors are: 
  • Playing at school, a beach, street or park 
  • Wearing shoes, flip-flops or bare feet
  • Using a plastic ball, paper ball or leather ball
All these factors are what made them so good. We have seen many kids with little resources become athletes and now we know that exercise variations, is the reason for their success.

My advice

Implement the following in your training program:
  • Implement 3-6 different exercises per muscle group
  • Build a routine that targets your whole body and is specific to your goal
  • Reach a muscle overload in every set (the muscles work near their present maximal capacities, e.g. the sets become more difficult or longer)
  • Don't repeat any exercise
  • Make sure that you don't overexert (quality over quantity)
  • Change the routine order every time
Now, you know the advantages of exercise variations, put it into practice and enjoy the benefits.
If you have any questions, remarks or could use some help creating your training program based on exercise variations. Leave a comment. I'll be happy to help!


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