If you want to be ready-for-anything your body needs to be ready for whatever life throws your way—from a last minute weekend hike, to a winning your pick-up games of soccer. By constantly varying your strength training workouts in the gym, you can help keep your body at its fittest. We sat down with certified trainer Joe Scali of Semiahmoo Athletic Club to learn more about constantly varied training.
What is constantly varied training?
Constantly varied training is what we preach at our gym (and is also promoted in many Crossfit gyms). It’s training your body for the unknown and the unknowable. It can help prepare athletes to achieve a high level of physical preparedness. Now, constantly varied is not to be confused with random. Random training would be exercises pulled out of a hat—totally random and made up on the spot. Constantly varied training is not random. It means doing different exercises, different workout lengths, different intensity, different weights, and different workouts consistently.
Why focus on constantly varied training?
The purpose is to help you overcome plateaus and be ready for whatever the real world throws at you. It encompasses every type of fitness. And most importantly, it hits all the energy pathways: phosphagen system (very short, very high intensity activities), anaerobic glycolysis (all-out effort for 30 seconds to 2 minutes) and the aerobic system (like rowing or running). Dunford, M., & Doyle, J. A. (2012). Nutrition for sport and exercise. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.
Karp, Jason PHD. IDEA FIT. The Three Metabolic Energy Systems
If you compare a strong man that can’t run, and a runner that only runs, and then you have someone who is in the middle—who can lift AND run, that person is usually a person with more general fitness. What we try to achieve is to develop an overall, well-rounded, fit individual.
What’s wrong with sticking to a set routine?
Many people that go to the gym have the same routine. Every Monday they work out their arms. Tuesday is always legs, Wednesday is always back. Same number of reps, every day, every week, every month, every year. That’s a recipe to reach a plateau. When you’re not changing up the rep scheme, the load, the domain, your body will adapt and you’ll stop seeing results. You might call this a plateau.
If you do a 1000M row every single day, you’ll start to ask yourself, “Why am I not getting my time lower?”
If you run the same pace, same route, every day, you’ll wonder “Why is my time not getting better?”
By doing the same thing over and over again, you may eventually stop getting new results. Your body almost always needs to switch it up and use different energy systems to overcome that plateau. Functional training can help you accomplish more to create a well-rounded individual.
Ok, so if constantly varied is not random, and it’s not routine, how do you make sure you’re doing it right?
There is a lot of structure. For instance, at my gym we do strength cycles, and Olympic lifting cycles. We keep the workouts different every day . Keeping everything changing in the conditioning workouts is really important.
There are different things you can do to keep your workouts constantly varied:
- Change time
- Change reps
- Change the length of the total workout
- Change to heavier weight
- Change to lighter weight
- Change to high-intensity
- Change to low-intensity
- Change your movement selection (single leg versus normal deadlift)
Are rest days incorporated?
Number of rest days depends on the individual. I personally take 2 days per week. Rest days are very important. People don’t know that you really need rest days and active rest days to help your body repair and recover. If you train for 7 days a week, for 4 months, your body could get fatigued, you could be exhausted. You may need the rest.
How to find a trainer or gym to get you started with constantly varied training?
You can research online for different types of workouts to incorporate into your training. The You’ll want to look for a trainer or gym that believes in this methodology. It’s relatively new to the industry, but is gaining steam.
I train everyone from professional hockey players, to mom and dad weekend warriors, with success with this type of training. Constantly varied training not only helps you not adapt to a routine. It keeps it fun and interesting.
Disclaimer: Contact your health practitioner before beginning any new exercise routine.