Exercise Variety: It’s like Pizza
You like pizza, right?
I mean, who doesn’t?!
Pepperoni, Mushroom, Cheese…whatever your favorite pie is, odds are you like to routinely order that, and odds are, I would be willing to bet you order it from the same location each and every time.
Why is that? If pizza is good, then surely you would be willing to mix it up, and try different places and every week…right? In my household, and if you are being honest, most likely yours as well, that statement is incorrect. We rarely mix it up, sticking to the same pizza place to get our pizza fix for 2 simple reasons: we know what we are getting, and it works (pizza cravings no more).
Every now and again we will mix it up, and each and every time the brief hiatus from our beloved favorite place only serves to make us appreciate it that much more.
If we are not in favor of arbitrarily mixing up where we get our pizza, then why, oh why, is there a need to mix up your exercise selection in your strength training? Silly as it may seem, let’s ask ourselves the pizza questions: Do you know what the exercise will do for you? Does the exercise produce effective results?
For whatever reason, even if an exercise is extremely reliable in its effectiveness in targeting a specific muscle group, and can deliver amazing results in strength and size, a lot of people (mainly new trainees or folks with exercise ADD) need exercises to be constantly varied in order to stay compliant.
I think this is a huge mistake. This often leads to frustration at lack of progress, and sets an unfounded expectation that variety is “needed” to progress, when ironically, constant variety almost always leads to no progress at all.
If you want to train for a LONG time, and get AMAZING results, please pay close attention to why constantly varying exercises is the biggest mistake you can make in your training career.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
If something works incredibly well for YOU, given your body type, injury history, etc….then why on earth would you change it “just because.” If you are truly stalling on a movement, or are experiencing some joint discomfort, taking a small break from the exercise of choice is always a great idea, but you should always return to it. PR’s almost inevitably follow this scenario.
Next time you are in an auto shop (hopefully not anytime soon), look at the mechanics’ forearms. They are generally enormous. Twisting a wrench, repeatedly, all day. They do not “vary” the forearm training they do, nor do they even think about it. There is an effective movement being repeatedly performed over time. Shockingly, what emerges are big, strong forearms. One of my favorite phrases in LIFE is “consistency is king”. Show up, do the right thing, and do it a LOT. Good things will follow.
Practice leads to proficiency.
The late martial arts expert Bruce Lee (millennial’s may need to Google him) has a great quote: ”I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.”
How are you supposed to optimize a movement, to really FEEL it in the right places, to apply progressive overload, if you can’t even perform it properly every single time you train? I say this because, in my 22 years of training, if I have learned one thing, it takes a LONG time to really obtain a true level of mastery with a movement….and that is when things just start getting fun.
Your workout shouldn’t entertain you.
Learn to be “entertained” by the results you get, not the constant variety that each workout brings. Sure, we can vary tempo, sets, reps, range of motion, etc, and I suppose that could be somewhat entertaining, but do not make the mistake of varying an exercise that may work very well for you, simply because you are bored.
You know what is really boring to me? Looking the same, not getting stronger, and spinning my wheels. That is why I like to focus on movements that work well for me, and applying various intensity techniques and progressive overload to those movements.
What is your “why”?
Why do you order pizza?
Because you are hungry and it tastes good as hell!
Why do you strength train?
Because you want to get stronger and because, done properly, it works!
We know this is true with your favorite pizza place. We also know this is true with basic exercises that work well for your body type. But what about the pizza place that got raided by the health department for using bad cheese?
Or what about the exercise that you saw on Instagram that turned out to be pretty ineffective? While I will agree, a wasted cheat meal is generally FAR worse than a wasted workout, the point is valid.
When it comes to training, your WHY has to be the dominant force that drives you to go to the gym each and every day that you choose to train. Being a stronger human. Being a healthier person, both physically and mentally. Those are reasons that, when brought to the forefront, can allow one to embrace the intrinsic beauty of human movement, and the innate challenges that mastery seemingly simplistic motor patterns can provide.
So there you have it, training IS just like pizza. Now before you order that next pie, get out there and get a few quality sessions in with the most basic movements that work for YOU!