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The Illusion Of Variety

Istock_000001519109smallOften, it's more important to create the illusion of variety in your training, as opposed to actual variety.

Actual variety helps to keep things fresh and interesting, and therefore improves compliance, which is a good thing. But it's a false compliance, because you're always doing something different.

On the other hand, the illusion of variety promotes actual compliance.

Let's assume that lunges are very beneficial for you, for whatever reason (there are many reasons why lunging is great for most people by the way, but that's the subject of another post). If you lunge for 3 weeks, followed by 3 weeks of squats, followed by 3 weeks of RDL's, and then come back to lunges, you've created a lot of variety for yourself. The only problem is, even if you managed 100% compliance, you only did lunges for 33% of your program. Which equals the same amount of lunges you'd perform on a program that never varied, where you managed 33% compliance.

Still following me so far?

A better solution is a program where you always lunge, but in constantly varied ways. The variety can be implemented by making adjustments to the lunge itself, by modifying the implements and/or environment, and/or by constantly manipulating loading parameters.

Here are 16 lunge variations, all very different, but all lunges nonetheless. If you apply 2 different loading parameters to these lunges (for example, 6x3 and 2x12), you've just doubled your options.

1) Overhead Squat Lunge

2) Walking Lunge

3) Contralateral Overhead Dumbbell Squat/Lunge

4) Jump Lunge

5) Lunge/DB Press

6) Long, Alternating Step Lunge

7) Short Stationary Lunge

8) Side Lunge

9) Multi-Directional Lunge

10) Lunge/Cable Press

11) Kettlebell Lunge Clean & Lunge Press

12) Lunge Side Walking

13) Giant Lunge

14) Suspended Lunge

15) Heavy Barbell Lunge

16) Single-Arm Press Lunge

The concept I've outlined above is predicated on appropriate exercise selection: It's not amenable to single-joint, open chain, and/or machine-based exercises. Select exercises based on fundamental movement patterns: pressing, squatting, lunging, twisting, pulling, and so forth. Choose one exercise for each category, create an endless supply of variations for each, and watch your progress accelerate as you consistently perform (and ultimately master) the movements that matter most. By striking a balance between consistency and variety, your training program becomes a powerful tool for perpetual progress


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  1. rockweasel on Sep 25, 2007 3:30:52 AM:

    I agree with the article apart from the statement in the last paragraph about it not being amenable to "...machine-based exercises". After a back injury I adopted leg presses as the main exercise for my lower body. I constantly varied the range of movement, reps, sets, foot spacing etc. It kept me "fresh" and I progressed. OK, so maybe not as much scope for variety as lunges, but variety & progress none the less.

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