While some people fear change, others welcome it. When it comes to your training, conistency is good, but variation can be great. When a person first begins training, it’s true what they say, stick to the basics. That means if you want to learn how to squat, bench, deadlift, and overhead press, then that’s what you need to do. Try to follow something simple like a 3×10, 5×5, or a 5-3-1 program. That way you are at least following a structured program and can keep track of your progress along the way. If you want to get better at those lifts, then those are the lifts you need to be focusing on.
Eventually there will come a time when you may start to stall out a bit, or they may even go down. When this happens, you need to take a step back and reflect on everything you are doing. Ask yourself, am I training on a consistent and regular basis? Am I keeping my recovery in check? You must take nutrition, sleeping, and managing stress into account as well. Believe it or not, all of those factors have a huge impact on your training.
The next area you should reflect on is technical proficiency. Are you breaking down in a certain lift because of improper technique? Is it due to a lack of strength within a certain area of your body? (upper back, lower back, glutes, etc.) Are you having pain in certain joints, or other parts of your body that are causing you issues?
When one or more of the above start happening, you may benefit from changing things up. Adding some variation into your training will help you to continue progressing in your lifting endeavors. What do I mean when I say change and variation? Well, this can come in many different forms. If you’ve been getting injured consistently and have been training heavy on a barbell for 5 to 8 months straight, maybe it’s time to give your joints a break and start doing some more unilateral, single joint, isolation work. Body-weight exercises, mobility, flexibility, and even conditioning work. You’d probably be surprised to find out just how challenging all of that is.
Another option would be the use of specialty bars, which we have an abundance of here at NBS. If you have issues falling forward in the squat on a regular straight bar, you could try doing close stance box squats with the yoke bar. Many have benefitted from a change like this time and time again, considering all other factors are in check. If you keep missing a bench press at lockout, then try doing some 3 or 4 board pressing depending on where you are missing your press at. Cycle in movements like these for 3 to 4 weeks at a time, and see if they can help you out at all. Doing shortened, or extended range of motion training can help with sticking points. Don’t just do these things because you think they look cool, do them with a purpose in mind, and you should always have a reason.
Another example of adding some variation would be to use bands, or chains. Chains can be used to train you bodys natural strength curve and teach you to continue accelerating through the entirety of the movement. Bands can offer an overloaded eccentric, which can be great for building more muscle, or for developing greater concentric force. Again, just make sure you have these set up correctly. There are many resources to help you out with this, including the coaching staff here at NBS.
Speaking of building muscle, perhaps that would be a good route to go if your are lacking size in certain areas. Building up your legs, back, and arms can give you great leverages for moving more weight. Hypertrophy training can even be great for building up your work capacity for when you do decide to start lifting hard and heavy again. Another plus is that it’s not so taxing on your central nervous system (CNS), which could be fried if you’ve been going hard and heavy constantly for 6 to 8 months, hence the reason why you may be injured, or stalling out.
Another great option for adding in some variety to your program would be to change up your movements. For example, instead of always doing back squats, do front squats. Instead of always doing flat bench, try an incline bench, instead of a barbell, use dumbbells. As I mentioned earlier, you can always use the specialty bars. If your shoulders feel beat up, try the Yoke Bar for squatting, or the Swiss Bar for pressing. These are things that you can cycle in for 3 to 4 weeks at a time. Your possibilities are literally endless.
Whatever you do, just choose to do it right and do it with a purpose. Chances are your body is craving some change, so give it what it needs. Give it some variation. Expose it to a new stimulus for a new adaptation to occur, and when you do adapt, change things up again. Keep yourself and your body out of your comfort zone. Doing so should help to keep you out of a rut, and continuing to progress. I hope this bit of information helps out any of you who may be experiencing a lack of progress, or constant injuries. If you have any questions about how you can add some changes and/or variation to your training, please post in the comments section or feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.