I had an old mate come to town and we got started chatting about exercise, fitness and personal training. He is in his late 30’s and started to do personal training about 3 months ago after not doing exercise for about 5 years. One thing leads to another and then he mentions to me, he finds his training very repetitive and lacking variety.
So I ask him, “What is your goal? What did you tell your personal trainer you wanted to achieve?”
And he replied to me, “I told him I wanted to get stronger”
I asked a few more questions about his training and what he does in his sessions. From what he described it sounded like his personal trainer was doing the right thing to meet my friend’s goal. Which is… to help him get stronger!
The problem is though, while his personal trainer did listen to him at his initial consult and by all accounts create a program to address his goal, he never took the time to explain why he has created the training program the way he has. Furthermore, he has not asked my friend again if this is still his goal.
You see for most people when they first start personal training their goals are pretty standard… get stronger, lose weight, look better in the mirror, move better. All these are good goals, but as training progresses and the client becomes more comfortable in the training environment… better at the skills taught, stronger, lose a little weight and start moving better the goals should be readdressed. Because when the client started they did not really know what to expect, but after a few months training it can give a totally new perspective.
Anyway, back to my friend…
I explained to him that strength is a skill and like anything in life to get better at a skill you must have consistent practice and repetition. In the fitness world there is something known as the SAID principle which means Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands. In other words, you get what you train for.
There are a few basic elements that are essential for maximising your strength
- Progressive Overload
Essentially this means to slowly and gradually increase the load on your body, or in other words apply more demand on your body. This can be done a number of ways, for example, increase the weight, increase the sets, increase the repetitions per set or time under tension to name a few. The main thing is to do more work each and every week.
This is about doing the same thing over and over again. Depending on your personality, some people unfortunately may find this repetitious and boring. If you fall into this category that is not a problem, because at Box33 we have developed something called “Specialised Variety” to help you still achieve your goal but outcome the boredom. I will talk about this a bit more later in the article. If you don’t fall into this category then “Power to You”, as consistent repetitive training of the skill is best, especially for someone beginning their exercise journey. As Bruce lee once said “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.”
This is often overlooked, but is so important to your progress. Your strength gains do not happen while you are doing the exercise, they happen during your periods of rest. Nothing beats a good night sleep.
Once I had explained all this to my friend, he was happy with how his training was going, because now he understood the process. This is something we pride ourselves on at Box33. We will not only show you what to do in the training studio but also teach you how and why.
I am not trying to say that variety in training is bad. What I am trying to say is it all depends on your goals. Doing a lot of variety on your training you will get stronger, but just not as quickly as focusing on a few big movement patterns and doing these consistently. Most beginners do not need a lot of variety in their training, especially when the goal is to get stronger. Beginners need to learn the basics: squat, hinge, lunge, push, pull, carry, etc.
I want to repeat this again here. It really all depends on your goals and having a skilled coach that listens to you. If it has been a while since you have talked about your goals with you coach, maybe now is a good time.
As promised, I will briefly touch on Box33’s “Specialised Variety”. I could write a whole article just on this so I will try to keep this short.
Specialised Variety exercises are those that are similar to your goal, but with just enough variation that the movement is effectively the same as before, but large enough that you feel as though you’re doing a new exercise.
So what do I mean by that?
Let’s say you wanted to get stronger with your Kettlebell Military Press. The Kettlebell Military Press is essentially a vertical pushing movement pattern. At Box33 we always train movement patterns not individual muscles. (Hint: this is a secret to functional training). So how can we still do a Kettlebell Military Press but apply Specialised Variety.
You can do the Kettlebell Military Press standing, kneeling, half kneeling, V-Sit, Rack carry reverse lunge and when return to standing press the kettlebell. These are just a few examples. The options are endless when you have an experienced coach.
On a final note, we are all individuals, each with unique strengths, weaknesses, goals, and objectives. Embrace your uniqueness but be sure to talk to your coach about your goals.