Variety is the spice of life, right? Well that’s not always the case when designing a strength and conditioning program. Great training programs focus on certain main lifts throughout their athletes training career. Although the same exercises might be used there are variations that can be introduced that challenge the athlete in new ways without removing the specific exercise.
Changing the sets, repetitions, tempo and rest periods all have an effect on outcome of the training program. Switching the sets and repetitions will affect the volume and intensity of the exercise. Performing 10 sets of 2 repetitions at 80% of your 1 repetition maximum or 3 sets of 10 repetitions at 60% of your 1 repetition maximum will effect what you get out of that exercise. The tempo could change the time under tension, how much eccentric (negative part of the exercise) stress is placed on the body or even power development with the concentric (positive part of the exercise) phase being performed explosively. Rest periods will greatly affect the level of conditioning that can be obtained during your training session. If the goal is strength and power development a long rest period will be taken. If it is total body conditioning then a decrease in rest periods will be used.
Altering the exercise by using different equipment is another option. An example would be going from performing a lunge with dumbbells at your side to kettlebells in a racked position on the shoulders. This will slightly change the exercise which will give a feel of variety to the athlete while still accomplishing the main lift. Another example would be performing an overhead barbell lunge. The overhead barbell lunge will include a lot more strength from the core and shoulders. Simple modifications add variety to the same exercise while accomplishing the goal of the strength and conditioning coach.
The point is the “same” exercise can be programmed in different ways that accomplish the goals of the coach while adding a little bit of variety for the athlete. We want to avoid stagnation, while still using the best exercises for building strength and power. This should accomplish two things, first and foremost the athlete is getting stronger and second the athlete receives a little bit of variety in their training program because variety is the spice of life.