The Importance of Variety in Training and Nutrition

Variety in Training and NutritionVariety is the spice of life. This sentence couldn’t describe much clearer the importance of variety in life. Human is created this way. Boredom and plateaus are direct results of lack of variety. It’s something simple and everybody should understand this but sometimes you have to remind yourself even such simple things. I was ignoring variety in training and nutrition for a long time. You know, this hardcore attitude. “I don’t give a shit. I will just attack this exercise more” or “I will stick with this menu for more days”. But this doesn’t work in real life. Believe me, you’ll hit a plateau someday. And the worst thing you can do is to continue doing the same thing. It would be great to train in the same set/rep scheme or eat same foods and get infinite results but this simply isn’t true.

Variety in Training

It’s like a no-brainer. The simplest and one of the most effective ways to break through training plateau is to change one of the training variables. Plateau is a sign that your body has adapted to the stimulus you’re giving it. It has no need to improve. So how do you fight with this? Change something.

Change a set/rep scheme. If you were doing 5 x 5 with fixed weight try doing 5 x 5 adding weight each set until you reach your 5RM on the fifth set. You can try 8-10 sets of 3. You can work up to your 3 rep maximum (or 1 rep maximum, but this really isn’t needed, 3 is fine). You may consider doing a ladder with fixed weight. You know, 1 rep, 2 reps, 3 reps, 4 reps, then start over with 1 rep. That’s a great way to add huge amounts of volume without breaking a sweat. Or you can try modified DeLorme method. Pick a 10RM weight. Do a set of 5 with 50% of working weight, then set of 5 with 75%, then set of 5 with 100%, then repeat. You got the idea.

Change the exercise. Well, this won’t work for athletes that participate in exercise-specific sports like powerlifting or olympic weightlifting. But for regular fitness enthusiast that is trying to gain strength, build muscle and lose fat this is a fair game. For example, what to do if your bench press progress stalled? If your primary concerns are strength and look of your pushing musculature then try incline bench press, try weighted dips, try dumbbell bench press, try bulgarian ring dips, try planche push-ups, try one-arm push-up, try sandbag floor press etc. Your fantasy is your limit. If your main concern is strength in bench press try speed benching, try benching with chains or bands or both, try board press, try floor press etc. Try to find new ways to work and strengthen your bench press trajectory.

Change rest between sets. Do you have time to tell couple of stories to your gym-buddies between sets? Try resting no more than 1-2 minutes between sets. Do you train non-stop so that all your sets make up a huge giant-set? Try resting more.

Change exercise tempo. Never used tempo training? No big deal. Try performing reps with 5 second negatives. You’ll be sore as hell next day. And you’ll definitely be stronger and ready-to-fight when you’ll return to your regular rep speed.

Try intensity increasing techniques. Try supersets, tri-sets, giant-sets, drop-sets etc. But be careful with these, try them once in a while. They are very heavy on the nervous system.

The main point is: if it seems that your training progress is going nowhere then change something.

Variety in Nutrition

This may be new for some of you. But if you eat same foods day after day your progress will stop eventually. Variety in nutrition is as important as variety in training. Eating same foods day in, day out is hardcore and takes patience but it can become counter-productive with time. It probably will get you results but with variety you will obtain them MUCH faster and more pleasantly. The downside is that it is pain in the ass to create new menus. But you need to create suspense. Your body should wonder: “What this son of a bitch will do the next time?” You need to use you head and create new menus when your progress stops. What can you do?

Change amount of calories. It’s the simplest way. If your goal is fat loss try to cut some more calories. If your goal is building muscle try to add some calories. Try zig-zag method: eat 3 days with less calories and then 1 day wth more. Try calorie cycling. Eat more calories on workout days, eat less on rest days. Or eat in calorie surplus for one week and then eat in calorie deficit for one week etc.

Change your macros. While I think protein should be kept high, some of you may experiment with this macronutrient. You can change amount of carbs and see whether fat loss is improved. Or you can add more fat and see what this will do for you. Experiment.

Change the foods. Chicken breast is not working? Try turkey breast, try lean beef, try lean pork, whatever.

Try intermittent fasting. I think that IF is the best nutrition strategy for majority of people. Some may disagree with me but field results speak for themselves. Most of the people that were brave enough to try it stay with it forever (including myself). Well, if you’re a skinny teenager that needs to stuff in 5000 or 6000 calories to gain weight then IF is totally not for you. You just can’t eat that much of calories in any eating window except whole day. But if you need 2000-3000 calories per day I don’t see the reason to eat birdy 5-6 meals per day. Work hard through the day and eat like a king in the evening.

Closing Thoughts

While variety is important I don’t want you to confuse it with jumping from program to program and from one nutrition protocol to another. Variety helps you to get stronger, build more muscle and lose more fat. If you’re not getting one of these results (or all of them) then you’re wasting your time and your program and nutrition protocol suck. Use variety when you body demands it and get the results. Thanks for reading. Like, subscribe, comment!

Alex Zinchenko

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8 thoughts on “The Importance of Variety in Training and Nutrition

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  4. Michal

    Лёха, I have to fully support your thoughts! I´m cycling heavy weighted and bw calisthenics periodically, I´m cycling calories and macros on IF (forever!), simply I just try to follow bigger frame, but regularly change details, and it works! I´m constantly progressing towards my goals!

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