Productive use of variation not only prevents adaptive resistance from occurring but can also improve athlete adherence and engagement.
There are 3 primary forms of exercise variation
- Exercise sequencing: the planned change of 1 exercise to similar but different exercise. Usually both exercises share portions of the same technical structure or overlap certain phases of the technique. For example Clean from the hang above the knee changing to clean from hang below the knee
- Modification to the exercise execution: changing the conditions which the exercise is performed. Snatch with NHNF, adding eccentric or isometric components, tempo changes etc. This variation is useful to keep relative intensity high without an excess of absolute intensity or fatigue accumulation.
- Complexification of exercises: Combining multiple exercises that influence different phases of technique. Clean + front squat + jerk, Snatch pull + snatch: This method is best suited as overload increases to stave off stagnation. It also serves to isolate technical perfection or strength development in weak areas.
An excess application of variation can lead too an inference in directed adaptations. Changing the exercises too frequently, making too many modified exercises within a program, or having too much volume being done as complexes are major pitfalls.
Practical recommendations for apply variation
- Variation should occur strategically, no broadly. Implement modified exercises as intensity decreases from previous sessions in order to make relative intensity remain high.
- Make complexes out of logical exercise pairings, and implement them as volume increases to manage monotony.
- Exercise rotation should focus technical practice and skill acquisition around the most technically weak phases of the lift. Blending the volume of work through each phase. Avoid rotating between phases that too distant. Example snatch with pause at the IOS sequencing to snatch from the hip.