3 Pros and Cons of Variation in Your Training

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Most successful coaches give significant thought to the effect of volume and intensity within their training plans over the course of the year but less consider the role of variation within the training plan. Variation is an alteration of the training plan that may be used for a variety of reasons. Variance can take the form of volume, intensity, density, frequency but also with things like exercise prescription, workout layout, speed of movement, and range of motion.

Like most training variables, variation is a double edged sword. Use too much and you never see the adaptation you want and the athlete’s always left sore. Use too little and the athlete stagnates. Variation is necessary for continued adaptation. Subtle training alterations keep the athlete from burning out physically and mentally but you need to be careful of introducing too much.

Pros:

  • Helps to spur on adaptation…especially when introduced as part of an overload scheme.
  • Reduces the likelihood of overuse injuries.
  • Decreases the likelihood of boredom from doing the same training plan repeatedly.

Cons:

  • Meaningful adaptations never or more slowly occur when too much variation is used.
  • Athlete’s are often times left sore from novel training. This is especially true in the case of variety in the weight room.
  • May require a learning period for athletes to be able to understand the movement or expectations of the workout. In such a case, if the workout isn’t repeated relatively soon, a session may have been wasted with no beneficial adaptation because no significant training stimulus can be applied during this learning period.
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