We’ve gotten to the point where we are constantly looking for the next great workout or training plan to avoid boredom. And being locked up for the last 4 months certainly doesn’t help our cause as coaches..
If there is one I know with 100% certainty – if you only repeat a movement pattern, and/or a warm-up once every 8-weeks you’re far less likely to incur routine improvements.
I’m sure many are saying that constant variance = constant results and more importantly lack of boredom, but when does too much of a good thing actually become a bad thing?
This is the kind of stuff I’ve dealt with working almost exclusively with boxes over the last 6 years – too many people are focused on the cool, sexy shit that they’ve lost sight of what actually matters and keeps their clients reaching their goals and staying healthy while doing so.
Let’s not forget – most people are not model athletes with loads of experience and most simply have NOT mastered the basic 6-foundational movement patterns yet (squat, hip-hinge, lunge, push, pull, and carry.)
With that said, your program does not need to boring and of course, it should include a fair amount of variety, but there should be some actual “systems” like your warm-up sequence that people see on the regular.
Over the last decade, I’ve gone through rotating my training weekly, bi-weekly, and every 3rd weed. Last year, I opted for a 2-week rotation. The gains were so great that I started to wonder if a third week would yield even more results.
The conclusion I’ve come to what is that a third week wouldn’t necessarily equate to using heavier loads, but movement proficiency was ALWAYS better which made enough sense to use the same exercises for 3-weeks at a time.
Furthermore, at my peak of strength during college, the coach I was training under followed this same sequence. In fact, I still have and refer to these programs – one thing that always sticks out is the improvements in loads I made each subsequent week.
Of course, there are always some exceptions to the rules – you’ll want to keep reading so we can really clarify how to reap the benefits without getting bored.
Constant Variance vs. Routine Variance
Let me be clear – I’m not saying that you should never vary your programming – quite the opposite actually. The question is when does too much variety become a disservice to ourselves and our clients? And if you only perform the same variation every 8-12 weeks it will be tough to improve movement as well as know whether or not that particular variation is a good one for YOU.
The Conjugate Method is built upon variability, but where this differs from a constantly varied model like CrossFit is the delivery of a training plan vs. workouts – there is a huge difference between performing random training sessions vs. planned training sessions.
The latter allows us to plan variability and that variability may mean that we are changing exercise variations every 2-3 weeks vs. every week. By having a ‘plan’ we can ensure proper recovery between sessions and more structure with biomechanics – there is less chance of stressing the same joints daily further decreasing the risk of injury.
In nutshell, there is no question that there is a fine line between too much variability and not enough variability – what’s important is knowing that some repetition is not the anti-christ and can serve more than a few goals.
- Warm-up Sequence: Establish 8-10 warm-up sequences for all 6 foundational patterns as well as conditioning days. Repeat these warm-ups weekly with subtle variations based on the day. For example, things like correctives (bird dogs & thoracic rotations) should be done on the regular, not once and a while.
- Conditioning Work: Perform the same training sessions for at least 2 sessions (week 1 vs. week 2.) This allows your clients to improve capacity via improved energy and breath control as well as movement efficiency. People always improve the second time around (and yes it’s okay if they improve simply because it’s the second exposure – this still equates to improvements in capacity.)
- Submaximal Bilateral Strength Work: Perform the same patterns for 3 sessions (week 1, week 2, and week 3.) Week 1 is a learning period where no one will be hitting a true rep max. Week 2 loads can be heavier by virtue of better movement proficiency and week 3 is really we are dialed in and able to hit a near-maximal or maximal load. After three weeks it’s time to rotate variations.
- Max Effort Work: True Max Effort should still be rotated weekly on a 12-16 week rotation. Reason being, when true ME work done too frequently you’re less likely to incur an overuse injury.
- Dynamic Effort Work: Three-week rotation – for those of you that use Conjugate already this won’t be a change. Another benefit allowing you to keep everything relatively uniform for three weeks at a time.
- Assistance Exercises: perform the same patterns for 3 sessions (week 1, week 2, and week 3.) Much like our bilateral strength work, we are able to reap more benefits upon each exposure. After the third session, it’s time to move on and replace these movements with fresh exercises to avoid accommodation.
- Cooldowns: The same strategy as your warm-up sequence – these should be fairly consistent where people are able to think less and simply relax and drive the recovery process.
One caveat, if you’re going from using different movements weekly, you’ll want to start with 2-weeks before jumping to three. Psychologically this can be a tough shift for many which are certainly important to keep in mind.
Some of you may actually like the 2-week rotation more and feel it’s not to reap the benefits. While this may be true, I’d recommend at least trying a three-week rotation before deciding which path to go.
And even if we know for a fact that 3-weeks will yield more results, some people simply have too much exercise ADHD to adhere to that so you’ll have to tailor your approach to the individual as we know there is ‘no one-size-fits-all.’
Lastly, if you’re an advanced athlete or working with more advanced clients using the max effort method, you’ll still want to rotate true ME work weekly – this is the one exception to that rule, but if you’re programming for less experienced clients then using the same bilateral movements will allow you to really ingrain good motor patterns.
For some of this may be a big shift for you, if that’s the case start with baby steps. You can simply start with your warm-up sequence and assistance exercises – you don’t need to go ‘all-in’ out of the gate. If you program for folks in a group, I’d recommend the baby-steps approach even more so.
The conditioning switch may be a tough one to justify in the beginning, but over time it will be worth it. What I would highly recommend you do FIRST and is experiment on yourself. Once you’ve seen the benefits for yourself personally it becomes much easier to build-value with your clients – this is a key component to truly believing your own message. This message I’m sharing with you is part of my own experience first with myself and then with my clients.