Achieving Variety in Exercise

Once an athlete has moved beyond the beginner stages of strength training they often find that gains in strength begin to level off. One way to combat these plateaus is to incorporate variety in ones training. The purpose of introducing exercise variation is to provide a novel or unaccustomed stimulus which may help to induce a continued strength and growth response. Below are seven ways in which one may add variety to their training program.


1. Variation of Exercise Equipment: Become familiar with as many types of equipment available to the program.

2. Variation of Exercises: Become familiar with muscle physiology and use as many different exercises as possible for the same muscle group.

3. Variation of the number of Exercises: Vary the number of exercises per workout as well as per muscle group on a regular basis. Remember to keep volume in check to avoid over training. Limit the number of exercises during the competitive season or when peaking for a competition. Emphasize quality over quantity except for brief “blitz” Cycles.

4. Variation of Sets and Reps: Don’t always follow the same pattern for sets and reps. Manipulate these variables throughout your training cycles. (Keeping accurate records will allow you to note what combinations of volume, intensity, frequency etc are the most effective at any given time).

5. Variation of the Order of Exercises: Again, do not follow a set pattern at all times. Consider alternating Upper – Lower, Push – Pull, Pre-Fatigue – Post-Fatigue etc. (Exercise order manipulation is a high priority variable).

6. Variation of Overload Manipulation: Experiment with using a variety of Advanced Overload Techniques. Examples include but are not limited to Forced Repetitions, Heavy Negatives, Stage Repetitions, Zone Training, Pre-Exhaustion, Assisted Repetitions, etc. (Be sure to use proper super-vision when implementing Advanced Overload Techniques).

7. Variation of Recovery Times: Experiment with manipulation of recovery times both between exercise and between sets. Decreasing total workout time without sacrificing exercise form can be an effective way to boost the metabolic conditioning effect. (Be aware of over-training and keep accurate records so that recovery periods are not neglected).

TAKU’s NOTE: Remember all athletes will experience plateaus in their training at different times and for different reasons. Very rarely is it because they have reached their absolute genetic potential. Incorporating exercise variation concepts may help to overcome or limit these inevitable stagnation periods. By properly implementing a system of exercise variation you may find that you approach your training with renewed vigor and experience uninterrupted progress for long periods of time. Reach out to us at: for assistance with your personal training programming.

RUSSIAN ROULETTE: Adding variety for continued Training progress


This weeks Podcast Episode # 35 is titled “RUSSIAN ROULETTE” Adding variety for continued progress.


One of the things I do with my own personal training as well as that of the athletes, and clients I train is do my best to never repeat a workout exactly.


Now, for total beginners I will usually have them work on a program that remains relatively constant with regards to exercise selection and order, TUT* etc. I do this because I want them to focus on learning proper breathing and specific exercise technique, as well as gaining the ability to work hard and challenge them selves. During the initial stages of training I also want to build a solid foundation of strength and flexibility throughout the entire body while targeting any imbalances that may exist. Once I am confident that they have learned good solid technique on the basic exercises as well as how to work hard and stay focused (This usually takes between 3 – 6 months) I will then begin to incorporate more and more variety into their training program. Eventually they will reach a point where they will go months and months without ever doing the exact same workout.


As I have written about in many of my articles and talked about in different pod-casts we need to take into account individual genetic limitations and abilities, needs, goals, and preferences as well as environmental influences when we design specific training programs. The truth is that our bodies are in a constant state of flux. Outside of the a fore mentioned specific genetic limitations and abilities the other factors above may change on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. Also, as we progress and mature in our training our bodies grow more and more accustomed to the different stimulus they encounter. What once was novel and new now becomes second nature. If we do not change things around in our training, we can not expect to create a need for the body to react, adapt and change in the results it produces. Stated another way we can’t continue to do the same thing over and over again and expect to get a new and different result.


So remember if you are a beginner to exercise it is a good idea to take the time to build a strong foundation of proper breathing and specific technique as well as correct any major strength or flexibility issues that may exist. Once you are confident that you have done this (usually 3 – 6 months for most) then you should begin to incorporate more and more variety into your training. For the absolute best results from both your fitness and nutrition programs, take a little time to track your progress from week to week and month to month. Just a few minutes of writing things down each day will go a long way to helping you get the most out of what your doing. For more ideas about ways to incorporate variety into your training check out the post titles “Achieving Variety in Exercise”

The FOUR "P's"

By Mark Asanovich




 The answer lies in two questions:

1. “Are the training protocols orthopedically-safe?”

2. “Are the training protocols physiologically-sound?”

  Obviously, it is the intent of any strength-training program

to ENHANCE the physical potentials of the lifter rather than ENDANGER the lifter.

In other words,use common sense. If an exercise or training technique looks dangerous — it probably is   

An orthopedically safe program has at its foundation the execution of properly performed repetitions. The emphasis should always be on HOW the resistance is lifted rather than HOW MUCH is lifted. Every effort should be made to minimize the bio-mechanical loading (bouncing, recoiling etc.) on muscles, joints and connective tissue, and to maximize muscular tension. Each repetition should be executed under control in a deliberate fashion. Flex the muscle momentarily in the mid-range of the exercise when the muscle is in its “fully contracted position”. Then lower the resistance slowly to the starting position. Obviously, this is the most difficult way to train; however it is also the most productive and prudent way to train.

A physiologically sound strength-training program is one that includes in its design the fundamental principles of training right, eating right, resting right and living right. As simple as it is to understand — it is anything but simple to do. To compromise anyone of these realities would likewise compromise results. There are no “secret”, “short-cut” and/or “simple” means to achieve maximum strength gains. Rather, there is no substitute for progressively highly intense exercise, a nutritious meal plan, ample rest/recovery, and a common sense approach to a consistent training routine.


The physiological basis of strength training is the overload principle. This principle requires that a muscle be progressively overloaded beyond its current capabilities to stimulate a strength/growth response. Therefore, any progressive strength training protocol that has a systematic plan of overload (i.e. increasing resistance/repetitions) will produce results! Otherwise stated, despite what strength-training program is used, it is the INTENSE and INTELLIGENT application of the lifter’s EFFORT that is most responsible for their results — not the program. The bottom line is, and always will be, an issue of COMMITMENT and HARD WORK — not how many sets/reps were performed.

Maximal effort is required to develop maximal results. HARD WORK should not be confused with MORE WORK. Truth be told, it does not take a maximal amount of work and/or time to develop maximal results. It does require maximal effort and maximal perseverance. In other words, strength development is USE IT OR LOOSE IT — AND DON’T ABUSE IT! Train hard, chart your progression, allow ample time to rest/recovery between workouts and incorporate variety into your program to prevent over-training and monotony.


As stated, all progressive strength training protocols are PRODUCTIVE – none more significant than the other; however, not all are equally PRACTICAL. Strength can be developed either by exposing the muscle to a lengthy “high volume” of exercise or by brief “high intensity” exercise. Both training protocols have their advantages and disadvantages. However, given the time constraints for most individuals, it is much more practical to decrease the volume of training in favor of increasing the intensity of training to get the same results in less time. In other words, the training goal should be to spend the minimal amount of time to derive the maximal amount of benefits.


Strength training is a means to an end — not an end in itself. It is not the goal to develop Olympic Weightlifters, Power-lifters or Bodybuilders. Rather, the goal of strength training is to develop maximal levels of muscular strength to maximize functional capacity.

The development of muscular strength is the general progression of increasing the muscle’s ability to produce force. In other words, strength is a non-specific adaptation developed in the weight room whereas skills are a specific adaptation developed through guided practice. As a result, strength is developed physically in the weight room, which by a separate process is developed mechanically outside the weight room. Simply stated, you build muscle in the weight room and movement outside the weight room.


As I recently stated in our podcast episode #34 featuring Tyler Hobson, The FOUR “P’s” by Mark Asanovich, are principals that every strength coach, and personal trainer, needs to hear. Not only do they need to hear them, but they need to read, understand, and then apply them in the field. We would have far greater levels of success and far fewer silly injuries (not to mention far less time wasted) if more coaches and trainers adopted and implemented these excellent principals.

Pendulum Weight Machines: Maximum Training results


In this week’s podcast episode #34, we are honored to bring you our interview with Tyler Hobson, inventor, and designer of the Pendulum line of strength training equipment.

We all know that many tools can work when striving to develop strength. In fact, muscle overload can be applied with a variety of tools: barbells, dumbbells, machines, manually applied resistance, body weight, sand bags, etc. Anything that can create high tension in the muscles can be used. The above being said, having access to better tools makes our jobs as strength coaches that much easier. In fact with the right tools available we can help our athletes get stronger, faster, and bigger in the safest most efficient means possible.

This is where Pendulum strength training machines come in. They are the Rolls Royce of strength training tools.

Train the entire body from building explosive leg strength, a strong core, an iron grip and neck training to help prevent injury, and lower concussive forces in your athletes. Pendulum weight machines will get you strong.

Pendulum developed a revolutionary line of weight training equipment to provide the solution to off-season training as coaches and athletes prepare for their next season. Pendulum has developed a complete line of plate loaded machines, designed to train the entire body. Rogers Athletic is committed to manufacturing strength training equipment that promotes proper technique and is designed with safety in mind. GET STRONG!

Data-Driven Strength Training for Rational People


This week’s Podcast Episode #33 - Features Pete Sisco.

Pete is the developer of the ultra-brief, ultra-intense method of muscle-building called Static Contraction Training. SCT explains the most efficient strength training method ever devised. These are Static Contraction exercises that last only five seconds. An entire workout involves only 25 total seconds of effort. This method permits you to hoist the heaviest weights possible under the safest, most ideal conditions.

Pete offers a unique perspective on the subject of efficient strength training. Along with the above mentioned SCT method, Pete has also conducted a variety of informal studies comparing various Strength Training Methods and modalities with the aim of determining which method consistently produced the best results in the least amount of time.

You can find some of Pete’s earlier informal studies online. One of the papers he published several years ago called Workout Variations Revealed tested many of the various methods often seen in the gym “Head to Head”. Such methods as; One set to failure, Two sets to failure, Three sets to failure, Strip sets (reducing weight on consecutive sets), Pyramid sets (increasing weight on consecutive sets), Timed sets (3 minutes of lifting one weight), and Fixed sets (100 reps with one weight). The findings are fascinating to say the least.


Another excellent training methodology developed by Pete Sisco (with John Little) is known as Power Factor Training. Along with being another very safe, efficient, and effective training method, The Power Factor Workout explains how to objectively measure both forms of human strength; momentary, and sustained. Pete calls these Alpha Strength, and Beta Strength. Knowing the difference may allow you to tweak your particular workout, and target it for people who respond well to endurance training. If you are a natural distance runner, cyclist or swimmer this might be your best option.


One of the hallmarks of Pete’s career in the Fitness Industry has been his quest to find the safest, most efficient means possible of allowing individuals of all ages to improve their functional strength. His focus has been on what is the least amount of volume, and frequency of training that will still provide noticeable benefits to the end user.

With this in mind his eye remains set on methods that deliver maximum intensity progressively over time, while allowing for complete recovery. This means that one may find themselves training once every 7-10 days, and often even less.

TAKU’s NOTE: I have been lucky enough to know Pete Sisco for many years now. Not only have I applied his methods, and seen tremendous results with both myself and my clients, I have also been fortunate enough to have my own training supervised by Pete personally. I found this to be a very rewarding process, and I would highly recommend those interested in reaping maximum benefit in minimum time investigate Pete’s “Engineered Strength Gym”.

H.I.T. the Links and keep your Muscles in Motion


In this weeks episode # 32 we are excited to have Diana Del Garbino, CEO / Founder of Muscles in Motion, INC.

Muscles in Motion is a Personal Training Studio located in Lake Oswego, OR, which offers Effective Fitness Programs for Busy Lifestyles, and utilizes State-of-the-Art Technology to Track individual Fitness Progress.


Diana Del Garbino opened Muscles in Motion in June 2007 with busy people in mind. She understood there are lots of ways to workout, and lots of ways to get results, but she wanted a place where everyone could get a great workout, and have incredible results, but not have to compromise their joints, spine, knees etc. Muscles in Motion applies exercise methods, that are based in science & bio-mechanics. Diana knows that her team will have you feeling wonderfully strong in a short amount of time.

Diana says “When you meet our staff you’ll see service minded people who put the clients first. We are proud of our team members from the Front Desk Associates, to our Personal Trainers. Come in for a workout and you’ll see it too.”


TAKU’s NOTE: DIANA DEL GARBINO  is not just the owner of Muscles in Motion, she’s a highly qualified Professional Personal Trainer / Golf Fitness Instructor


  • Certified Golf Fitness Instructor Level 3, Titleist Performance Institute

  • FMS (Functional Movement Systems) Certified, Level 2

  • Certified Fitness Nutrition Coach and Certified Personal Trainer, National Exercise & Sports Trainers Association (NESTA)

  • AED/CPR certified




This week episode # 31 we feature Dr John Jaquish.

Dr. Jaquish is a research professor at Rushmore University, speaks at scientific conferences all over the world, has been featured on many of the top health podcasts, is an editor of multiple medical journals, and is a nominee of the National Medal of Science.

John Jaquish, PhD, is the inventor of the most effective bone density building medical device, which has reversed osteoporosis for thousands and created more powerful and fracture resistant athletes.


His devices were put into production, and have since been placed in over 300 clinics worldwide. Osteogenic loading has now helped over 20,000 individuals with their bone health.


Dr. Jaquish also quantified the variance between power capacities from weak to strong ranges in weight lifting, which brought him to his second invention, the X-3 Bar. The research indicates that this product may build muscle much faster than conventional weight lifting, and do so in less training time, all with a low risk of joint injury.

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Dr. Jaquish is currently advancing osteogenic loading research and speaking worldwide about its implications, as well as developing other biotechnology devices and products that will aid in the advanced health and well being of people all around the world. He currently sits on the Board of Directors of American Bone Health, and the editorial boards of the Journal of Steroids and Hormonal Science, and Diabetes Open.

Published data has shown, treatment with this Osteogenic Loading device has resulted in over 14% gains in bone density in both the spine and hip over one year of once-weekly treatment. Dr. Jaquish has presented at international osteoporosis conferences worldwide and is on the editorial board of Diabetes Open, and is a board member of American Bone Health, the global leader in patient bone health education. For more information about Osteo-Strong, you can visit this page.

TAKU’s NOTE: I have used the X3 Bar myself and have found it to be an excellent training tool. It is light-weight, portable, simple to use, and provides challenging workouts that are extremely efficient. This simple device allows one to perform, many classic strength training movements.

Project Total Mobility

In this weeks podcast episode # 30 we focus our attention on Flexibility. All other factors being equal, applying muscular force over the greatest range of joint motion can improve power output during skill execution. Therefore, maximizing one’s inherent flexibility can be beneficial. One’s joint flexibility is contingent upon skeletal muscle origins and insertions, body composition, and to some extent activity level. Some athletes are quite flexible while others are not. Whatever your level, it can be maximized by emphasizing full range of motion strength training exercises and performing basic pre-workout dynamic movement drills, and post-workout safe static-stretching exercises. An inordinate amount of time spent on static stretching is normally not necessary unless there is a specific need for it.

In support of this weeks topic I offer another awesome article by my friend Dr Wayne Westcott. Read on to see how combining simple static stretches immediately following your strength exercises provides maximum results in minimum time.

The Best of Both Worlds: Strengthening and Stretching

By Wayne Westcott

There are numerous books, articles, and videos about stretching available. Many of these resources describe several types of stretching exercises and present sample programs for improving joint flexibility. However, the proposed stretching protocols presented often require up to an hour to perform.


While I do not question the effectiveness of such programs, in my experience few people have time for sixty minutes of stretching exercise. In fact, most of our fitness center participants spend about 30 minutes doing strength training (15 Nautilus machines) and about 30 minutes doing endurance exercise (treadmill, cycle, stepper, cross-trainer, etc.), leaving little time in a typical one-hour workout for stretching.

Our latest research has demonstrated the benefits of including stretching in the overall exercise program, but our participants attained excellent results from relatively brief stretching sessions. Consider the following findings from two of our studies on stretching exercise.


STUDY ONE: Our first study in this area was conducted with 77 golfers (average age 57 years) who did a standard strength training program (13 Nautilus exercises). Fifty-two golfers did strength training only, and 25 golfers did a combination of strength training and stretching exercise. The stretching protocol consisted of six exercises performed on a StretchMate apparatus (a platform and steel frame threaded with elastic cable and resembling a large spiderweb). Each stretch was held for 10 seconds, with most stretches performed on both sides of the body, and the total time requirement was about three minutes.


Both groups of golfers made impressive improvements in body composition, adding about four pounds of muscle and losing about four pounds of fat over the eight-week training period. However, the golfers who performed stretching exercises increased their joint flexibility significantly more than the golfers who did only strength training. More important to the golfers, those who did strength training and stretching increased their club head speed twice as much as those who did only strength training (5.2 mph vs. 2.6 mph).


Club head speed basically determines driving power, with each mile per hour increase equivalent to about 2.3 yards more driving distance. The combination of strength training and stretching exercise produced the greatest improvement in club head speed, and the total workout time was less than 30 minutes.

STUDY TWO: Our second study on stretching exercise involved 76 participants from our fitness classes. The small group fitness classes run hourly throughout the day in our research center (six members with two instructors). Each class consists of 12 Nautilus exercises and about 20 to 25 minutes of aerobic activity (treadmill or cycle).

About half of the research participants performed the standard training protocol, whereas the other half added stretching exercises to the workout. To save time and to make the stretches specific to the strength training, we paired every Nautilus exercise with an appropriate stretch for the same muscle group. Each stretch was held for 20 seconds, and most were done right on the Nautilus machines.


For example, the Nautilus leg extension exercise for the quadriceps muscles was followed by the standing quadriceps stretch. Likewise, the Nautilus leg curl exercise for the hamstrings muscles was followed by the seated hamstrings stretch. This pairing procedure made productive use of the rest time between machines, using 20 seconds for single stretches and 40 seconds for stretches performed on both sides of the body. Although the total time requirement for the stretches was about six minutes, the actual duration of the workout was about the same due to the strategic placement of the stretching exercises between the Nautilus exercises.


The results of this 10-week study were both anticipated and surprising. We expected the group that included stretching exercises to make greater gains in joint flexibility, and indeed they did. Their hamstrings flexibility increased 2.4 inches compared to a 1.4-inch improvement in the group that did not stretch.

However, we also found that the stretching group gained almost 20 percent more muscle strength than their non-stretching counterparts. Specifically, the participants who paired Nautilus and stretching exercises increased their hamstrings strength by 19.5 pounds, whereas the participants who did not stretch increased their hamstrings strength by only 16.4 pounds.


So this study also showed superior results by combining strength training and stretching exercises. It would therefore seem that muscle strength, joint flexibility, movement speed, and performance power can all benefit from a relatively basic and brief exercise program that includes appropriate strengthening and stretching components.

Just as our previous research demonstrated that one set of each strength exercise is as productive as two or three sets, these studies clearly indicate that a few minutes of stretching exercise are sufficient for significantly improving joint flexibility. In fact, the three-minute stretching sessions performed by the golfers produced a 24-percent average increase in their hip and shoulder flexibility.

TAKUS’s NOTE: Wayne L. Westcott, Ph.D., is fitness research director at the South Shore YMCA, and author of several books on fitness, including Building Strength and Stamina, and Strength Training Past 50. Thanks to Dr Westoctt for allowing me to share his material.