“Implementing different movement-based loading strategies can help reduce the continuous direct load on the tendons, ligaments, and musculature that are repeatedly and frequently used, which may be causing inflammation.”
Today we are going to unpack the benefits of implementing VARIATION into your Powerlifting training. Although Variation is extremely important as we will cover in this article, please make sure you also read my write up on ‘Programming Keys: Specificity’. Click here.
Alrighty, let’s jump right into it…
What do I mean by ‘VARIATION’?
A similar exercise that will support the progression of your specific sport or movement by applying a slightly different stimulus and producing different physiological results.
In the sport of Powerlifting, we have 3 main lifts –> The Squat, Bench, and Deadlift. When we train for competition or to increase absolute strength we often utilize these big 3 movements. It’s commonly known that repetition of an exercise will produce results at that specific exercise, not only strength wise but motor patterning too.
If you want to squat more, squat more! Right?
Specificity is the umbrella under which all training ideas and modalities live, you absolutely have to perform those movements or practice your sport to become better at it.
Specificity plays such a large role in learning and understanding ANY sport, so WHY do we need variation?
WHY DO WE NEED VARIATION IN OUR TRAINING?
1: TO GROW STRONGER
We all live in a spectrum between untrained beginner to trained and highly advanced. Along with this spectrum, we all have the ability to induce hypertrophy, gain strength and maximize our genetic potential, whatever that may look like. To effectively do this we drive adaption through sport specific and varied stimulus over the course of many many years. As beginners, we need to train a certain amount of foundational qualities when we enter the gym as we are more susceptible to growth and hypertrophy. As these physiological qualities grow we then need to apply a change in stimulus to see further gains.
A) The Specificity Pyramid
You can think about it as a pyramid of specificity. The base is full of variation and growth opportunities, as you begin to grow and advance you move up the pyramid of specificity, needing a more specific style of loading strategies to create muscle stimulus/trauma which in return forces adaption, recovery and growth. A beginner/intermediate would live around this area, while a world-class powerlifter would live closer to the top of the pyramid. The elite lifter has done the groundwork, stimulated massive amounts of hypertrophy, fixed muscular imbalances and activation issues and is left with only a few ways to really drive that absolute strength up – the MOST specific movement of the sport.
The range of stimulus needs to be large at the beginning because you have no foundation to build upon, you have to create a physiological well rounded strong muscular and structural foundation.
B) Fix Muscular Imbalances + Technique
You can utilize variation movements to strengthen muscular imbalances, increase motor unit recruitment, prime specific muscular activation and increase your technique. As you are performing your main specific lift above 70% you can identify these weaknesses or imbalances and rectify them through intelligent exercise selection which will create localize hypertrophy and strength increases to fix the issue at hand. I am a huge proponent of proper technique and always push my clients to consistently monitor and improve their technical prowess, however, if you have muscle weakness or activation issues this cannot always be fixed through technical cueing and adjustments alone and must be addressed with variation.
Some basic blanket examples:
–> Lack of quad strength in the raw squat could lead to front squats or belt squats.
–> Lack of glute strength and activation in the deadlift could lead to hip thrust, lunges or below the knee controlled and intensified block pulls.
–> Lack of lockout strength on the bench could lead to close grip pressing accessories.
–> Lack of stability and control on the bench could lead to lat + back accessories.
–> Lack of control when performing any movement could lead to tempo accessories.
–> Lack of lat engagement or control in the deadlift could lead to pause Deadlifts.
–> Lack of intentionality and power could lead to training with bands + chains
and the list goes on and on.
Use intelligent exercise selection to apply the variation that will strengthen the athlete’s weakness.
2: STIMULATE A LARGER RANGE OF HYPERTROPHY
When performing the same specific lifts, you are applying stimulus in the same way time after time. The body adapts very quickly when given the exact same exercise to perform constantly. Sometimes the best way to create a larger range of varied stimulus is to program some heavy variation work into the athlete’s program. By adjusting the exercise we are now challenging new muscle fibers in a way that is now new to the body, creating a new stimulus as a result of implementing varied movement into the training.
New stimulus equals a new physiological adaption, new adaptations equal new results.
3: TO AVOID OVERUSE INJURIES
Overuse injuries are extremely common in many different types of sports. Creating inflammation, soreness, and pain for many unhappy athletes. In fact, the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine (AOSSM) in early 2007 initiated what’s known as STOP (Sports Trauma and Overuse Prevention). The initiative does not only raise awareness but provide helpful education on injury prevention.
Some common overuse injuries such as tendonitis or tendinopathy are usually linked to excessive amounts of the repeated stimulus applied to the same area, usually involving the overuse of a tendon. These types of injuries become very painful for powerlifters and can take you out for weeks if not months at a time.
By adding in the variation you are creating a wider range of stimulus on the musculature, ligaments, and tendons – promoting blow flow into those areas and possibly aiding in overuse injury prevention.
Implementing different movement-based loading strategies can help reduce the continuous direct load on the tendons, ligaments, and musculature that are repeatedly and frequently used, which may be causing inflammation.
4) TO KEEP TRAINING INTERESTING
“The best program is the program you will do”.
I think it’s absolutely vital to your success as an athlete to keep your training exciting, enjoyable and vibrant. Now, don’t get wrong… hard work is hard work! But by implementing thoughtful exercise selection you can not only reap the rewards of what we discussed above but incorporate new, fresh training ideas and exercises that keep your athlete engaged in your program.
Thanks for stopping by, I hope the information will help you become a stronger more efficient lifter like it has for myself and my clients. Please don’t hesitate to message me on Instagram @BroganSamuelWilliams or at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions. For those of you who are interested in online coaching, click over and check out www.letmecoachyou.net
My VERY first eBook ‘The 3 Technical Pillars of Strength’ is out and available on buy.powerliftingmotivation.com