Any average gym bro can tell you about “muscle confusion” and “mixing it up.” In addition, there’s no shortage of folks plateauing in the fitness training. The most troubling thought for me as a coach is that there are motivated, actionable individuals out there that are spinning their wheels with bad information.
If the strongest athletes in the world (at Westside Barbell) have taught us anything, isn’t it variance? If the fittest men and fittest women on Earth (CrossFit Games Champions) have taught us anything, isn’t it variance?
Variance in training serves a multitude of purposes, but I’ll distill it down to two key ones. First and foremost, variance builds a broad base. Even for specific athletes, like powerlifters, variance allows them to build strength in different positions, which, even in their very basic three movement sport, has deviations in bar path and its own elements of adversity. Being strong in a multitude of ranges not only helps these athletes “win” in areas of deviation, it keeps them safe in them.
Second, variance in training keeps the athlete marching forward in training. If a cyclist, for example, trained only by way of riding his/her bike, there’s a point where time in the saddle is detrimental to output than, say, any of training. If “more is better,” the most optimal way to gain more volume and more intensity can be accommodated with variance. The same cyclist, for example, could still train strength, speed, and even cardio off the bike to push forward where fatigue may limit performance with an approach that says “more bike!”
Variance, by definition, comes in many different shapes and approaches. I selfishly like variance in training, too, because it allows for ultimate creativity. Change the equipment, the load, the time working, the range of motion, and any one of a hundred other variables to continue advancing your performance, athletes.