No matter how much you like working out, doing the same split and the same set and rep patterns is boring. Further, doing the same workouts without any variation can stall progress.
Unless you're doing a very specific training program for a very specific goal, you can definitely afford to try different variation techniques to keep your workouts fun and fresh. Even if you do have a competition to get ready for, it's not a bad idea to do something new one or two days per month so you don't wear yourself out.
The following five workout methods can be used with any combination of exercises. Each has near-countless variations so you'll never be bored again!
Variation 1 Escalating Density
Escalating-density workouts are essentially circuits, but the circuits are performed for a total duration—as many rounds as possible (AMRAP)—rather than a certain number of sets. Depending on the types of movements you choose, the point is to get through each round as quickly as possible.
These types of workouts are referred to as escalating-density training because the point is to improve the amount of work you can do in a certain amount of time. So, if you can do more reps or rounds each time you do the workout, you'll have escalated the density of your training.
One of the best things about this type of training is that you can build your own workout. You'll choose your own exercises, the number of exercises, the number of reps, and the duration.
The exercises you choose should be based on whether you want a full-body workout, or an upper- or lower-body workout. You'll choose the number of exercises based upon how long you'd like to work, and the logistics of your setup. (If you're in a commercial gym, you may not be able to do more than three exercises.) I suggest 4-5 exercises if you'd like to work for 12 minutes. Add two minutes per exercise after that. If you want a more strength-focused workout, choose fewer reps; if you want an endurance- or aesthetic-focused workout, choose higher reps. Finally, choose the duration based upon your fitness level. If you're a beginner, go for eight minutes and try to increase from there.
In addition, if just one circuit of escalating density isn't enough, you can perform multiple different escalating-density circuits within one workout, or do multiple sets of the same timed circuit. If you choose to do more than one circuit, then be sure to rest at least five minutes between them.
Sample Escalating Density Workout
Variation 2 The Countdown
This workout scheme is also performed circuit-style, but the number of repetitions decreases for every round. So, if you choose 8 reps to start with, you'll do 8 reps for each exercise, then 7 for each, then 6, and down all the way to a single rep.
Just like with escalating density training, you can choose which exercises you do, and the number of reps you'll start with. Starting with lower repetitions and heavier weight will skew the workout toward building strength. Higher repetitions accentuate hypertrophy, fat loss, and endurance. The higher the total number of exercises, the more difficult the workout is overall.
"Higher repetitions accentuate hypertrophy, fat loss, and endurance. The higher the total number of exercises, the more difficult the workout is overall."
Rest between exercises or between rounds, but remember that a partial goal is to complete the whole countdown as quickly as possible. You can do more than one of these circuits or do multiple sets. If you do, rest at least five minutes between them.
Variation 3 The Ladder
Ladder workouts are similar to the countdown workouts, but instead of counting down first, you'll count up until you hit the desired number of reps, then you'll decrease the number of reps until you get back to a single.
So, during the first round you'll do 1 rep, on the second round you'll do 2 reps, on the third, 3 reps, and so on. A good max number for beginners is about 6 reps. Once you've done each exercise at 6 reps, you'll go back down the ladder. Like the workouts above, the number of exercises and maximum number of repetitions will determine the difficulty of this workout method.
Rest between exercises or between rounds, but remember that a partial goal is to complete the whole ladder as quickly as possible. You can do more than one of these circuits or do multiple sets. If you do, rest at least five minutes between them.
Variation 4 Complexes
Complexes involve multiple exercises that all use the same implement—barbell, kettlebell, dumbbell, TRX bands, etc.—and each movement is performed consecutively without putting that implement down. Moving from one exercise to the other should be relatively seamless.
A good starting point is 5 sets of 5 exercises for 5 repetitions. The weight you select will be based upon your weakest lift. After you do one round of all 5 exercises, put down the implement and rest. Because complexes are so exhausting, I typically recommend resting at least twice the time it takes complete the set.
Incline Dumbbell Prone Row
The number of exercises, number of repetitions, and load all contribute to the intensity of this type of workout.
Sample Dumbbell Complex
Do each movement for 5 reps, one after the other, without releasing the dumbbells.
Variation 5 Combinations
The four methods I've discussed above have countless variations. Choosing different exercises, number of exercises, repetitions, and duration means you'll have about a million different workouts to choose from. You can even combine two or more of these workouts into a more advanced variation. You could do 2-3 complexes in an escalating-density circuit or ladder circuit. One of my favorites is to perform a complex in a countdown or ladder variation.
Other than complexes, I don't like to prescribe these methods as part of a daily training regimen because they are all high-intensity workouts. However, I do like them for a change of pace once or twice per week. You can even do them for an entire week before returning to more traditional methods.
The most important factor in reaching training goals is consistency. Hopefully, you can use these training methods to maintain consistency so you can continue building your best self.
Dream big and never quit!