Constantly varied workouts or consistent linear progressions? Talk to a CrossFit coach and they’ll tell you that constantly changing the workout stimulus and movements is the best way to go. Talk to other coaches and they’ll tell you you’re slowing progress by not utilizing progressive overload strategies and allowing yourself to consistently advance week to week.
In my opinion, they’re both right. Workouts need to be varied to keep things interesting and fun. Some days you should go heavy, some days you should go light. Some days you should push as hard as you can and some days you should slow the pace down.
My goal is to give you the best of both worlds. Our program aims to be varied enough to keep things fresh and interesting, but also give you steady progressions that allow you to build strength week to week and master foundational movement patterns, and prevent injury/overuse.
Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each strategy.
- Avoids Plateau: Doing the same workout routine over and over again can lead to a fitness plateau where progress halts. Varying your workouts can challenge your muscles in different ways, leading to consistent gains.
- Reduced Risk of Overuse Injuries: Constantly varying your workouts can lessen the wear and tear on specific muscle groups, which in turn decreases the risk of overuse injuries.
- Enhanced Mental Engagement: Routine can sometimes lead to boredom. Mixing things up keeps you mentally engaged, which can result in better focus and a more enjoyable fitness experience.
- Increased Adherence: The novelty can increase your motivation to stick with your exercise program over the long term.
- Adaptability: You can easily adjust your workouts based on your current health conditions, energy levels, and other life circumstances.
- Complexity: Constantly having to learn new workouts can be mentally exhausting and may require additional time for mastering technique.
- Inconsistent Tracking: It’s harder to measure progress if you’re always doing different workouts.
- Potential for Imbalance: You may unintentionally neglect certain muscle groups or aspects of fitness.
- Equipment and Knowledge Requirements: Constantly varying workouts may require different types of equipment and a broader understanding of exercise, which can be daunting for beginners.
The concept of linear progression involves consistently adding weight or resistance to an exercise over time, aiming for steady and predictable improvement. Like any training approach, linear progression has its pros and cons.
- Easy to Track: One of the main advantages of linear progression is its simplicity in tracking. You either increase the weight, reps, or sets each session, making it straightforward to measure progress.
- Effective for Beginners: For those new to weight training, linear progression provides quick and significant gains in strength and muscle mass, as the body is initially highly responsive to the stimulus.
- Focus on Fundamental Movements: Linear progression often centers around compound movements like squats, bench presses, and deadlifts, which are foundational for building strength.
- Builds Discipline: The routine and predictability of linear progression can instill a strong sense of discipline, as it requires regular and consistent effort to continue progressing.
- Time-Efficient: Since the focus is generally on a few key movements, workouts can be relatively quick, making it easier to fit into a busy schedule.
- Clear Objectives: Knowing that you need to lift a bit more than last time provides a clear and achievable short-term goal, enhancing motivation.
- Risk of Plateauing: Linear progression is not indefinitely sustainable. As you become more advanced, adding weight every session becomes increasingly difficult and can lead to plateaus.
- Potential for Overuse Injuries: Consistently performing the same movements with progressively heavier weights can lead to overuse injuries, particularly if you don’t focus on proper form.
- May Neglect Other Fitness Components: Linear progression is highly focused on strength, which may mean that other aspects like endurance or mobility aren’t given as much attention.
- Equipment Requirements: This type of training usually requires a gym setting with sufficient weights and barbells, which may not always be accessible for everyone.
Both constantly varied workouts and linear progressions come with their unique sets of benefits and drawbacks. The key to a successful fitness journey isn’t necessarily about choosing one method over the other but rather finding a harmonious blend that aligns with your individual goals, lifestyle, and needs.
Here at Arsenal Strength, we’re committed to offering you the best of both worlds. Our programs are designed to infuse variety, keeping your workouts engaging and mentally stimulating, while also incorporating the principles of linear progression to ensure you experience steady strength gains and master essential movement patterns.
This balanced approach not only prevents the risk of plateaus and overuse injuries but also empowers you to become fitter, happier, and healthier in a way that’s sustainable in the long run. So, whether you’re a fan of CrossFit’s varied intensity or swear by the straightforward effectiveness of linear progressions, you don’t have to choose sides. With the right guidance and a tailored program, you can enjoy the benefits of both and build a fitness regimen that truly stands the test of time.