Technology is a wonderful thing. Humans all over the world are connected in a way never thought possible. With the slide of a finger, a person can read email, call family, or read the entire Library of Congress. And while information and communication are great connective resources, the usability of the gadgets available in tech age might be the factor which has delivered the most help – and harm – to athletes of all genres. Wrestlers, CrossFit trainers, functional strength athletes, powerlifters, mixed martial arts fighters, and entrants in all arena of sport and physical improvement have discovered the world of Apps, which has helped them to track, monitor, measure and plan their workouts. Couple in the world of training strategies, adjustments, variations and other tech inputs, and the possibilities for any given workout or training session can quickly become unmanageable.
There’s no doubt that variation is a very important key to making continued gains, improvements, and increases in your strength, stamina, muscular size, and striking ability. The muscle fibers of the body are grouped into muscle groups. Fibers and groups of fibers are stimulated in our training, whether the exercise selected is bench press, squats, overhead press, or just plain running. We, as athletes, work to mix up our training for two reasons. First, this ensures as many muscle fibers are recruited. Not every exercise targets every muscle fiber, so most trainers use various exercises on each muscle group to activate as many of these muscle fibers as possible. Second, this prevents adaptation. The muscles of your body will only grow to meet the demand with which they have been presented. People that use the same workout for years will look and perform the same for years as well. Training needs to be varied in order to ensure gains continue.
Many of the iPhone and Android applications in use today help athletes to record their workouts, which is a great thing. However, the human body isn’t a machine – it is a collection of organic system which work together to keep us breathing, moving, and exercising. There is going to be some variance in output from training session to session. There are days when you are going to be able to squat 200 pounds for 10 repetitions. There will be other days when you break some personal best, hitting 14 repetitions due to a combination of pre-workout supplements, training partner motivation, adrenaline, and many other untold factors. Athletes attempting to “match last week’s insane workout” might train beyond their safe capability, or worse, deliver half-repetitions in the name of keeping their journal looking good. Soon, weeks pass and you have athletes heaving the weight, delivering ineffective results, just to keep their online journal or cell phone app output looking like continuous gains were achieved. Actual results will suffer as a result of an inability to accept performance output levels are going to vary – you’re only human!
The other danger of over thinking which can arise from the use of technical applications with your training is what is known as ‘over-variance’. There is no doubt that the muscle fibers and groups of the body will benefit from mixing up the training, for the reasons we discussed. However, the top movements are the top movements because they have been used by MMA and strength-training athletes for many years. Changing out squats for “advanced, bent one-legged leg extensions at a 90 degree angle” isn’t a move you want to make – Keep the basics and mix up some variables about how they are used. But the basics need to remain basics if you wish to keep seeing consistent training results that progress.
When it comes to making continued improvements your stamina, strength, and capability, it all comes down to one phrase: Progression With Limitations. Keep your training and more importantly, mindset and tracking tools behind it, simple! Use new variation while at the same time sticking to the basics. Enjoy the new tools for tracking workouts and suggesting new approaches to training, but at the same time don’t let the 1’s and 0’s of your smart device ever reduce the quality of your training and the inevitable variance in performance and results. Mix it up, but stay grounded, and stop overthinking your training!