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Jack of All Trades, Master of None: Why Variety Isn’t That Important

muscle confusion traffic lights

Variety or muscle confusion is touted as the be all and end all for seeing results, and marketed as the pillar of an effective exercise program.  Infomercials and magazines are constantly adding hype to this concept, and convincing consumers that throwing as much variety as possible at your body to “always keep it guessing” is the solution to seeing results.


Many people who start at our Calgary Bootcamp are looking for something new, different, exciting, and a program that gives them results. They usually come to us because they are tired of their monotonous gym routine, and frustrated with their progress or lack thereof. What most people want and think that will solve this is more variety, both in their routine and the exercises they are doing.


What if I was to tell you that variety is actually really overrated in seeing real and lasting results, and can be counter-productive to some of your goals?
Sure, some variety is needed to keep a client engaged and interested in their program long term, no doubt about that.  But variety isn’t as important as you think. It’s probably the least important attribute  when looking at the best results a program can give you.

muscle confusion traffic lights



A great example I can give you to look at any professional athlete and how they prepare. If you have any watched any high level athlete and how they prepare, they always focus on 3-4 main skills in their practice time.  That’s it.


By working on 3-4 main skills, they become really good at the basic fundamentals, which allows to them to excel at their sport.  They don’t worry about variety, or practicing 10 different things at once, and becoming mediocre at all of them. They focus on 3-4 main things and get really skilled at all of them.  This same concept really applies to any successful person in any field.  They are always great because they have nailed down the basics.
And it applies to exercise for two reasons.


1. Exercise form and technique.

The number one thing you always want to acquire is great technique and form. This comes before anything else. Before strength and before you start to add more weight. Technique and good form is like the foundation of a house. Build a strong foundation, and you are going to have a well built home, and no issues as you build the 1st and 2nd floor, and start to add plumbing, drywall, flooring, electricity, etc.  Exercise works the same way.  Build good habits, and practice until you have awesome form, and this will create a foundation to build strength and make progress. Neglect form and technique, and this where you will always run into injuries and make little change.

This where constant practice and repetition is really going to help you, along with having a Calgary personal trainer to coach you. If you have too much variety in your routine, then you don’t get the time to practice your exercises, get really good technique, and get better and stronger at it. This is one of the main reasons we practice and repeat a lot of exercises at our Calgary bootcamp like pushups, rows, presses, lunges, squats, planking and their variations, and deadlifts.

2. Building strength and fitness.

Too much variety in your routine creates confusion for your body, and there is big downside to that. If you are looking to get stronger and fitter, as many people in our Calgary bootcamp are, your body won’t know what to adapt to if you are giving it too much variety.  Adaptation and change (building strength and fitness) comes with repetition and practicing the same movements over and over again, in a progressively intense manner. Take a pushup for example. You may start on your knees, and practice this way for 3 months, 3 times a week as a part of your routine. After month 3, this practice may start to pay off, and you may be able to do 2-3 full pushups from your toes.  As you keep practicing for the next 3 months you are start to do more and more pushups on your toes until you at do 10 in a row. This constant practice and repetition, combined with progressive intensity is what increases strength and fitness.
When there is too much variety or stimulus, then your body won’t adapt and get stronger, because it doesn’t know what stress to adapt to. So it doesn’t.


Have you ever been part of a gym and seen the same people over and over again? Now let me we ask you another question. How many of these people have made substantial and noticeable changes in their body, strength, and fitness? Probably very few, if any. This can be the result of many things, but is usually due to a lack of consistency and having way too much variety in their routine. Rather than sticking to 3-4 things and making lots of progress at these, they do a different workout each time they arrive at the gym and can never make progress. Their body doesn’t know what to do adapt to. This is classic example of jack of all trades, master of none.

slow progress is better than no progress (2)


I hope you are a little more educated on variety and why it’s very overrated. While some measure of variety is important to keep you engaged long term with a program, it isn’t the be all and end all, and certainly not required to see big changes and results.
Always here to inspire and motivated you,

David Macdonald and the Vitality Fitness Team .

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