Weightlifters, what variety do you do?

There is not too much debate that some variety in a lifting program is of benefit, whether it is traditional periodization or the more random “undulating” periodization model. But there are lots of other ways to vary a lifting program than by volume, weight, and rest intervals alone.

Do any of those here who lift routinely introduce any of these other variations into their routines?

Unilateral lifts.

Lifting while balancing on an uneven surface such as a wobble board, balance disc, or bosu ball.

Intentionally super slow lifts.

Emphasis on eccentric portion.

If you do, then how often do you include any of them in your routines?

Do you believe it is better to do more sets or more variety? (Given the same total amount of work.)

Also how often do you vary the mix of your standard cycle lifts? Or do you stick with the same eight or so lifts targeting the complete body at all times?

Just curious.

Dropsets; starting with the heaviest weight and continuing your set by “dropping” to a lighter weight until you have reached muscle failure.

Negatives; using a heavier-than-normal weight (and a spotter for the concentric or “positive” part of the lift) and slowly performing the eccentric portion of the lift-only.

Supersets; back-to-back sets of opposing muscle-group exercises (chest-back)

Heavy lifts; sets in the 3-6 rep-range, usually in lower end of that range. Occasionally opting for these strength/power-focused sets helps with your foundational strength-regardless of your overall goals. Plus it’s a good muscle shocker.

Sorry, I had to post that prematurely as I was unexpectedly interrupted by a guest; here is the rest of my response…
Some of these I use more frequently than others, as I train with torn rotator cuffs which doesn’t allow for too much heavy lifting, including negatives. I’ll put some drop sets into my workouts every few weeks, varying which muscles I’m working. It’s a great pump and the intensity can be the spark needed to help re-ignite a psychologically plateaued trainer.

Heavy lifts I do regularly, or at least try to do regularly; and by ‘regularly’ I mean once a month or so. The condition of my shoulders varies depending on several factors and I only do these when I feel the risk of injury is low enough to be acceptable. Negatives I don’t do very often because they are risky for me. But every so often; when I’m feeling good, I’ll throw some in. And man do they punish your muscles! They are an excellent end-of-workout exercise to do to totally exhaust your muscles.

Classical strength training and Olympic lifting. Sets for straight strength training vary, depending on day and cycle. Sometimes sets across, sometimes start moderate and hit target max halfway through, sometimes go for a max or personal best. Rep schemes also vary. Usually: 5x5, 7x1, 5x3, 7x3 or 7x5, setsXreps, depending on the day. Max efforts every once in a while. For that, I’m doing 2 or 3 attempts at a max single after a good warm up.

I also do occasional workouts with slightly lighter weights (50–60% of max) and higher reps, like 20 or 30 reps, sometimes for time, sometimes mixed with other movements in a circuit.

Olympic lifting varies too. Sometimes it’s a skill/weight day, so similar to strength training days, sometimes the target is a certain number of reps at a set weight. Occasionally combined with other lifts or movements in a circuit.

I don’t do pyramids or drop sets. Usually I have a target weight in mind, so I ramp up to that with the first set or two after the warm up. On straight-across days, I do extra warm-up time to make sure I’m not biting off more than I can chew that day.

I also do unweighted calisthenics and gymnastics skills, which are IMO complementary for both strength at different joint angles and for building better form through lateral stresses and creating better body awareness.

I often, but not always, follow CrossFit programming. I do my own stuff when I notice that I’m not getting enough of what I’d like to improve on from the main site. Mostly strength stuff is where I fall short.

I regularly perform drop sets, jump sets, giant sets and super sets when I’m preparing to cycle into a new routine. Every 2-3, sometimes 3-4 months, I’ll throw in two weeks where I perform some HIIT work in between every couple of sets, and that has been an absolute blast. It’s a great feeling to go from lifting weights to running a sprint.

Gotta go to work so this will be a quick response. Just wanted to ask what “emphasis on eccentric portion” is.

Also, I use the bosu ball for push-ups. Regular push-ups with the bosu ball target my core more, and decline push-ups with the bosu ball just make me feel like a badass.

This has been my standard that I’ve been doing for 2 years:

80% 1RM
Back and Bis
300 Squats 3 x 8 x 240
300 Deadlifts 3 x 8 x 240
165 Leg Curls 3 x 8 x 132
500 Calf Raises 3 x 8 x 400
260 Seated Rows 3 x 8 x 208
150 Lat Pull Downs 3 x 8 x 120
200 Shrugs 3 x 8 x 160
95 Crumple Bar Curls 3 x 8 x 76
40 Incline Dumbbell Curls 3 x 8 x 32

65% 1RM
Chest and Tris
220 Flat Bench Press 3 x 12 x 143
220 Incline Bench Press 3 x 12 x 143
285 Machines Flyes 3 x 12 x 185.25
180 Military Press 3 x 12 x 117
40 Lateral Raises 3 x 12 x 26
250 Reverse Flyes 3 x 12 x 162.5
190 Pushdown 3 x 12 x 123.5
100 Lying French Press 3 x 12 x 65
50 Kickbacks 3 x 12 x 32.5
Abs 3 x 12 x 0

65% 1RM
Back and Bis
300 Squats 3 x 12 x 195
300 Deadlifts 3 x 12 x 195
165 Leg Curls 3 x 12 x 107.25
500 Calf Raises 3 x 12 x 325
260 Seated Rows 3 x 12 x 169
150 Lat Pull Downs 3 x 12 x 97.5
200 Shrugs 3 x 12 x 130
95 Crumple Bar Curls 3 x 12 x 61.75
40 Incline Dumbbell Curls 3 x 12 x 26
80% 1RM
Chest and Tris
220 Flat Bench Press 3 x 8 x 176
220 Incline Bench Press 3 x 8 x 176
285 Machines Flyes 3 x 8 x 228
180 Military Press 3 x 8 x 144
40 Lateral Raises 3 x 8 x 32
250 Reverse Flyes 3 x 8 x 200
190 Pushdown 3 x 8 x 152
100 Lying French Press 3 x 8 x 80
50 Kickbacks 3 x 8 x 40
Abs 3 x 8 x 0
I do that for 8 weeks take a week off and then do this for two weeks:

Superset workout

4 sets of each:
Flat bench 8135 then Flyes 825
Dips 870 then Pullovers 840
Incline Dumbbell press 835 then decline pushups 8body
1 set of each:
Cable crossovers arms at 90 degrees 860 palms neutral 860 palms up 860 palms down
Arms at 45 degrees 8
60 lifts

4 sets of each:
Lat pulldowns 8120 then seated rows 8120
Deadlifts 8130 then hyperextensions 825(plate)
Shrugs 8120 then reverse flyes 8130
1 set of each:
Assisted pullups 8

4 sets of each:
Hail caesars 825 then concentration curls 830
Push downs 880 then twisting curls 830
21s65 then French press65
4 sets of each:
Squats 8135 then Calf raises 8285
Leg extensions 8110 then leg curls 8110
Lunges 8100 then side lunges 8100
Hack and stiff leg deadlift

4 sets of each:
Military Press 880 then lateral raises 825
Front raise 825 then Arnold presses 825
Internal rotator cuff 8*30 then external rotator cuff

Thanks all for the answers so far.

What I meant by that was things like the “negatives” mentioned by Ambivalid or just doing the return portion extremely slowly while doing the concentric portion at more typical fast speeds. (“Emphasis” because free weights always include some eccentric componant.)

I for one am very confused by the contradictory information about eccentric exercise’s place in weight training. Concentric only increases risk of injury when doing eccentric exercises. Eccentic in small amounts has huge benefits to strength and even to insulin sensitivity. Eccentric emphasis is less effective than concentric for strength and hypertrophy. So on. I understand that eccentric builds sarcomeres in series and that concentric builds them more in parallel, but I don’t quite grok what that means to function.

Sleel I completely agree about the gymnastics if only I had the basic skill level high enough to work on my skills!

I pick things up and I put them down.

Really, really basic stuff still has a big effect, IMO. Handstands, for example, working the hollow-body position, active shoulders, hip position all make you much more aware of what’s going on when you do the inverse: standing shoulder presses. Inverted balance skills translate to better awareness when standing. Working planche progressions increases shoulder strength — especially connective tissue — even if you can’t do a planche yet. Pull ups, ring dips, bar swings, parallel bar swings and dips, etc. are all great upper-body conditioners and increase body awareness. You don’t have to be able to do flips, just work the basic skills and it will definitely produce some nice dividends.

If you’re interested in how serious powerlifters approach the eccentric / concentric question, you might want to check out Louie Simmon’s Westside Barbell’s training and Dave Tate’s EliteFTS.

Yeah, I’m just whining. I know that I am expecting too much skill progress too soon. Weighted dips fine. Holding an L-sit briefly okay, but a good static hold? I don’t have access to rings or a ceiling high enough to even attempt bar muscle-ups at home. Frog stand for 60 seconds I can do, barely, some of the time, but tuck planche, not even close. Pseudo-planche push-ups okay, but I have not yet had the patience to stick with it long enough to get to a true one. Brief handstands against a wall, fine, but I see those CrossFit samples with handstand pushups and I just bemoan my inadequacy … and then go and do something I know I know how to do. Yeah, yeah, stick with it.

Me too (except that I’m being serious). I’m not so sure there is any advantage to the stuff mentioned above. I follow the Stronglifts 5x5 program religiously (read about it at www.stronglifts.com).

I usually completely overhaul my workouts every 6 weeks or so.

Don’t. I’ve never seen a single example of good form outside of the instructional videos from Jeff Tucker or Carl Paolini. There is something to be said for intensity at the expense of form, but far too many CrossFitters err on the side of going hard instead of doing it right. I’m not a total form nazi, but it’s pretty obvious that a lot of these people never practiced the basics well enough to have good form even when they weren’t going balls-to-the wall cranking out multiple reps. Probably because it lets them to get more weight on the bar most of them do put some effort into learning better form for the Olympic lifts, but allow themselves total slop when it comes to gymnastics work.

WARNING. Bumped old thread.

Nearly two years later I now wonder if anyone has changed their perspectives and if anyone else has anything to share.

For my sake I did set up rings in the garage, am better at holding a static el on them than I was, can briefly do a true planche (5 seconds maybe) and can now do hand-stand push ups against the wall (10 is my max). I’ve accepted that I will never do a muscle-up. I am still in the camp of more variety (focused almost exclusively on compound lifts when lifting) than more than two sets of the same exercise. I know that serious lifters and bodybuilders do the focused 3 to 4 sets (periodizing between heavy and not as heavy and often split upper lower on different days) but at my level and point in life I care less about optimizing strength or mass and more about avoiding imbalances (which would predispose to injury) and getting complete body exercise that hits all of raising anaerobic threshold, endurance, balance, core, and complete (and functional) body strength, which together should help me stay healthier and fully active longer.

Previous posters - have you changed your approaches over these two years? Anyone else with input to share?

Occasionally I’ll do unilateral leg press as an accessory lift.

Nope, never.

Nope, never.

Nope, never.

With the unilateral lifts, I’ll do them for 3-6 months and then change up my accessories.

Neither, really - I believe in progressive overload. More weight.

I’ve been doing 5/3/1 for a few years now. I’ll occasionally switch up the accessory lifts for a few months at a time (3-6).

The only other thing I’ll do is throw in some cardio if I’m cutting.

I’ve just recently begun incorporating ‘reverse pyramids’ into my lifting sessions. Typical ‘pyramid’ sets begins with the lightest weight and incrementally increases the weight as the set progresses; ending with the heaviest weight. A “reverse pyramid” just flips this around and does the opposite. You begin your set (after warm up) with the heaviest weight you are going to lift. After you have completed your reps with that weight, you progressively move down your poundage and take each respective set from that point on to muscle failure.

ETA: The idea is to lift the heaviest load when your muscles are freshest, then continuously hit them to failure with your progressive (or regressive) sets. It’s meant to incorporate more muscle fibers than straight sets or regular pyramid sets and break out of muscle-building plateaus.

The only thing I do of the options you mention is unilateral lifts. Concentration curls, one arm rowing, alternating dumbbell curl and press, and one of my leg workouts is one leg press and one foot calf raise, non-stop and alternating legs. (Left leg press 10-12 reps, immediately right leg press 10-12 reps, immediately left calf raise on the leg press machine, immediately followed by right calf raise and then back to the left leg and start over.)

I never do negatives. I can’t recover from them - I just get sore in an “injured” feeling, not a pumped feeling, and by the time I have recovered from the soreness I have lost the training effect. I don’t care what the Nautilus people say - it doesn’t work for me.

I also never (or almost never) do drop sets or forced reps. I train for strength mostly, and it is counter-productive to go to failure if you are training for strength as opposed to size. End the set when you feel like you have 1-2 reps left.

I have four or five different workouts that I go thru over the course of a training cycle.

Workout A is bench press, heavy, 5 sets of 6.

Workout B is incline dumbbell press, three sets of 10, and then dips, two sets of 15-20.

Workout C is bench press again, medium, 4 sets of 10.

Workout D is dumbbell bench press, light, 4 sets of 10.

Shoulders -

I alternate between laterals, front raises with dumbbells, and overhead press, all for three sets of 8-12.

Lower Back - I have a bad back, so I alternate a workout with various kinds of planks and 50 back extensions on the 45[sup]o[/sup] Roman chair, or 45 back extensions and two sets on the Cybex lower back machine - 5x75 and 12x165. These workouts are part of my warm up, along with 150 crunches.

Upper back -

Workout A - Lat Pulldowns - three sets, 20, 15, 10. Then cable rowing, two sets of 15-20.

Workout B
One arm cable rows, 3x10 going up in weight each set. Then straight arm cable pullovers, 2x20 with a constant weight.

Workout C
Decline dumbbell pullovers, 3x15-20. Then high pulley rows, two sets of 15.

Workout A
Machine squats, 3 sets, 10, 10, 20, increasing weight each set.

Workout B
One leg press alternating with one foot calf press as described above.

I end most workouts with some kind of biceps curl chosen almost at random - hammer curls, dumbbell curls, concentration curls, curl and press - whatever. Usually 3x10, although sometimes 2x20 or 5x5.

Congratulations on your progress.