Instead of reaching for variation in movements, instead look to apply those same movements and equipment you already own in different timing sequences. Variation and progress go hand in hand. But in addition to varying our movements to keep us motivated, sometimes even a change in our timing patterns and rep schemes can have a huge impact. CrossFit® has had a enormous impact on the fitness industry over the past 5+ years with it's somewhat unique approach combining intensity and repetition patterns that makes for impressive fitness gains.
Here's 7 Great Timing Patterns that can bring new life to any old program:
21-15-9: The twenty one, fifteen, nine repetition scheme needs little introduction to those who've had any time in the local CrossFit® Box. This pattern is most normally used with what is referred to as a 'couplet' or two exercises, but it would work with three if you chose your movements wisely. The ever popular Fran workout (21-15-9 of Thrusters [95# for men, 65# for women] and Pull Ups) uses this repetition scheme and it normally leaves those who challenge it on their backs when it's over. With 45 repetitions of each exercise, many would have thought to combine them into 3 sets of 15, but the descending rep count over 3 sets works to give us that mental edge to gut it out those last reps. Add two of your favorite movements together in this timing pattern and you might find yourself looking up at the ceiling too.
EMOM: Every Minute on the Minute. The EMOM is popular in many strength routines because of it's simple, yet subtle push to keep moving. This type of rep scheme is most normally used with a heavy weight single exercise and a low rep count which begins with every new minute for a set number of minutes. The combination of low reps and high weight spikes the intensity while leaving a mandatory, yet short rest period so you can attack the weight at the beginning of thinnest round. And because we're still under the clock, we're continually motivated to stay focused and move when that new minute begins. One to two of these a week in your current training program will do wonders.
Ladder Workouts: Ladder workouts are just plain cool. The concept here is to start the clock and begin with one rep of said movement then resting the remainder of the first minute. When minute two begins, increase the reps to two, again resting the remainder of the minute. Each time a new minute begins, increase the rep count by one until you are no longer able to complete the required reps in the minute. When the required number of reps can't be completed in the time frame, the workout ends. The Ladder program is most normally used for conditioning rather than strength movements. Excellent examples of effective Ladder training movements are Burpees, Pushups, Pull Ups, Box Jumps, Knees to Elbows and the like. The Ladder Workout can be a great finisher to a Heavy EMOM. If you've just finished up with a EMOM of 3 Heavy Cleans each minute for 10 minutes, give yourself a minute or two break then jump in to a Ladder of Push Ups or Pull Ups. The first few rounds of lower reps will give you a chance to get some much needed recovery time in.
Rounds for Time: Racing against the clock can be a great motivator. And Rounds for Time workouts are great for measuring success when those same workouts are repeated over time. If you're interested in programming your own Rounds for Time workouts it's better to be a bit more conservative when choosing movements and weights for these training programs at first. Once you've put a few of them together and have been through a dry-run then you can crank up rounds, reps or weight to match your current abilities.
Time Caps: Getting out of our comfort zone is a great way to break through plateaus and strength barriers. Although not appropriate for every day of the week, Time Cap Training is a great way to program an especially challenging workout while leaving yourself some measure of respite. Utilizing the Time Cap Method once every few weeks is a great way to test yourself beyond your current limits without over training. Examples might include 4 to 5 different movements with low reps for heavy weight and high reps for bodyweight movements. Ex 20 BW Deadlifts - 20 Ring Dips - 20 Heavy KB Swing - 20 Pull Ups - 20 KB Kayak - Rounds for Time/20 Minute Time Cap.
Tabata: 20 seconds of Work followed by 10 seconds of Rest / 8 Rounds. This timing method is scientifically proven to bring about serious results. The trick I've found with this one is to really push yourself to work the entire 20 seconds. It's easy to see 2 seconds of work time still on the clock and backing off. Try to work all the way through the 20 seconds. Ideally, keep the movements relatively short to maximize the benefit here. Tabata Snatches isn't the best choice, but bodyweight movements such as burpees, push ups, knees to bar, etc have proven to be the better choice for maximizing work periods. And it's best to have an audible timer for this one as this type of programming is very timing sensitive. Having that audible alarm will trigger you on/off as opposed to needing to keep your eyes on the clock.
Favorite Song Length: We've seen this one employed by Wolf Brigade Gym here in Rochester and its a smart idea. Music motivates us and moving to our favorite music is a great way to mix it up. Whether you're using ear buds at the local gym or if you're in your own basement, set up 3 to 4 different movements and complete as many rounds as possible before the song ends. Pick 10 of your favorite songs and couple them with 10 of your favorite [or least favorite] workouts. Write them all down and record them as your own personal benchmarks. Better yet, get out the paint set or letter decals and add them to the wall of your gym. Blackboard paint is cool too. I think I might do this one.
Write Stuff Down - All of these training/timing schemes can be a lot of fun and will definitely keep you motivated. But if you never write any of your progress down then you could fail to reap the benefit of one of the greatest motivational tools of all time - seeing your progress. Your training book doesn't have to be extravagant. We've seen some neat ones out on the market for under $30 so if you want to splurge a little here, go for it. But writing down what you've done is super smart and can keep you on the right path.
Dry Runs and Pre-Planning - To keep you moving efficiently, set up your workout before you get in the gym. Once you've got it down on paper, set up each of your movement stations and run through a slow dry run to see how the flow goes. Layout the kettlebell, rings, med ball around the stationary stuff [pull up bar, rower, etc] to make your transitions smooth. And even swapping and re-ordering movements can dramatically change the intensity. If you've got semi-heavy deadlifts and box jumps in the same workout, putting them one after the other can really tax your legs. And that can be a good thing if that's what you're after.
Need even more motivation to make your new training goals come to life? Share our post with your friends and get one or two of them to join you in the gym. Having a partner or two is a great way to keep focused as well.