How to Vary Your Workouts for the Best Results

When it comes to varying your workouts, how do you know what to change, and when? Get-Fit Guy breaks it down and explains what's most important to change: your entire workout, your exercises, or your intensity. Plus, get look at a sample week of his pro routines.

Ben Greenfield
4-minute read
Episode #191

Whether your goal is fat loss, muscle gain, performance enhancement or longevity, study after study has proven that paying attention to the SAID principle is one of the most important things you can do..

Simply put, the SAID principle, which stands for “Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands,” is based on the common sense idea that your body eventually adapts to the demands that are placed on it, and because of this, you must constantly throw curveballs at your body through workout variations, exercise variations, and intensity variations.

But when it comes to varying your workouts, how do you know what to change, and when to change it? And what is more important to alter – your entire workout, your exercises, or your intensity?

Why You Need to Change Your Exercises

A recent study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research looked into this very question.

In the study, researchers looked at the effects of 4 different training methods on the muscle responses of the quadriceps leg muscles and the maximal strength in the back squat. During a 12-week time period, they split study participants into 5 different groups:

  • Group 1 did Constant Intensity and Constant Exercise (CICE), in this case, 8 repetitions of a squat exercise.
  • Group 2 did Constant Intensity, Varied Exercise (CIVE), performing the squat, deadlift, lunge, and  leg press exercises, also with 8 repetitions.
  • Group 3 did Varied Intensity, Constant Exercise (VICE), here, a squat exercise with variations of 6-10 repetitions.
  • Group 4 did Varied Intensity, Varied Exercise (VIVE), performing the squat, deadlift, lunge, and leg press exercises with variations of 6-10 repetitions.
  • Group 5 was either unlucky or lucky, depending on how you look at it – this was a control group that did no training at all.

The results showed that muscle increases were actually not significantly different between any of the training groups (except the control group, of course!), since all the training groups gained muscle.

Interestingly, however, the groups that varied their exercises (for example, the ones that did things other than just squats) showed muscle growth in all 4 parts of their quadriceps muscles, while the groups that did not vary their exercises saw benefits in fewer of the quadriceps groups. In addition, the groups that varied their exercises were most efficient at improving their maximum strength for the squat.

Based on the results of this study, it appears that varying exercises is your best bet for balancing an increase in muscle size or lean muscle gain along with an increase in maximal strength. And, of course, if you’re focused on fat loss, any time you are increasing muscle size or strength, you’re going to see a potent calorie and fat burning effect, too!


All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own health provider. Please consult a licensed health professional for all individual questions and issues.

About the Author

Ben Greenfield

Ben Greenfield received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from University of Idaho in sports science and exercise physiology; personal training and strength and conditioning certifications from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA); a sports nutrition certification from the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN), an advanced bicycle fitting certification from Serotta. He has over 11 years’ experience in coaching professional, collegiate, and recreational athletes from all sports, and as helped hundreds of clients achieve weight loss and fitness success.