There is a difference between making exercises more challenging and just adding random pieces of equipment to make the movement harder.
There is also a balance between doing the same exercises over and over and seeing zero results vs. changing your program every two weeks.
Both of these balances get confused because of the term “muscle confusion.”
Muscle confusion has been distorted from a need to change the training stimulus to accommodate adaptation to doing randomly group exercises every other day to “mix it up” and confuse the muscles as if they are a 4th grade class that you just introduced to calculus.
When you spice up exercises it should be for a purpose.
Increased muscle fiber recruitment.
When you’ve hit a plateau with your current rep/set scheme.
Increased stabilization (especially throughout the core).
Here are five ways you can modify the exercises you already do into fresh takes.
BANA (Bilateral Assisted Negative Accentuated)
You are 1.75x stronger in the eccentric phase than you are in the concentric. This technique requires you to use both limbs in the concentric and one limb in the eccentric.
Doing this technique will increase muscle growth compared to conventional training.
Apply this a couple times a week, but don’t overdo it as it can be very taxing neurologically.
Use 4-6 second eccentrics when performing this technique.
Contrast sets consist of doing a heavy movement followed by a dynamic bodyweight movement right after.
Hex Bar Squats —> Vertical Box Jumps
Bench Press —> Med Ball Presses
Split Squat —> Split Jumps
The explosive movement following a strength movement allows you to be more explosive. It’s like running with a weighted vest on and then dropping it and sprinting with the wind at your back.
This is a great way to build strength and power at the same time.
This is more than just training two sides at the same time.
These movements are very similar to sprinting and require the pec, lat, or shoulder to work synergistically with the opposite hip.
This helps to train the oblique sling, requiring you to stabilize through the core, especially through the lumbo-pelvic region.
As a result the body transfers force across the front side or the backside of the body.
These types of exercises help reinforce rotational athletic movements like throwing, hitting, punching and kicking in addition to reinforcing proper body alignment.
The use of bands or chains can be a great way to increase the resistance at the top of the exercise.
For example, when you’re at the bottom of a dumbbell bicep curl it is much harder to move the first 20 degrees than it is the last 20 degrees.
As you get closer to the concentric part of a lift, it becomes easier.
Someone might be able to quarter squat 400lbs, but only squat 375lbs in a full range of motion.
The bands and chains help to increase resistance throughout the entire movement.
As a band gets pulled further and further it becomes tighter and tighter.
As chains lift off the floor, your body is now responsible for moving the weight that used to be dead weight on the ground.
Check out these charts that show how chains and bands affect the squat.
Doing anti-rotation exercises are pretty common when it comes to core training. If you’ve ever done any kind of twisting with bands or cables to train your oblique, you’ve done anti-rotation drills.
Where this has the opportunity to get fun is with single arm variations of presses, rows, lunges, carries, and squats.
When you load one side of your body your core has to work to maintain a stable pillar throughout your core. If you look at a simple exercise like the Single Arm Dumbbell Bent Over Row, you not only are working the lat on one side, but you’re working the oblique on the other side.
Similar to contra-lateral training. When you only load one side, you are training the opposite obliques.
As mentioned above, there is a balance to all of this.
It can be easy to go overboard with these and program them for every exercise and combine them together, but remember to focus on the basics and use these to supplement your training.
These variations are best used to compliment a more conventional movement pattern.
The highlight reel doesn’t account for the thousands of routine plays made 1000x for every 1 moment of flair.