One of the best parts of our job here at Sparta is collaborating with other coaches and discussing different approaches to improving athletes, performance. Half of these conversations usually revolve around building a great training culture and developing buy-in and consistency from your athletes. The other half usually revolve around movements, programming, and science to build better Sparta signatures.
One of the main areas that we have been discussing lately is the importance of exercise variants of each movement that can progress or regress the difficulty of a prescription; a more foundational movement pattern that objectively addresses a Sparta signature need. These variants are a key part of the planning process that goes into building a great program. Of course, the best program without a great culture and consistency is not worth the paper (or software) that it is written on.
There are many methods for building Variants including manipulating bar placement, hand position, range of motion, stability, and tempo. The key is to develop an organized approach to how you manipulate the different variables in different situations.
A great example is changing the hand position and foot position on push ups in order to progress or regress the difficulty for a particular level of athlete.
Progressing the Push Up
The push up is an extremely valuable movement for developing strength and integrating stability through the entire body. The problem is making a basic movement like push ups appropriate for a broad population of athletes. Some will be able to complete numerous reps while others are unable to perform one decent rep. In order to maximize the benefits of the push up, we can manipulate several factors to create variants of the same prescription.
Body Position – adjust hand and foot placement to change the angle and thus the loading. We use three variations for an increasing intensity (loading); hands on bench, hands on floor, and feet on bench.
Tempo – add a hold at the bottom to increase time under tension. While this manipulation increases difficulty, it is especially valuable for improving quality by emphasizing awareness of body position and stability.
Performing Push Up Variants
“Screw” the hands into the ground and maintain a vertical forearm
Brace the quads, glutes, and abs to form a perfectly straight body position
Hold at the bottom before pushing explosively to the top
There is value in making changes to your program on the fly, but first you must have a framework of standard progressions and regressions, variants of the same prescription. So take the time to create variants for your prescriptions so that you are prepared no matter who you are working with.