Are you using the 3 Vs in your programmes? Variety, Variation and Variability are the keys to making sure that you are expanding the number of interactions between systems in your body for greater versatiliy and robustness. There is very little support in the evidence for single system training, e.g. core stability or strength, but good outcomes are shown for programmes which include a number of different elements.
Variety means using a number of different exercises or positions to address a specific goal, in order to increase the transference of learning. Variation means using a single exercise, but changing elements of it to stimulate greater diversity in neuromuscular responses. Variability involves unpredictability, rapid change and automatic reactions, in order to develop robustness.
The three Vs apply regardless of age or level of physical function. It is easy to assume that they are only relevant to athletes, but they are just as relevant to your total hip replacement patient, your lower back pain patient, a developing child or your middle aged personal training client. Motor learning research indicates that varying a task improves performance of that task. In order to achieve transference, a person needs to be able to apply their control capabilities in a wide variety of circumstances. And it isn’t just sport but life itself that involves variability. We all need to respond to changes in our environment, whether it is moving in crowds, avoiding a running small child or unexpectedly tripping.
Variation Challenge: pick just one exercise, and see how many small changes you can make to it. There are so many options: you could add a different plane of movement, play with the base of support, move a different body part or close the eyes – there are countless possibilities. Every change challenges the body to find new solutions, and this expands your control capabilities!
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