This article is authored by Joe Giandonato, MS, CSCS. Opinions expressed may not be that of SMARTER Team Training, STT sponsors or constituents. Joe is the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach and Fitness Director at Germantown Academy in Fort Washington, PA, where he presides over the assessment, preparation, and implementation of training programs for athletes in grades 6 through 12 and a diverse and accomplished alumni base currently competing in college athletics and in a host of professional and amateur leagues.

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Read Tip #1 when you CLICK HERE – “Vary Your Rep Ranges”

Read Tip #2 when you CLICK HERE – “Time Under Tension”

The third tip for avoiding a plateau in your strength training program can simply be summed up with “Vary Your Movements”!

Overuse injuries and burnout are prevalent among many seasoned lifters. Performing the same movements repetitively without changing it up every now and then will inevitably stifle your training zest. Incorporating variety, such as switching from a barbell bench press to a dumbbell bench press or going from a bilateral exercise, such as a squat to a unilateral exercise such as a lunge, and merely modifying foot and hand placement, range of motion, depth, and angle at which the exercise is performed will pay a number of muscle building dividends as will alter muscle recruitment patterns, potentially inducing more growth. A study appearing in January’s Journal of Strength and Conditioning revealed that increasing variety within an exercise program increased adherence and enjoyment without a change in fitness levels (4). An EMG study from 2010 involving a group of Division I female athletes highlighted the differences in muscle activation between a bilateral squat and a unilateral squat. The study found that performing the unilateral version generated greater mean peak gluteus and hamstring activity, whereas the bilateral squat version generated greater mean quadriceps activity (5). A 2012 study conducted by the Department of Physical Therapy at Marquette University noted differences recruitment patterns in a variety of step up variations during eccentric and concentric muscle actions (6). Their findings revealed a number of differences among a number of step of variations. They found that linear step ups produced the greatest amount of concentric muscle activation of the gluteus maximus and eccentric muscle activation of the gluteus medius, whereas the cross over step up elicited the greatest amount of concentric muscle activation of the gluteus medius.

Joe Giandonato also serves an adjunct instructor of exercise science and fitness electives at colleges throughout the Philadelphia-area. In addition to his coaching and teaching duties, Giandonato is also a contributing author on a number of health, fitness, and strength and conditioning websites, including Previously, Giandonato held stints at Saint Joseph’s University, where he assisted with their strength and conditioning program and at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, where he developed and availed health promotion programming in a number of departments. Giandonato can be reached via e-mail at


4. Juvancic-Heltzel JA, Glickman EL, Barkley JE. The effect on physical activity: a cross-sectional study. J Strength Cond Res. 2013;27:244-251.

5. McCurdy K, O’Kelley E, Kutz M, et al. Comparison of lower extremity EMG between the 2-leg squat and modified single-leg squat in female athletes. J Sport Rehabil. 2010;19:50-57.

6. Simenz CJ, Garceau LR, Lutsch BN, et al. Electromyographical analysis of lower extremity muscle activation during variations of the loaded step-up exercise. J Strength Cond Res. 2012;26:3398-3405.