Mixing it up for maximal motivation

Taiwanese luge athlete Lien Te-an works out  REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

Injured athletes often bang away at the same exercises with each therapy session, adding weights and reps when tolerated. A crowded therapy schedule may mean knee group and shoulder group doing the same prescribed exercises each day. Researchers from Brazil wondered if changing up a workout routine would enhance exercise results. They randomly assigned 17 healthy males with resistance training experience to either an experimental or control group. Both groups participated in an eight-week resistance training program and performed four sessions per week. The control group participated in a traditional weight training regimen with the load increasing every two weeks. The experimental group participated in different, randomly selected exercises during each session. The experimental group’s exercises still followed a pattern of pushing and pulling exercises for the upper body and anterior and posterior chain activities for the lower body.

Pre and post-intervention outcomes of psychological readiness, muscle thickness, body composition, and maximal dynamic strength were measured using the Situational Motivation Scale, ultrasound imaging, anthropometric methods, and 1RM strength testing. Both interventions showed improvement in muscle thickness, with no significant differences between groups. Body composition did not change significantly after the intervention in either group. Maximal strength improved significantly in both groups, with no significant difference between the groups. However, the experimental group showed significant moderate increases in their motivation to participate in training, while the control group decreased in this area. The difference between the groups was significant.

Practical implications

It is disheartening to see athletes return to sport too early because they are bored with rehab. They fail to understand the importance of the continued monitored training once they are ‘healed’ and cleared by their physician. Playing before they are ready increases the likelihood of repeated injury. This study showed that varying exercises still provides enough resistance to gain muscle strength and size while keeping the athlete engaged. This approach challenges the clinician to plan treatments, record sessions, and monitor the athlete’s progress on a more individual level. Doing so, however, may keep the athlete engaged enough to complete their rehab course before returning to sport.


  1. PLOS ONE. 2019 Dec.
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