The Importance of Exercise Variety for Optimal Muscle Growth


One of the key aspects of a successful exercise program for muscle growth is exercise variety. Exercise variety refers to the different exercises included in the program. It includes factors such as the type of equipment used, the number of joints involved, the plane of motion, and the angles of movement. Choosing the right exercises is crucial in ensuring the overall development of the musculature. This article will discuss the importance of exercise variety for optimal muscle growth based on the latest research evidence.

The Role of Multi-Joint and Single-Joint Movements

Several studies have found that combining different movements per muscle group is necessary for optimal muscle growth. For instance, Fonseca et al. (2014) showed that combining different lower-body exercises resulted in muscle growth in the whole quadriceps muscle. In contrast, performing only one exercise did not lead to muscle growth in all four quadriceps muscles. Similarly, Brandão et al. (2020) found that combining multi-joint and single-joint movements produced the best total triceps cross-sectional area growth. These findings suggest that multi-joint and single-joint movements are required for the optimal growth of multiple muscles.

When to Change Exercises

While it is clear that strength training for muscle growth should use several different exercises per muscle group, the frequency of changing exercises is still a matter of debate. According to the latest recommendations, free-weight exercises involving complex movement patterns should regularly be part of the training program to strengthen motor skills. Exercises with these movement patterns should also be changed less frequently than easier single-joint exercises, which can be changed more often while providing new stimuli to the muscles. A good rule of thumb is that a movement should be changed when the performance plateaus over several training sessions or the movement produce increasing pain that is not corrected by a change in technique.

The Importance of Targeting Specific Muscles

When selecting movements, paying attention to the desired target muscle as a performance-limiting factor is essential to ensure that it receives sufficient stimulus for muscle growth. Not all muscles working in a multi-joint movement will necessarily produce the same muscle growth. Therefore, it may be advisable to include additional exercises that specifically target the muscles with stimulating repetitions in reserve.


In summary, it is advisable to include a variety of movements that work the muscles from different levels and angles to ensure the overall development of the whole muscle. It is also good to know that your thigh contains, for example, four different muscles or that the round buttock is made up of three different glute muscles. The exercise program should include multi- and single-joint movements to ensure optimal muscle development. The recommended number of movements in the exercise program can be considered 1-2 multi-joint movements per large muscle group and 1-3 more isolating movements per all muscle groups. Following these guidelines, you can design an exercise program that promotes optimal muscle growth and helps you achieve your fitness goals.


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