The variety of movements in resistance exercise is limited to the normal safe biomechanics of the different joints. Essentially, a forward lunge is a forward lunge and a step-up is a step-up. Sure, angles may be adjusted but the movement is consistent. Diversity to the movement comes from loading, movement speed, stability, ROM and related stress adjustments to make the body do more while the movements remain safe and consistent. One way to get more from the training is to use unfamiliar loading. Traditional approaches commonly use axial loaded bar positions and lateral dumbbell holds. Thanks to the proliferation of training equipment, unfamiliar loading can add diversity, appropriate levels of difficulty and be more interesting to clients than the traditional redundancy. A very simple example of unfamiliar loading is applying resistance to a learned exercise in a different location. For instance, switching axial loaded forward lunges and lateral squats to front loaded with the bar. This simple movement of seven inches forward changes the stability requirements and weight distribution rather significantly. If triceps or lat tightness are issues, grab a sand bag or heavy bag for the same exercise.
Carrying and moving odd shaped objects improves the communication between muscle groups and enhances force couples and loading the front plays into the inefficiency of the spine. Carrying a dumbbell like a cradle (hooked arms) while performing step-ups or using a straight bar or plate instead of a medicine ball during lunges with rotation will change the exercise difficulty due to the unfamiliarity, assuming the loading is consistent. A longer resistance arm or change in the overall center of mass because an object is cumbersome makes it more difficult to move and control. The World’s Strongest Man competition demonstrates the use of unfamiliarity in many of the events. Logs replace bars, round and angular shaped stones require cradle carries, pulls use unfamiliar material like chains and thick ropes. This is not to suggest that clients should train to compete in these events but rather that utilizing different equipment or carry locations makes the training more interesting and much more functional than using machines and traditional axial loading. Consider some of the following adjustments in your exercise programs.
Cradled front carries with walking lunges (sand bags, heavy bags)
Front loaded Bulgarian squats (short barbell, dumbbell, sand bags, heavy med ball)
Side shouldered step-ups or stair climbs (water pail, sand bag, heavy bag)
Standing single arm bar press (grip plates, kettle bell, short bar)
Standing rotation (straight bar, grip logs)
Chin up (towel or rope)
If these sound a bit aggressive the variations can be more accommodating. Changing stances and pull positions create new stress even when the resistance is the same (or perhaps even lowered). If your client is accustomed to performing an exercise seated, have them perform it while standing. Each new experience creates a new perceived stress which, of course are the foundations for progressive adaptations. Changes may be directionally as well or use an increased movement range. For instance, if a forward step-up is the norm, switch to an angular step or if the step height is 15 inches, make it 18. Likewise, taking anchored actions and making them locomotive also changes the requirements of the exercise. Regardless of the decision just ensure proper instruction serves correct technique and biomechanics.