Variety is the spice of life
Variations are a great way to emphasise certain aspects that you want to improve on. The conjugate/Westside system of powerlifting is in part famous for the sheer number of variations implemented. They can be a fantastic tool for focusing on a particular weakness, improving force production in a weak area, or hell simply to change things up for a bit of fun.
Here are a few common variations and why you might choose to utilise them:
Pause squat: Build strength out of the hole, improve ability to maintain position. Getting comfortable in the hole under load is a big stepping stone on the way to squatting big weight.
Squat with chains: Encourage strong finish all the way through the movement, as the lifter comes up the chains add weight which means force production must remain high.
Box squat: Increased emphasis on loading the hips, encourage ‘leading with the chest’. Can be useful for teaching people to sit back without being afraid of falling over.
Board press: Build strength through the top range of motion, emphasis on tricep strength, good for building strength at sticking points
Feet up bench: Taking away the leg drive aspect (as well as some stability) provides a lot more stimulus for the chest / arms, especially from the bottom position. Good for people who miss at the bottom but have good leg drive.
Close grip bench: Longer range of motion, making the movement ‘harder’. Increased focus on the triceps. Good for those with shoulder pain/niggles or past history of shoulder issues.
Deficit deadlift: Increased range of motion, greater emphasis on leg drive from the bottom. Important to not go too crazy with the deficit depth, otherwise the positions are very different from a normal deadlift.
Deadlift off blocks: Decreased range of motion, good for working on sticking points in the movement and general overload (when appropriate). Important to ensure position when pulling off blocks mimics position of general deadlift pattern.
Add to this dumbbells, pause variants (where and for how long), bodyweight movements, grip changes, bands, chains, different barbells, wraps, slingshots… the possibilities are almost endless.