Muscle Confusion Workouts?
So I was training a client the other day and he’s been noticing that we pretty much do the same thing each week and have been for the past month or so. He asked me if we were ever going to switch up the routine and he told me that a lot of his friends never do the same workouts more than 2 weeks in a row in order to confuse the muscles and shock them into growth. I just laughed and said that we will change up our work outs soon enough. Then he proceeded to ask me if my muscle confusion workouts were going to be effective for him to gain muscle.
Now let me tell you something. The term ‘muscle confusion’ and the idea that you have to constantly switch up your workouts in order to shock your body into growth is pretty common to people and that advice is thrown around pretty loosely.
The first time I ever saw a whole workout based on muscle confusion was Tony Horton’s program P90x. Some of you may have heard about it. His muscle confusion workouts promise that you will never plateau because your body won’t have time to adapt to the constant change in routines that prevent it from responding to stimulus. Though I have used his program and do not deny that it’s a great program, I don’t buy into the whole muscle confusion thing. It’s honestly just another fitness myth.
In reality, muscle confusion is complete nonsense. Your muscles do not have a mind of their own. They do not analyze the movements that you are performing or what kind of equipment you are using. They just simply perform the movements and respond to the load and intensity that is placed on it. Muscles only do one thing and that’s to adapt to stress. They don’t think to themselves: “oh, he’s suddenly switching from cables to dumbbells, we’d better grow bigger and stronger to accommodate.” As long as you train with enough intensity and focus on increasing the weight you lift, your muscles will continue to grow.
If muscles did react to ‘confusion,’ then how do you explain power lifters that consistently increase their strength and size by performing the same exercises such as squats, dead lifts bench press and over head pressing over and over again?
Plateaus do not occur because of the body adapting to the same exercises. Your strength gains and muscle gains may taper off after a while because you aren’t eating enough calories, training with enough intensity or even because you’re over training. Personally, I’ve been using the same routine for over 3 years with the same exercises and everything and I’m still getting great results. As long as you train hard, are eating enough and adjust volume and intensity accordingly, you can make good results for a long period of time.
If you want to switch up routines once in a while because you’re getting bored of the same routine, by all means go for it. Just do not make the mistake of thinking that your muscles are adapting and responding because you switched around the exercises. Different exercises stimulate the muscles in different ways but it has nothing to do with becoming shocked and confused by the change.