Muscle confusion workouts- are muscles really that smart?

muscle confusion3

 

 

 

 

You have seen the infomercials…

A sweaty and ripped Tony Horton looks through the TV screen and tells you the secret to getting ripped in the fastest time possible. That secret is…

Muscle confusion

According to Tony, your muscles are pretty smart and to get them to respond to a training stimulus you have to do whatever you can to confuse the heck out of them.

 

His muscle confusing regimen included low reps one day, high reps another, yoga, martial arts, body weight training, plyometrics, partial reps, eccentric emphasis and probably a dozen more methods designed to confuse your muscle into absolute submission.

 

You think to yourself- “ahhh, that’s what I have been doing wrong- I have made the critical mistake of thinking I was smarter than my muscles”…

 

What a pile of crap.

 

Here is the truth- getting awesome results from your training program has absolutely NOTHING to do with “muscle confusion”.

 

While there is a benefit to changing your program at regular times intervals (like in a periodized exercise program), drastically changing your program every time you step into the gym will actually limit your progress!

 

If you want to maximize your fat burning or muscle building results you should focus on progression NOT confusion.

 

In fact, too much variety is a bad thing. There are several foundational movements that should make up the majority of your exercise programming. These would include squats, dead lifts, pushing and pulling movements with some lunging and step ups tossed in for good measure. Of course there will be other exercises that can come and go but these are the sorts of movements that should make up the foundation of your program.

 

One of the issues I have with this whole “muscle confusion” theory is that with this type of program you are not allowing for proper progression to take place.

 

By progression I mean any of the following;

 

Increase the weight being lifted.
If you are currently lifting 50lbs on an exercise, you can lift progress to 55lbs the next time you perform that same exercise.

 

Increase the number of reps a weight is being lifted for.
If you are lifting 50lbs on an exercise for 4 sets of 6 reps, you can do 4 sets of 7 reps with that same weight the next time you perform that same exercise.

 

Increase the number of sets you are lifting a weight for.
If you are lifting 50lbs on an exercise for 3 sets of 10 reps, you can do 4 sets of 10 reps with that same weight the next time you perform that same exercise.

 

Increase the density of work being done in a given time period.
If your current workout takes you 45 minutes to complete, you can try completing the same workout in 40 minutes or less.

 

Increase the difficulty of the exercise being performed.
If you are currently doing split squats with dumbbells, you can change up to a similar but more challenging version of the same exercise such Bulgarian split squats with a barbell on your back.

 

Increase the total amount of work being performed.

You can calculate the total amount of weight lifted in a given workout by multiplying reps X weight X sets. The next time you perform this same workout try to increase this total.

 

 

The truth is if you have less than 1 year of training experience focusing on “muscle confusion” will only make you weaker and more prone to injury. For those who are more experienced some variety can be useful as part of periodizing a program but those same foundational movements will always remain. Yes, your muscles can adapt to those movements as well but only to the volume and load- not the movement itself. The idea that a person should forgo squatting in favor of jumping jacks in the spirit of muscle confusion is simply ridiculous.  True progress will come from mastering control over a certain movement and loading pattern and then forcing yourself to do more & more regardless of how basic that sounds.

 

Consistency in your exercise program is more important than switching things up in the pursuit of muscle confusion. Without consistency you will not be able to track improvements and progress your workouts with any degree of efficiency. I have built consistency and periodization into every one of the workout found on the Ebodi program, taking all the guess work out of the equation. Get it all- workouts, nutrition program, recipes, tips and support for one ridiculously low price.

This post was written by

Bruce – who has written posts on Cutting edge muscle building and fat loss secrets.
bruce krahn is a best-selling author, writer, researcher, personal trainer and professional speaker. he has coached people for two decades both in person and online. he created this site to be an honest source of useful, practical information you can use to improve your health, build muscle, lose fat and get the lean body look.

Email  • Google + • Facebook  • Twitter

If you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving a comment or subscribing to the RSS feed to have future articles delivered to your feed reader.

About

bruce krahn is a best-selling author, writer, researcher, personal trainer and professional speaker. he has coached people for two decades both in person and online. he created this site to be an honest source of useful, practical information you can use to improve your health, build muscle, lose fat and get the lean body look.

5 Responses to “Muscle confusion workouts- are muscles really that smart?”

  1. Anthony says:

    once again, Bruce, you have shined a light into the darkness of ignorance – I especially like your example of stopping squats and do jumping jacks is perfect! In the same vein, imagine a 400lb deadlifter going fro a 10 mile run for his next leg workout; he’d get less mass, reduced GH and testosterone, and lower strength for his efforts.

    As a 44 year old weightlifting veteran, I do like doing different moves to keep it fresh, but they are all what you term foundational; deads, back squats, front squats, squat-press, hack-deads (bar behind legs), jump squats, squat-press. And progression; right on again- very key.

    You rock man, thank you for being the voice in the wilderness of truth!

  2. janet says:

    so, interesting. thanks for the great information!

  3. ilgn says:

    Actually, P90X does have progression built into it. Yes, you’re changing up the exercises you do from one time to the next, but of course you’re expected to record the weights you use. Any and all of the progressive options you pose are available to you with the exception of doing the workouts in less time, as you tend to follow the video for pacing. That said, you definitely can increase weights the next time you do the same video (which just might be a few or several days later, since the schedule changes week to week), and you can also increase reps from one workout to the next – or neither, if you’re not ready. He also provides variations on many of the exercises, to allow for greater complexity for those who might be ready for it.

    I’m no exercise scientist, but I have done P90X and benefited a great deal by doing it. I think it’s important to know a product intimately before making claims against it. Your post doesn’t seem to suggest this.

    Please understand that I don’t question your principles, by any means. Fact is, lots of people have been very successful using P90X and many of the other Beachbody products. I’m one such person among several I know personally. It’s hard to argue against results.

    • admin says:

      Hi- the article wasn’t meant to slam P90X. I was just speaking to the concept of “muscle confusion”. P90X works for many people but the results come from the time and effort required to complete the program and not from confusing ones muscles. Thanks for your comment and congrats on your success- P90X is not easy!

Leave a Reply