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Thread: Muscle Confusion

  1. #1
    Wannabebig New Member
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    Muscle Confusion

    Hey guys, just wanted some answers to a question I've had for a while now, concerning the whole idea of "muscle confusion."

    Basically some trainers say that your muscles and body as a whole will get used to any given exercise after you've been doing it for long enough, and at that point will no longer benefit from that exercise. The solution, they say, is to be constantly switching up your workouts in order to "confuse" your muscles, i.e. insuring that they never have the time to get accustomed to the lifts.

    I'm not quite sure what to think personally; the idea sounds somewhat plausible, but I've also heard from many people that the whole thing is a myth.

    The reason I'm asking is because I've noticed that the gains I've been making over the past couple months have been much less than what I had seen in the months before, and it's been quite a while since I've switched up my workout at all - a situation that the "muscle confusion" proponents would point to as a prime example of their theory at work.

    So no more baloney, what's the deal with "muscle confusion?"
    Last edited by parkker007; 04-18-2009 at 09:30 PM.

  2. #2
    My own personal trainer dumbbell's Avatar
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    While there is truth to the muscle confusion idea, I believe the whole thing is greatly exaggerated. The changes can be small. Such as more weight added, different workout order, different grip, different rep scheme, etc., etc.

    You also don't necessarily need to change it every 4 weeks like some will say. Run a program for as long as you achieve gains on your main lifts, not some arbitrary number. I never run a program for less than 3 months.

    The more advanced you are in your training, the more complicated all this becomes. This is when muscle confusion is more of a challenge and your programming should reflect this.
    Jason

    It is currently a fad, at this writing, for boys to think they need a "six pack", although most of them don't have an ice chest to put it in.
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  3. #3
    Must...work...out... nockits's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dumbbell View Post
    The more advanced you are in your training, the more complicated all this becomes. This is when muscle confusion is more of a challenge and your programming should reflect this.
    Exactly. I agree with dumbbell 100%. The idea of you MUST switch your routine every 6-8 weeks is complete bull. As long as you're gaining from a routine, why change, right?
    Eventually you will plateau, but a complete makeover is not necessary. Either change your diet so you feed your muscles more, or change the set/rep/weight scheme slightly.
    The rest is in the quote. ^
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    Quote Originally Posted by Skalami View Post
    I just give the worked on muscle group tough riddles before my workouts... or sometimes I'll tell them we're going to the park and then go to the gym, or visa versa. They start to catch on so you have to tell the truth every so often.
    *While on the topic of muscle confusion, and how often a routine needs to be changed.*

  4. #4
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    A silly concept that may in some sense work, but it would be infinitely more valuable to simply understand why progression eventually stalls, and what you can do about it. I suggest reading Practical Programming by Coach Rip.

  5. #5
    Bodybuilding Mythbuster
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    There is no such thing as muscle confusion. Muscles adapt over time to a certain stress that is placed upon them. In order to keep progressing, a different stress must be applied. The easiest way to do so is to add weight. One can also add exercises, sets, reps, or even a different cadence.

    Constantly switching up one's workouts is generally not a good idea, as it is difficult to measure progression, if one does not keep the same exercises within the program. A far better method is to find a routine that works and stick with it until gains slow or stall, and then and only then find another one.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by parkker007 View Post
    Hey guys, just wanted some answers to a question I've had for a while now, concerning the whole idea of "muscle confusion."

    Basically some trainers say that your muscles and body as a whole will get used to any given exercise after you've been doing it for long enough, and at that point will no longer benefit from that exercise. The solution, they say, is to be constantly switching up your workouts in order to "confuse" your muscles, i.e. insuring that they never have the time to get accustomed to the lifts.

    I'm not quite sure what to think personally; the idea sounds somewhat plausible, but I've also heard from many people that the whole thing is a myth.
    Park,

    Muscle confusion is not a myth. It has to do with Hans Selye's General Adaptation Syndrome. The body will eventually adapt to an exercise. When it does your progress will stop.

    Jason/dumbbell provided you with some good information. "The changes can be small. Such as more weight added, different workout order, different grip, different rep scheme, etc.,"

    How often you need to change your program has to do with your training age. Training age is how long you have been training.

    Thus, a novice can run a program much longer than someone who has been training for a while. Most novices need to change their program up about every 6 weeks. I change mine up ever three weeks.

    However, Jason/dumbbell makes a great point, "Run a program for as long as you achieve gains on your main lifts, not some arbitrary number."

    Once you stop making progress it's definitely time to change thing up.

    Kenny Croxdale

  7. #7
    Wannabebig Member
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    Why wouldn't you want to change exercises periodically. It keeps things fresh and provides a balance that is needed for a fuller more well rounded physique.

  8. #8
    Must...work...out... nockits's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by big joe View Post
    Why wouldn't you want to change exercises periodically. It keeps things fresh and provides a balance that is needed for a fuller more well rounded physique.
    It doesn't keep anything balanced for a more well rounded physique.
    The routine you do will take care of the balancing, not the number of routines you do.
    If you keep progressing on a routine, why bother changing it?
    "Don't fix what ain't broke."
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    Quote Originally Posted by Skalami View Post
    I just give the worked on muscle group tough riddles before my workouts... or sometimes I'll tell them we're going to the park and then go to the gym, or visa versa. They start to catch on so you have to tell the truth every so often.
    *While on the topic of muscle confusion, and how often a routine needs to be changed.*

  9. #9
    Wannabebig Member
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    I can see why you set the goals you did. Rock on dude.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by big joe View Post
    I can see why you set the goals you did. Rock on dude.
    Take the condescending bull**** somewhere else.

  11. #11
    Senior Member Sensei's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dumbbell View Post
    The changes can be small. Such as more weight added, different workout order, different grip, different rep scheme, etc., etc.
    Like Jason and Kenny have said, adding weight changes things... "Muscle confusion" has been around for decades but, as with many things, it surfaces again in the latest, greatest programs... Any good program is going to account for the trainee acclimating to it by changing volume, intensity, rest intervals, exercise order, workout frequency, etc - it doesn't mean you have to totally change your exercises and/or set/rep schemes.

    "Same, but different" is a pretty good strategy for most and following it generally keeps people from throwing out the baby with the bath water.
    A child does not learn to squat from the top down. In other words, he does not suddenly make a conscious decision one day to squat. Actually, he is squatting one day and make the conscious decision to stand. Squatting precedes standing in the developmental sequence. This is the way a child's brain learns to use the body as the child develops movement patterns. Therefore, a child is probably crawling, rocks back into a squatting position with the back completely relaxed and the hips completely flexed, and stands when he has enough hip strength. This approach makes a lot of sense and can be applied to relearning the deep squat movement if it is lost. -Gray Cook
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  12. #12
    Push powerlifting heathj's Avatar
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    i am a trainer and rarely give the same workout twice in a row, unless they are going for pure strength gains on a specific exercise. if you can vary it up and keep it interesting with new exercises, why not?

  13. #13
    The Flyfisher rbtrout's Avatar
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    All great posts on this subject. I think that if you're making gains, why (unless sheer boredom) would you want to change it up? The point that many trainers (Ballys, etc.) take it to, by changing every workout, is way too far. Changing it up here and there prevents boredom and challenges the muscles differently.
    Last edited by rbtrout; 04-20-2009 at 10:50 AM.
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  14. #14
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    "Muscle confusion" is a great way for trainers to convince you to keep paying for "new" workouts every week/month. It's also a great marketing device b/c teaching people how to properly and effectively train over time is not NEARLY as sexy as selling them "the secrets to muscle confusion!"

    And I respectfully disagree with Kenny b/c the way the phrase "muscle confusion" is used today, is NOT simply as an intelligent application of the General Adaptation Principle. It's a hyperbolic, erratic, "black box" application of the GAP at best. And "muscle confusion" is generally radically misapplied to the target audience: beginners. As already stated, the body adapts, but a smart training program doesn't chase "new" just for the sake of "new." It chases new when new is necessary, and it does so in modest amounts, applied intelligently to stimulate targeted growth toward specific goals.

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