There are many different types of workout routines out there, created by different individuals which had a broader perspective on the human body and what it needs in order to thrive and to reach its potential through physical exercise. The thing about workouts however is that there will always be another one coming along, and it has gotten to a point where today, many people are confused when they hear terms like Muscle Confusion Workouts. What does that even mean and why should it be of any importance for someone that is just trying to shave off a couple of pounds that they’ve put on during the holidays? We are going to take a closer look at what muscle confusion is referring to but also at how beneficial it actually is for the body. There are compelling arguments on both sides of the barricade, which many advocating for this type of workout while others claim that it’s nothing more than a myth. We will get to the bottom of it all by the end of this article, so keep reading to find out what muscle confusion is all about.
The principles of muscle confusion workouts
At its core, muscle confusion is a very simple concept. Basically it is referring to the act of switching up your workout routine periodically so that your body does not get used to the kind of physical exercise you are exposing it to. If you would only do the same exercises all the time, then your body would “plateau”, or stagger progress. This is where the concept of muscle confusion is born from, as it aims to prevent progress stagger or even complete stagnation, by constantly providing the body with a fresh and engaging exercise routine for it to follow. As long as you keep it occupied with something new and enticing, it will continue to remain interested and receiving towards your fitness endeavors.
Why many people don’t like the concept of muscle confusion?
It all seems just great in theory, so why would anyone have a problem with muscle confusion workouts or the principle behind them? Well, that’s just it. These so called benefits, at least how others see things, are nothing more than theory, which is the main problem here. Many claim that the muscle confusion strategy is nothing more than a myth, a story that holds no truth to it.
There are a lot of trainers and specialists out there that will tell you that progression overload is the only thing that matters when it comes to building strength. They are completely against the concept of muscle confusion. Some however think that it’s a relatively new trend or fashion to just switch up routines in the hopes of getting better results. There’s quite a bit of backstory behind muscle confusion however and the principle itself has been around ever since the 60’s. It’s true however that it hasn’t always been as popular as it is today for example, and that it has seen a sudden and abrupt return to form in the popularity department only relatively recently.
No matter what side of the coin you find yourself supporting, one thing is true and that is that muscle confusion isn’t some miraculous, magical solution that will solve all your weight or muscle problems overnight. We’re not saying that the concept is flawed or that muscle confusion workouts aren’t worth your time. What we are saying however is the fact that it’s not enough on its own to use muscle confusion. It needs to be paired with a rigorous training program and a fierce intensity that matches or even surpasses that of the workout you have just replaced in the favor of muscle confusion. For instance, let’s say that you want to grow faster and more efficiently. Ditching your high demanding workout program in favor of an incredibly simple, “beginner” one won’t just make you grow more. Sure, you’re switching things up, but you are no longer challenging yourself through a rigorous training routine that is fir for your current strength. This is a case in which muscle confusion wouldn’t help. In order to benefit from this solution, you need to make sure that you are using other aspects of training to their full potential as well, such as using workout routines that necessitate as much raw power as you can muster.
Now that we’ve had a first peak at what the people opposing this workout strategy have to say, let’s take a closer look at the other side of the coin, and see what the adepts of muscle confusion have to offer.
The benefits behind muscle confusion programs and what people against them are actually missing.
Now that we’ve taken a look at some of the negative aspects of this workout strategy or better said we’ve cleared up some things about how it actually works, we should also take some time in order to go over the things that do make it a viable solution for those finding themselves in a tricky spot where they’re not growing anymore or not at the rate they would’ve wanted to grow at.
We’ve looked at an example where changing your workout with something easier wasn’t beneficial at all, thus clearing up some of the aspects revolving around muscle confusion. If you just replace your demanding workout with something easy, it won’t make you grow simply because it’s something different. Now, let’s take a look at another example, this time showcasing how never changing anything would affect your progress. If you were to work out a specific part of your body through only one exercise, never changing anything about it, except for how many weights you stick on the bar, it would definitely not yield impressive results. With no rep changes and no kind of variation whatsoever, just more weights but doing the exact same thing day after day, week after week, your body would definitely start to showcase some sluggish behavior in terms of progress and marching on.
For every professional out there that speaks against muscle confusion, there are at least two which will tell you that changing things up once in a while will earn you much sweeter rewards. Of course, we’re not talking about changing something every day here, but once in a while say, every couple of weeks, something needs to change in order to let your body now that time is passing and that you are actively training. Otherwise, it won’t be long before everything you do becomes a robotic reflex simply because it’s the only thing you do.
This, changing things up once in a while, is also referred to in the industry as periodization workout. It is also of incredible importance when it comes to how your body reacts to change in general. In order to take this discussion further, we are going to need to bring out the big guns. Let’s take a look at some things we have learned over the years from science, research and theory testing.
How the body works and the science behind muscle confusion?
Have you ever heard of something called the General Adaptation Syndrome? It’s a key element to getting a proper grip on the concept of muscle confusion and how it affects the body. This syndrome refers to the body being built so that it responds to stresses when it is exposed to them. When the body is under stress, it begins to adapt so that it can face and sustain that stress. That’s how muscles are built, as you put a sizeable amount of stress on your body through lifting weights and working out in ways that challenge your current physical form. Under this stress, the body reacts by growing in size and perfecting itself so it can be more resistant. After a while, it stops growing when being exposed to the same levels of stress simply because it has become so big that the previous challenge is no longer a stress factor and there is no need for it.
This is the time when you normally increase your repetition count on lifting weights or provide even more weight to lift. One way or another, we alter our training process little by little so that there is some new form of stress put on our bodies. To which it can react.
The importance of having variety and diversity in your training routine
Now we know that changing things up actually plays a crucial role in the development of the human body and how it grows in the gym or in the aftermath of rigorous training in general. However, making sure that there is plenty of variety and changing as many elements as possible will do more than just put more stress on the body. It will allow it to experience new forms of stress entirely. As a result, the body will also adapt and grow in entirely new ways. When you look at things from this perspective, it’s a lot easier to understand how something like muscle confusion can actually be pretty important for the overall success of your workout routine or fitness endeavors altogether.
So what’s the difference between periodization and muscle confusion training?
These are the two terms that have been flying around so far so you might be wondering if there’s any difference between them. Both address the notion of applying variety to your workouts, so how different could they be, right? They are in fact incredibly different, believe it or not. There is a world of difference when it comes to the two, and here’s why:
When you talk about muscle confusion and the whole principle behind muscle confusion workouts, you are talking about going into the gym, picking something and starting to work out. There is no plan involved and there is no strategy behind what you’re doing except for the fact that it’s different from what you did the last time you were at the gym. Muscle confusion takes the expression of “shocking” your muscles very seriously as half of the time you don’t even know what you’re going to do yourself, until the very last moment. This kind of approach is what has brought muscle confusion into the attention of so many, and not always in a positive light. But how does it differ from periodization?
Periodization refers to having a thorough plan behind every single decision you make in the gym, regarding changing things. Sure, it is similar to muscle confusion in the sense that you can change up quite a lot in your workout, and often times even frequently, but the key difference lies in the fact that everything is part of a thought out plan which you know with plenty of time in advance. Every time you change something up, you knew about it way before it happened. In this kind of approach, you don’t just change something because you feel like it. You change things up at specific times after specific milestones or criteria have been met while undergoing the current training stratagem. This kind of elaborated planning as opposed to randomness and spontaneity found in muscle confusion makes the two approaches the very opposite of one another. However a similarity can be found between them.
When it comes to how viable or recommended muscle confusion actually is, we can rely on the fact that it is in some ways similar to periodization in order to accept that at the very least, it’s not an entirely flawed concept. The base concept itself can be quite beneficial for the user as it can be quite harming or hindering. The key between these two very opposite effects is the set of variables used. The context in which muscle confusion takes place, and things like how often do changes in the workout appear or how intense they are, play a fundamental role in determining the efficiency of muscle confusion workouts in general. In conclusion, it’s definitely something to keep an eye on and worth spending some time on getting a better understanding on it.