The Principle of Muscle Confusion

The principle of muscle confusion is one of the best ways to build muscle fast because it contrasts the tendency of the body to adapt to our workouts and stop being responsive.

What does it mean, you're asking...

Keep in mind that our body has the great ability to adapt to the changes that we apply to it.

Chest muscle confusion

Example of chest muscle confusion. Change routine every 6-8 weeks at least and force your muscles to adapt

This means that our body:

  • Builds stronger muscles when we lift weights, to be able to lift them next time without so much effort
  • Produces antibodies when we get sick (cold, flu etc.) to learn how to fight the disease next time it happens again
  • Gets tanned to protect the skin from the sun after exposure
  • Gets used to the cold after we move to colder areas

We can find many other examples, but the idea is the same: our body doesn't want to be unprepared when we stimulate it.

Muscle Confusion to Keep Our Body Alert

Mr. Weider was a great promoter of this principle, and the reason can be easily explained.

Let's start from a fact: if you do the same exercises, and I mean that you follow the same routine, over and over again without changing it, your workouts will become basically useless.

You can believe me or not, but in that case try it and let me know.

If you never change your workout routine, two things usually happen:

  1. You get mentally sick of it
  2. Your body stops responding to those exercises

Here's why.

We need to enjoy our workouts, if we don't have fun we can't succeed. If we work out the same routine all the time we just get tired of it, the training becomes boring.

It happened to me when I was a "poor ignorant" (I was around 22-23).

My personal trainer gave me a routine and said "Come back in max. eight weeks and I'll change it".

You think I did? Nope...

After eight weeks I just kept going, I was thinking "These exercises worked really well, I don't want to change them".

I ended up waking up in the morning thinking "Today is wednesday, gym day... Oh no!!!".

I was overwhelmed, overtrained, bored...whatever it was, I lost interest in going to the gym. Plus, it seemed that my muscles were decreasing...horror!

After that I learned, and I thank those who explained it to me, the principle of muscle confusion.

It consists in rotating the type and the intensity of the exercises that we do, to actually confuse our body, and don't let it settle and learn how to adapt, because when it adapts, it stops doesn't need to right?

I change routine every 6 or 7 weeks because of this, to keep my body alert (Hey, you need to keep building muscle because you don't know if the next time I'll do the same exercise again), and to keep enjoying my trainings too!

How to Change Routines for Muscle Confusion

For muscle confusion purposes I think you  should change your workout routine  between six and eight weeks.

Four weeks would be too early, you can't even notice improvements or move up with weights so much, instead ten weeks are too long, your body is probably already used to those exercises.

When you change routine you can still train the same muscle, but with some changes:

  • Change exercises. Example: if you were doing barbell bench press you can do dumbbell bench press, or inclined bench press etc.
  • Change reps and weights. Example: if you were doing 3x8 with 100lbs, try 10/8/6 increasing the weight each set). This can be done even if you keep the same exercises
  • Change targeted muscles (you can't train every single muscle in a workout routine unless you go to the gym every day for 2 hours. I just introduced upright rows for traps in my last routine while I wasn't training traps directly in my previous routine.

If you hired a personal trainer this is probably a principle that he or she told you, or at least is applying to your routines.

If you're writing your own workout routines then try one of these ideas and let me know.

Muscle confusion is one of the ways to build muscle fast and to keep interest in going to the gym, but of course it's not the only one.

Try and see, especially if you feel like your workouts don't give you good results anymore.

Remember this, when you don't experience muscle pain after exercise anymore (the pain of the day after), it's probably a sign that your body learned your moves and is not responding anymore to the stress from those exercises.


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