The first time I saw an infomercial for P90X, the popular extreme home fitness program, I wondered what could possibly make this workout stand apart from the dozens of others on the market. One of the fastest growing fitness programs today, P90X has revolutionized results with a single term, “muscle confusion”.
After hearing this term used over and over again and seeing it pop up in several fitness magazines and blogs, I had to check out the definition to see what the buzz was really about.
What is muscle confusion?
Muscle confusion is defined as a technique that keeps the body guessing what will happen next. By switching up a routine—repetitions, intervals, equipment used—the body cannot fully anticipate what to expect from one workout to the next. When the body stays guessing it keeps working hard and the results follow.
The real question to ask is whether or not we really confuse our muscles. Are our bodies actually expecting tricep dips after those shoulder presses?
It is important to note that our body is not lounging off in the other room laughing at us as we do the same boring repetitions every other day. However, our bodies do adapt to the amount of weight and resistance we use and how hard we push ourselves. When this adaptation occurs, we stop making progress.
Plenty of us have probably experienced this, we have a solid routine going and we are finally seeing the results we were hoping for all along. Suddenly, the progress stops. The numbers on the scale refuse to move in reverse. Our muscle tone hits a wall in developing. It is what we call the dreaded “plateau effect.”
This is when we need to employ muscle confusion to shatter that plateau.
By confusing the body with different volumes of weight and resistance throughout the week you send a message back to your body telling it that you expect optimum performance, a friendly reminder that it needs to keep picking up the pace.
How to make muscle confusion work for you
Now I have never been very good at mathematics so the thought of comparing my workout to a math equation makes me a little queasy but a workout plan is made up of variables that you can swap in and out. Each one produces a different result.
You can choose to switch up the exercises you do, how quickly you do them, the amount of resistance in each one, the number of repetitions and how long you rest before starting up again.
Varying your workout regimen does not simply mean swimming one day, running the next, and biking the day after, however. In order to produce the results that you are looking for you need to work with the variables that will keep your body working in different ways, from the amount of weight you use in a chest press to the number of lunges you perform in sixty seconds. It is all about challenging your body and pushing it to make progress with every single set.
Another benefit to switching up the program frequently is plain and simple, it’s a boredom buster. Barely anyone can deny that after a while we grow tired of the same workout every other day. It gets boring, repetitive, and old. Quick.
Muscle confusion allows you to shake up your workout and try new techniques and new equipment that you might not have thought to pick up. Step away from the basic barbells and try out a kettle bell or a set of resistance bands. The varying of equipment will keep you working different muscle groups at different resistance levels. Your body will thank you for this change in routine.
Look up some different kinds of workouts that you have always wanted to try out and start switching up your daily regimen at the gym. Try a yoga class, do some plyometrics, or spend one day a week doing high intensity intervals. You and your body will both win when you begin busting out of that routine and changing up those barbells. You’ll begin to see better results and you’ll break away from boredom at the gym.
Photo by Anna Gay