Muscle Confusion, Fact or Myth?

In my Blog of last week,I made reference to a now common fitness term,muscle confusion.Simply put,muscle confusion,is a training concept that is centered around variety in workouts.Muscle confusion is not a new concept. Body building guru,Joe Weider cited muscle confusion in the 1960’s.This in part,led to the creation of his famed,”Weider System”

We all recognize that muscle confusion is not a scientific term.So why all the controversy?The traditional body building camp,believes that workouts should target key muscle groups and be somewhat repetitive. Any changing of the set routine should involve increasing the sets of an exercise,increasing the repetitions and increasing the weight lifted. There are some who would also add in changing the speed of the repetitions and the amount of rest between exercises.The second distinct group,involves more recent fitness regimes,such as P90X,Cross Fit and H.I.IT.These new groups have initiated a new generation of fitness devotees.The traditional group,has called out the new entrees,for their devotion to the term muscle confusion. The old guard,would contend that muscle confusion,is purely a marketing ploy,to sell more exercise DVD’S!

The proponents of the muscle confusion theory,would contend that workouts should change daily and not be repeated,in the short term. This group,feels that muscles need to be challenged with new repetitions daily,or fitness progress will be stagnant and may plateau.

Is muscle confusion a viable concept,or a play on words without meaning?Common sense would indicate that doing any task over and over again,would led to being very proficient at doing that task. In training,you will become familiar with the routine with correct form and without sustaining injuries.This would be one of the positive points,for traditional body build group. Most of the current fitness advocates,are not body builders!Most,are busy people with a set amount of time to complete their workouts and get maximum results.Many of these same people are geared to new,better and innovative.With all of these factors in mind,changing-up your workout regime,may be good!

As I mentioned in last weeks Blog,everyone should do some sort of pre workout planning.This planning could be for the month,week,or day.The initial planning might be a broad overview of the month or week.The next step is to focus down to the daily workout.When you do the daily focusing down,take into consideration your individual time allotment,muscle groups to focus on etc.I personally alternate between a lifting day and the following day,an Aerobic session.This is where your individual planning comes in.For my lifting days of upper and lower body muscles,25-50% are carryover exercises.These could be in the free weight family,with Chest Press,Shoulder Press,Squat type exercises.The remaining time is focused on additional muscle groups,with various exercises that are cycled thru over the course of a tw0-three week time period.Additionally,always start each workout with a stretching session(more on stretching in future Blogs)if time permits,a stretching session at the end of the workout,to remove as much lactic acid from the muscles as possible.Adding in at least ten minutes of Aerobic activity will help “ready” the body for the workout ahead.During the lifting days,I build in cycles.This will allow you to add weight and repetitions to your routine and ultimately add muscle strength and endurance.This is the concept of Progressive Overload.Remember,if you feel yourself hitting a plateau and getting “stale”,this is a good time to re-fresh your routine.Any number of refreshing strategies can work.You can eliminate short term, or your “go to” basic exercises and replace them with others that still use the same muscle groups.If after two-three workouts you feel refreshed,return to your regular regime.Another key element,is the time you spend between each exercise.Previously,we mentioned most people have a set amount of time to complete their daily workout.That means not only challenging your muscles,but maximizing your time.I am a big believer in using no more than a 30 second rest period between exercises.If you workout in a gym,that 30 seconds should be the optimal time to move from one workout area to the next.By taking a short 30 second rest,you stay focused are always in motion and add an aerobic element to your workout.

Now we are at the point of decision. Is muscle confusion,fact,or myth?Everyone needs the routine and stability of a set exercises. Everyone also needs some variety in their routine. There needs to be a blend of old school traditional exercise programs and newer interchangeable exercise routines.Don’t get hung-up on slick marketing pitches or fancy terminology.Your workouts should include a healthy mixture of both. Consider the following,when structuring your workouts.

  1. Always plan your workouts in advance.
  2. Stretch at the beginning of each workout.Stretch at the end,if time permits.
  3. Build a “fitness base”,that targets major muscle groups.Execute these basic exercises with correct form.
  4. As you feel more comfortable,extend out to new exercises,using the same major muscle groups.
  5. Limit your time between exercises to no more than 30 seconds.Always be Aerobic and always be in motion.
  6. Achieving a high level of overall fitness is about reaching high levels of intensity,followed by adequate recovery time.This can be accomplished by alternating a lifting day,with an Aerobic day.

In closing,there are many different theories of how to gain optimal fitness.Do your research,plan your workouts,listen to your body and use common sense.

Good Luck!

Mike Zinn