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Isn't 'Confusing the Muscle' a Myth?

Sorry this is long and sounds like a rant but please give me your thoughts:

Of course doing the same set/rep/load/volume month after month is bad, but why do you need to change the exercises every so often? Appart from to correct imbalances and give certain joints a rest, why is it needed?

I kind of disagree with this principle, can anyone prove to me that it works and why?

A bench press is always targeting your chest, whether you do it with dumbbells or barbell. You may argue that it also targets the triceps, I don’t disagree but you do the bench press in order to make your chest bigger. Some exercises suit some people better than others (it depends on their structure) - for example, someone with a long torso and short legs would suit doing the leg press/lunges (or even the Deadlift inside a shrug bar) more than they would the squat (due to the load being greater on the back with the squat for people with this build)…but the point is, you have to do an exercise for yourself which works the desired muscles the most.

The argument I usually get back is that “it targets your muscles from a different angle”. What??? I don’t know about you but when I do a flat bench press, I want to work my pecs. And when I do incline bench press, I want to work my upper pecs. It’s simple!

When I change the angle of the bench it’s so that I can work a different muscle group more…not so that my chest will be “confused”. A muscle is either under tension or it’s not. The muscle that is under the most tension will grow the most.

When you change an exercise for a specific muscle group it takes a while for your body to adjust. This is because your body is using different stabilizer muscles around the target muscle and it takes a while for the system to get efficient at communicating with the newly involved muscles. So basically, if you change exercises you have to use a load that’s lesser on the target muscle in order for the other stabilizer muscles and communication system to “catch up”. Where’s the logic in that???

IF you started growing more after changing exercises I believe this is due to the fact that when your strength gains stopped on a certain exercise, you basically were approaching overtraining (either via CNS fatigue, or through individual muscle group overtraining) and when you changed exercises (and thereby decreases load and stress), you started progressing again - due to not being overly fatigued.

I believe that progress is very simple to make as long as you de-load or take a weeks break off whenever progress stagnates (not to mention getting enough rest and calories). I believe that changing exercises simply makes you take the longer way around and complicates your training.

When you swap exercises, certain muscles grow, and the ones that aren’t being taxed get smaller. If the squat makes your legs grow like a weed, why swap the squat for something else when gains start to slow down (other than to give your joints a rest)? When your gains start to slow down this is a sign that you need to reduce the load/volume for a short period.

Any thoughts?

Challenging convention…that’s what I like to see!

Excellent post.

Certainly, the “keep the muscle guessing” mantra is widely echoed throughout the training world, so much so that some people won’t repeat the same exercise for two workouts in a row.

A muscle cannot “guess”. However, it can be targeted in new ways through different types of training.

In my opinion, changing exercises for the sake of changing exercises doesn’t make all that much sense. I believe a change should be made only when a.) progress stagnates or b.) goals change (a whole other topic).

Lets take barbell curls. Say you’ve worked up to the point where you can do 100 pounds for 8 reps. Then, the progress stops. Why? There are several different muscles used in the motion, and very likely one or more of them is acting as a weak link in the chain. At this point, you’re not going to optimally stimulate your target muscle (biceps) because some smaller muscle along the way gives out too early.

Here, it may be time to switch. Weighted, close grip chins. Hammer curls. Forearm exercises. Give the barbell curls a rest. Doing different exercises builds up the “weak link” muscles.

Go back to your curls in several weeks, and its very likely your performance will improve.

When my progress in an exercise stagnates, I ask myself “why?”, and all other things being equal its usually that some muscle in the chain isn’t pulling its weight (literally and metaphorically) and needs to be brought up through different exercises

I change every 6 or so weeks to keep things interesting. I’ve never thought too much about “keeping the muscle guessing” though.

I believe the notion stems from Anti-adaption…
but that is granted that the nutrition/sleep/hormonal biasing is perfect.

I personally dont’ believe in changing exercise within the same plane because i’m very anal about having good form and want to lift into my advance years.

If you’re not growing, then relook at nutrition/sleep/hormonal first because thats the where most people lack which is understandable unless you’re a pro athlete or a bodybuilder …

however within the same topic of discussion, everyone tends to start thinking about new exercise due to boredom or influence by some guy who said X exercise works X muscles better then try to put everything in and try to do all of them. Most of the time the problem is that volume and intensity are lacking, you need to do more work when you’re lifting age advances its only natural.

I just punch myself really hard in whatever muscle I’m going to train, basically just stun the thing silly.

I find that confuses the muscle long enough to get in a good workout without it knowing what I’m doing to it.

Seriously, I think there’s a lot to learn from Doggcrapp and Westside.

They have similar ways of keeping an exercise until it does not (or YOU do not) progress any further with it.

DC gives you three exercises that you rotate and you only stop using the ONE that craps out, replacing it with another similar exercise only to put it back in rotation at a later date.

Westside switches the Max Effort exercise sometimes every week for the really strong guys and whenver it goes stale (for weaker guys like me).

The similarity is that the one condition or factor to consider in switching an exercise is it’s lack of sustainable progress. But like I said, you switch it for a similar exercise, maybe a VERY similar exercise but with a slight tweak or a change of grip width.

The muscle confusion thing is sooooo early 80’s!

I wouldn’t say that confusing the muscle is a myth exactly. Your balance, coordination, and nervous systems will help you improve your lifts the more times you practice them- so by switching up your routine, you are adding a new stimulus to your system.

That being said I agree with you. As long as you keep adding weight on the bar and are getting bigger - why bother.

I think that there is some truth to it. For example, marathon runners become very efficient at burning fat. Their muscles have adapted to the stimulus. But I do agree with others about switching lifts when progress stagnates rather than just for the sake of it.

I would never change anything while it was still working unless I was very convinced that something else would work better.

Most people that follow the “muscle confusion” principles end up making very little progress.

I strongly disagree with the notion that you should change your whole workout every 6 weeks just to “keep things interesting”…

I dunno about you guys, but what is “interesting” to me is progress, and i’m not going to be seeing that if I keep changing shit up all the time.

You stick with what works until it stops working. Variation is good when it is NECESSARY.

That isn’t to say that successful bodybuilders don’t do this whole muscle confusion thing, in fact a lot of the guys over at animalpak believe largely in “muscle confusion” principles. However, you’ll notice if you look closely that the staple exercises in their routines never change, and they are always pushing those numbers up. Which of course is where the real progress is at.

if you have a good program you will never need to change exercises, there are allot of other factors to change before you need to change exercises.

Sets, reps, rest periods, how often you lift, how many times a day you lift, how heavy or light you lift, to go to failure or not go to failure.

But you do need to do things different from time to time, once you get stuck on the same exercises and the same weight for the same reps every week every workout you end up going no where fast

EDIT: this is not to say you shouldnt change exercises from time to time. Just that you can make insane progress without changing them just by changing some other things.

[quote]mr popular wrote:
Most people that follow the “muscle confusion” principles end up making very little progress.
[/quote]

…no

Only the TRUE genetic freaks can get by with never switching things up.

I dont know of anyone who doesn’t or hasent switched things up from time to time and made better progress because of it. Seriously, I cant think of anyone.

Reading your whole post Im not sure you got your point across right because I doubt you would disagree with what Im saying. If I took what you said the wrong way, then never mind this post.

[quote]Mega Newb wrote:
mr popular wrote:
Most people that follow the “muscle confusion” principles end up making very little progress.

…no

Only the TRUE genetic freaks can get by with never switching things up.

I dont know of anyone who doesn’t or hasent switched things up from time to time and made better progress because of it. Seriously, I cant think of anyone.

Reading your whole post Im not sure you got your point across right because I doubt you would disagree with what Im saying. If I took what you said the wrong way, then never mind this post.

[/quote]

I rarely plug any author, but today’s article by D. Tate is good. He basically explains that our weaknesses occur because we focus too much on our strengths because we like to lift what we are good at and like to avoid what we suck at. I have to agree with him and in the end that means doing assistance work IMO. I think that actually applies to everyone.

Mega Newb: most of the successful bodybuilders today, and the ones that I know of casually and even in my own gym, have found a routine that works for them and they stick with it.

No one is suggesting you do the exact same thing day after day year after year – thats so retarded it shouldn’t even have to be stated.

Like I said above, variation is good when it is necessary, but the people that change up their routines “just because” (your typical ‘fitness’ crowd) make very little progress in the way of bodybuilding because they aren’t sticking with that handful of exercises that work within their own personal recovery range.

I don’t know what you found to be confusing in my post.

[quote]mr popular wrote:
Most people that follow the “muscle confusion” principles end up making very little progress.

I strongly disagree with the notion that you should change your whole workout every 6 weeks just to “keep things interesting”…

I dunno about you guys, but what is “interesting” to me is progress, and i’m not going to be seeing that if I keep changing shit up all the time.

You stick with what works until it stops working. Variation is good when it is NECESSARY.

That isn’t to say that successful bodybuilders don’t do this whole muscle confusion thing, in fact a lot of the guys over at animalpak believe largely in “muscle confusion” principles. However, you’ll notice if you look closely that the staple exercises in their routines never change, and they are always pushing those numbers up. Which of course is where the real progress is at.[/quote]

As always, Mr. Popular has SIMPLE and PROFOUND words of wisdom to share. Too bad you did not have some funny shit to say this time as usual that usually leaves me literally “LOL”.

I personally do not see why one would change an exercise in 3 to 6 sessions, as usually recommended on this site. Aside from only a FEW adjustments that I have made, my program has been nearly the same for the past year and half and have experienced the best gains of my life in this time. However, it also could be that I have developed into a near psychopath in the gym and lowered my volume as well.

There have been Olympic Lifters, powerlifters, and bodybuilders on the same routines for YEARS with minor adjustments along the way, all of whom have made great progress, hence why they did not see a need to change much. Dorian Yates went through THREE routines in 15 years of training, aside from his one month “TBT” induction phase. Ronnie Coleman uses the same old routine he did many years ago. Ed Coan stayed on the same bench, squat, and deadlift scheme for many years.

I, personally, only make a change in my program when I see the need to. That’s it! Most of the changes that I have made along the way were to simply bring up lagging muscle groups or to treat a near injury (I have never been injured so far and I attribute this to keeping tabs on what needs to stay and what needs to go). Charles Poliquin sometimes recomended to exchange exercises in as little as three sessions. How much fucking progress can one make in an exercise in THREE sessions? What? 1 to 2 reps?! 5 lbs?! Why not staying with an exercise until you add 25 lbs in a given rep range? Maybe 50! Maybe 100!

Most bodybuilders simply change exercises around here and there, if they ever do. I have never seen bodybuilders use periodization in which they go through a size, strength, and peak phase, as is recommended by some writers on this site. Bodybuilding is pretty darn simple as Mel Siff and Dave Tate always used to say. “Tear down a muscle, feed it, rest it”. Done! Powerlifting and Olympic lifting are much more cerebral endeavors as they said as well.

[quote]mr popular wrote:
Mega Newb: most of the successful bodybuilders today, and the ones that I know of casually and even in my own gym, have found a routine that works for them and they stick with it.

No one is suggesting you do the exact same thing day after day year after year – thats so retarded it shouldn’t even have to be stated.

Like I said above, variation is good when it is necessary, but the people that change up their routines “just because” (your typical ‘fitness’ crowd) make very little progress in the way of bodybuilding because they aren’t sticking with that handful of exercises that work within their own personal recovery range.

I don’t know what you found to be confusing in my post.[/quote]

Just this [quote]Most people that follow the “muscle confusion” principles end up making very little progress.[/quote] Which I think isnt true. It may be true for what you consider to be muscle confusion training, but all the big guys in your gym have already done some sort of muscle confusion training just to get to where they are. Every time they tryed a new exercise, rep scheme, a different weight for their working sets than last time they did the main principal of muscle confusion training.

Muscle confusion training doesnt mean you have to change your program every 3-6 weeks. It means when you stall out you change shit up. Which was why I was confused by what you said. It sounds like you contradicted your self… Or maybe you considered muscle confusion training to be changing everything in your program every 3-6 weeks, which is clearly not a good idea for anyone.

Actually, the original “muscle confusion principles” as marketted by it’s creator (meaning the guy who stuck his name onto it) Joe Weider DO say you should be changing your workouts to that extreme and with that frequency, sometimes changing the exercises, sets, and reps you do EVERY SINGLE WORKOUT.

You seem to be applying principles of “mental confusion”, because “muscle confusion” is not making minor changes to your routine once things stagnate or a lagging bodypart arises – that is just called NORMAL ORDINARY FREAKIN TRAINING – “muscle confusion” is the idea that you need to constantly keep your muscles “guessing”, and that this confusion is going to send them into a mad purple haze of rage and growth.

It doesn’t work unless it’s coupled with a routine in place that totally counteracts it, such as the animalpak guys who always do the basic barbell curl, squat, bench press, military press, but change around the accessory stuff when it gets stale.

Quit acting like a mega newb and get with the program. Account names like that are SUPPOSED to be ironic.

[quote]mr popular wrote:
Actually, the original “muscle confusion principles” as marketted by it’s creator (meaning the guy who stuck his name onto it) Joe Weider DO say you should be changing your workouts to that extreme and with that frequency, sometimes changing the exercises, sets, and reps you do EVERY SINGLE WORKOUT.

You seem to be applying principles of “mental confusion”, because “muscle confusion” is not making minor changes to your routine once things stagnate or a lagging bodypart arises – that is just called NORMAL ORDINARY FREAKIN TRAINING – “muscle confusion” is the idea that you need to constantly keep your muscles “guessing”, and that this confusion is going to send them into a mad purple haze of rage and growth.

It doesn’t work unless it’s coupled with a routine in place that totally counteracts it, such as the animalpak guys who always do the basic barbell curl, squat, bench press, military press, but change around the accessory stuff when it gets stale.

Quit acting like a mega newb and get with the program. Account names like that are SUPPOSED to be ironic.[/quote]

You assume Im talking about the program muscle confusion, but Im really just talking about muscle confusion in general.

Guess what champ, there is more than one way to use muscle confusion when training. We all use it wether we know it or not. And Joe weiders way isnt the only way.

Dont assume Im talking about a program, muscle confusion is a (term) before its a program. Dont forget that.

By the way, how does you being confused about the term muscle confusion and the program muscle confusion make me a “newb”? I hate to insult you back for a honest mistake but seriously. Think it through next time before typeing.

You will learn in time that there are terms for everything, you might consider using more weight in kick backs than last time “just training” but its called progresive overload. You may consider switching barbell shoulderpress to dumbell shoulder press “just training” but its just another form of muscle confusion. And hey guess what, you didnt even have to change everything in your program to do it! Amazeing right? Glad I could enlighten you on this.

What gets to me more about this whole changing exercise thing is that as a natural BB, you are supposed to keep volume at a reasonable level (not too high), but at the same time never drop the major lifts (e.g. bench, rows/pull-ups, squat, deadlift). So already you have practically reached your limit with these basic lifts, and then you “top it off” with a couple assistant exercises like curls/pushdowns etc. Where does this leave room for swapping exercises?

I have never progressed better on the barbell bench press through changing to the dumbbell bench press and then going back to it. In fact I got weaker because there were weak points to catch up with on the dumbbell bench press. More importantly, my chest muscles never got bigger for it.

Although that’s my experience…I have also known quite a few BB’s who never stopped doing the basics and when you see them you wouldn’t argue with them that it doesn’t work.

I believe there’s validity in the notion that if you’re weak points are holding you back, you can bring them up…but like someone else on here said, that’s just bodybuilding (it’s what you’re supposed to do), it’s nothing to do with muscle confusion. I also believe that after some time, you can start to loose focus on the target muscle (through eagerness to progress in weight), but readjusting your form/weight will fix that.

I think the main issue here is managing fatigue and eating enough, and not just changing because an exercise seems to have lost it’s “magical powers”.

ItsJust,
One thing you have wrong though is that a short legged person with a long torso would benefit more from leg presses than squats for quad mass is incorrect. Actually, those with short legs and a long torso are built for squatting. I have short legs and a long torso and the squat came easily to me the first time I tried it. I never had to start with lunges, leg presses, or any other leg exercise before I began squatting. I had the bar on my back, someone guided me through it a few times, and that was it. I added weight on the bar from there.

Dorian got better results from hack squats, leg presses, and Smith machine squats because he had long legs and a short torso.

Top deadlifters (Brad Gillingham, Andy Bolton, Gary Frank, Lamar Grant) have long legs and a short torso.

When your body has all the right answers you need to start asking different questions.

The idea that you need to hit a muscle belly from different angles for optimal growth is wrong.

But by simply changing the exercise (example - changing from deadlifts to front squats or incline to close grip) you prevent CNS overtraining that is caused by performing the same motion over and over again at a high intensity.

So “muscle confusion” really works because it prevents overtraining.