More specifically, are you on the “Muscle Confusion” … fad?
P90X online personal training program has again prompted the concept of “Muscle Confusion”, which means, to constantly change the stimulus of exercise so as to create constant variety for the muscle.
But is the “Muscle Confusion” concept worth it’s popularity?
As stated in two great rebuttals from Bret Contreras and Charles Staley published on Bret’s blog and T-Nation, variation is important over a longer period, however, consistency is essential over the short term.
I agree with Bret, and ideally, you should choose a series of movements to prioritise over a period of 4 to 6 weeks (depending on your level of strength and experience). Then progressively overload, lifting slightly heavier weights each week as your body (muscles) adapt.
If you are more experienced, to increase the stimulus, you could train the same movement a number of times throughout the week, varying the loading parameters each time.
For example, if you want a bigger, stronger chest, then choose horizontal pressing movements such as the bench press on Monday, Wednesday and Friday but alter the loading parameters.
Here is how that might look:
- Monday – 5 sets x 5 reps
- Wednesday – 5 sets x 8 reps
- Friday – 4 sets x 10 reps
I recommend always pairing the agonist antagonist movements, so I would program horizontal rowing with this as the A2 movement. This keeps you well balanced and also can increase the volume over the week by saving time.
Our personal trainers at Unity Gym would then supplement these movements with complimentary joint movements using paired sets, circuits, or possibly superset variations etc.
Here’s the thing, muscle confusion concepts have exploded onto the fitness scene since the rise of CrossFit, and variability within a training program will get reasonable results. If you’re the type of person who gets bored easily and therefore needs to be entertained every time you exercise then this might be for you.
But it’s clearly proven to be inferior to proper periodisation when the goal is to get stronger or more skilled in movement.
Lets remember, CrossFit training makes you good at CrossFit. But when comparing the strength of a CrossFit athlete to a powerlifter or Olympic weightlifter they don’t come close.
If your goals are to be able to handle random workouts, then use random training methods. If your goals are to get as strong as possible, as fast as possible or as skilled in movement as possible, then less is often more.
In other words … keep it simple!
I recommend using proper, periodised strength training protocols that keep the movement selection consistent over a period of time allowing adequate adaptation to occur.
Most good personal trainers will understand these simple concepts.
Keep in mind, random raises the risk of injury because there’s often not much thought put into the pairing of highly neurologically demanding exercises.
What I mean here is that there are certain movements that should not be paired with others, and there are certain movements, like the olympic lifts, that should not be paired with anything!
In summary, choose your goal, if it’s to improve skill or strength, then keep your workouts consistent and follow proper periodisation. Try to find enjoyment in the pursuit of movement mastery, not variability.
At Unity Gym we follow research and therefore, use a 4 week, undulating periodisation model that includes a peak week and back off week to allow enough recovery between volume and intensity cycles.
Why am I telling you this? Why even post this blog in the first place?
I believe it’s important to keep you guys, our followers up to date and protect you against the BS. There’s a vast difference between something that hurts versus something that works.
As Charles Staley said best, “friends don’t let friends drive drunk, and friends don’t let friends do P90X.”
Follow proper science. You might just find the gains in strength and skill and the subsequent improvements in your body composition highly motivating.