Muscle confusion continues to be hotly debated throughout the fitness community. Proponents of the need for muscle confusion in a workout program claim that muscle mass can only progress by changing the types of exercises being done. Others claim that muscles don’t need to be confused by constantly changing fitness routines and exercises. So who is correct?
The Pros of Muscle Confusion—
First, let’s talk about muscle confusion, and what it can possibly do for the body:
1. Muscle Confusion Can Move Us Past a Plateau: Known for being a classic strength training method used to increase muscle mass and move past a plateau in weight loss, believers say that muscle confusion works by switching up the usual routine and keeping the muscles guessing about what is coming next.
2. Muscle Confusion Can Increase Muscle Mass: Physiologically, muscle confusion training creates greater tears in the muscle fibers by “shocking” the muscles out of the exercises to which they’ve adapted, causing the muscles to become stronger and better able to deal with the extra stress for the next workout.
3. Muscle Confusion Can Build Up a New Muscle Group: When you add a new type of exercise to your regime, you are potentially working an entirely different set of muscles, or perhaps working for the same muscle group in a new way. Your body isn’t used to this, and when you tear down your muscles, they rebuild with more mass than before. New muscles are being used, making this type of cycle training seem beneficial.
4. Muscle Confusion Can Strengthen Cardio: Some experts believe that cardio confusion is also necessary, spending time on the elliptical machine one day, the treadmill the next, swimming the next day, and so on. Muscle confusion fans will sometimes use cardio as a tool for creating muscle confusion, switching from weight machines to cardio, and then back again.
The Cons of Muscle Confusion—
Some fitness experts don’t believe muscle confusion is helpful. Here’s why:
1. Muscle Confusion Doesn’t Work: People who don’t believe that muscle confusion is necessary to disagree that muscles adapt to the same workout, or need to be “tricked” into building greater mass with new exercises. Muscle confusion opponents generally agree that increasing the weight lifted during strength training will increase muscle mass, but new types of exercises are unnecessary.
2. Muscle Confusion Slows Progress: Another concern of those opposed to muscle confusion techniques is the loss of progress in the muscles that have been consistently worked, as the routine moves on to new muscle groups without maintaining the old ones.
Where Fitness Experts Agree—
There are a few concepts about which most personal trainers and fitness professionals agree:
1. Muscle Group Rotation and Rest is Good: Physical trainers generally agree that rotating exercises are a good thing, as it allows the muscles not being worked that day to rest.
2. Increasing Lifted Weight Increases Muscle Mass: Another thing generally agreed upon is that gradually increasing the load being lifted in any weight-bearing exercise will increase muscle mass (and bone density), whether the strength trainer is trying to confuse the muscle or not. The added weight will still strain the muscle more, increasing lean mass, no matter what.
3. Switching Up an Exercise Routine is Entertaining: Switching up a workout routine can often be a positive thing, as it can keep the exerciser engaged and prevent boredom, making them more likely to work out consistently.
The debate over muscle confusion is likely to continue for a long time, but in the meantime, it can help keep workouts more interesting and entertaining, which helps people stick with an exercise program, so there’s certainly no harm in trying. Adding new exercises to your routine may or may not help you achieve your fitness goals faster, but you might have more fun getting there.
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