Muscle Confusion

Can you really confuse your muscles? And would you want to?

If you’ve been paying attention to the latest celebrity fitness craze, you’ve probably heard of muscle confusion. And if it’s good enough for celebrities, then it’s good enough for you, right? Maybe.

If you’re confused about muscle confusion, here’s the lowdown.

What is Muscle Confusion?

Muscle confusion refers to a workout technique based on variety. The premise behind muscle confusion is that the body adapts fairly quickly to any exercise regimen—and as a result, fitness plateaus. Muscle confusion is designed to prevent these fitness plateaus by introducing variety into workouts so that the body never knows what to expect. Muscle confusion workouts alternate between volume overload, where a muscle is pushed to its max, and adequate rest, where muscles repair and recuperate. A week of muscle confusion workouts might include calisthenics, yoga, karate, weight lifting, functional fitness moves, and more. The key is variety.

Tony Horton, the creator of the famous P90X workouts, has built an entire fitness philosophy around muscle confusion—but the philosophy has gone mainstream and trainers and fitness experts are using it in gyms across the country.

Benefits of Muscle Confusion

Proponents of the method claim that muscle confusion promotes slow, steady muscle growth. The system allows you to continually overload the muscles and defeat the plateau effect. Furthermore, muscle confusion prevents boredom, which in turn increases the likelihood that participants will stick with their fitness program.

Myth or Miracle?

Many critics of the method insist that muscle confusion is a myth. They argue that building muscle is a continuous process of overloading and recuperation—so switching to new exercises and giving muscles a break defeats this process. In fact, some critics say that changing workouts frequently is indeed confusing and this is not necessarily a good thing because the body never has time to accumulate results. Changing routines too often can hamper strategy and cause setbacks.

Bottom Line

In truth, muscle confusion may be more of a marketing term than anything else—your muscles aren’t necessarily confused, but your mind may be “confused” or surprised by the element of variety in your workouts. Miracle or myth, variety is in fact the spice of life and this variety may keep participants coming back for more—which would lead some to say that “muscle confusion” actually works. So, if you’re considering muscle confusion, give it a shot—at the very least, you’ll enjoy the variety.