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  1. #1
    Registered User mjw8204's Avatar
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    O/T: The Science of "Muscle Confusion" - Put up or shut up!

    We see it mentioned all the time -- people offer training tips and advice about taking steps to "confuse the muscles" or "keep the muscles guessing". So many people readily accept this concept, yet NOBODY that brings it up has ever been able to explain it to me when I ask them. Of course, it begs the question, why would you tell someone to do something if you can't explain how it works?

    How does a muscle become confused? Describe the physiology of muscle confusion. How does a muscle "guess", and how does this act of "guessing" lead to muscle growth, as many seem to be claim?

    Just so there is no confusion (no pun intended) as to what I'm looking for, I specifically want the people that give this type of advice to take a stab at my question. If you are not someone that gives advice involving confusing your muscles, or keeping your muscles guessing, this question does not apply to you, even if you believe you have relevant information. I want the people that advance this kind of information to explain it themselves.

    Bro-science or legitimate advice? This is your opportunity to show everyone you aren't talking out of your ass.
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    its the manipulation of conditioning


    most people go OTT with it though and base their workout routine on those principles which is completely absurd


    for example; if you've trained in the low reps for a cycle, then you "keep your body guessing" by doing some higher reps for a few weeks, it gives your body a chance to deload.

    I think thats where alot of the confusion comes in.
    Last edited by jackedfibraz; 08-29-2007 at 12:44 PM.
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  3. #3
    Squats traps to grass Defiant1's Avatar
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    There is no study on this. It would too hard to construct a valid one.

    Studies on humans are NOTORIOUSLY hard to construct. That's why so little information is available on diet and exercise.

    But...

    No positive proof does not imply negativity.

    It simply isn't proven scientifically.

    If I had to venture a GUESS, I would say that you are stressing different motor units, and the fact that you are NOT as efficient working those pathways gives you a mini "deload".

    "Confusion" is sort of muscular anthropomorphism, just semantics.

    I would just call it "novel stress".


    In one of my Bob Kennedy books (Beef It! I THINK, may have been Hardcore Bodybuilding!), he talks about how Steve Reeves used to do a different workout each day for this purpose. But eventually his body got used to this, and he went back to conventional training.

    If you are talking about "P-90X", I think the commercial is totally bull**** in terms of the graphs used. Silly science.
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  4. #4
    Registered User mjw8204's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by Defiant1 View Post
    If I had to venture a GUESS, I would say that you are stressing different motor units, and the fact that you are NOT as efficient working those pathways gives you a mini "deload".

    "Confusion" is sort of muscular anthropomorphism, just semantics.

    I would just call it "novel stress".
    Do you think that your typical BB.com bro that tells people to change their routine every few weeks to "confuse" their muscles are thinking about this in the terms you laid out? Perhaps, but I'm very doubtful of most of them even coming close to providing an intelligible response. Either way, my motivation here is to give them a crack at explaining themselves. This is something that is brought up so often, but explained so little, that it just comes across as a bunch of nonsense that people repeat "just because". It's a popular thing to say and believe, so people just accept it.

    I'm not even looking for scientific studies. I'd just like to see a response from these people that demonstrates an understanding of human physiology rather than the bro-logic that is typically parroted around here. Anyone can repeat something they hear a lot. It doesn't make it useful advice.
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  5. #5
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    Thumbs up

    Because Poliquin says so
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  6. #6
    The Texan FortifiedIron's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by mjw8204 View Post
    We see it mentioned all the time -- people offer training tips and advice about taking steps to "confuse the muscles" or "keep the muscles guessing". So many people readily accept this concept, yet NOBODY that brings it up has ever been able to explain it to me when I ask them. Of course, it begs the question, why would you tell someone to do something if you can't explain how it works?

    How does a muscle become confused? Describe the physiology of muscle confusion. How does a muscle "guess", and how does this act of "guessing" lead to muscle growth, as many seem to be claim?

    Just so there is no confusion (no pun intended) as to what I'm looking for, I specifically want the people that give this type of advice to take a stab at my question. If you are not someone that gives advice involving confusing your muscles, or keeping your muscles guessing, this question does not apply to you, even if you believe you have relevant information. I want the people that advance this kind of information to explain it themselves.

    Bro-science or legitimate advice? This is your opportunity to show everyone you aren't talking out of your ass.
    People tend to miss understand this and since they've miss understood, they've miss applied it.

    Anything that will change the leverage of the movement or change the joint angle in the full ROM of the movement will get a different response from the muscle, to what degree I do not know. I'm almost inclined to state that recruitment is recruitment, and its true.

    I've done maybe 20 different exercises total in 10 years, and my results speak for myself. Its a complete fallacy that you cannot train the same movements week in and week out, especially when the loading and set/rep volume play a much more important role in hypertrophy. This all really stems to the "It stopped working for me so I'll change up my routine" However if people would pay more attention to progression then they wouldn't have to change **** every 3 weeks.

    Ok.. so I bring up two points.. but so what lol

    Kyle
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  7. #7
    Freestyle Bodybuilder bigcityboy's Avatar
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    I think it is a legit concept when refering to body builders questions concerning hard gains. "Keep the muscles guessing" change Your routine..
    Alot of people stand on high or low rep routines. Some of Us understand what keep the muscles guessing means.
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  8. #8
    Squats traps to grass Defiant1's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by mjw8204 View Post
    Do you think that your typical BB.com bro that tells people to change their routine every few weeks to "confuse" their muscles are thinking about this in the terms you laid out? Perhaps, but I'm very doubtful of most of them even coming close to providing an intelligible response. Either way, my motivation here is to give them a crack at explaining themselves. This is something that is brought up so often, but explained so little, that it just comes across as a bunch of nonsense that people repeat "just because". It's a popular thing to say and believe, so people just accept it.
    I actually saw after I answered, that I really shouldn't have answered.

    But yes, I agree, it is likely just parroting.

    Have you seen the "P-90X" commercial I'm talking about? It flat out states "the science of muscle confusion", then offers graphs showing constant gains via this.

    I either LOL or get pissed when I see it.
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  9. #9
    It's all about Rapport Mook1e's Avatar
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    I just saw that crap for the first time tonight. Ridiculous.
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    Registered User jgreystoke's Avatar
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    When your legs adapt to squatting 200 for 5-10 reps, the best way to confuse those quads is not to go to leg press, but to add 5 lbs....or a rep(within reason).
    Old Man Strength:

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    http://articles.elitefts.com/training-articles/the-young-skinny-training-with-add-guy%E2%80%99s-guide-to-gaining-mass-and-strength/

    Beyond novice:

    Jim Wendler's 5 3 1(has bodybuilding templates)
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  11. #11
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    People get caught up in the semantics of this, coupled with a general misunderstanding by noobs of what people "likely" mean when they say things like this.
    I think of it this way: every once in a while you have a super punishing session with altered intensity techniques (drop sets/supersets/etc) when traditional progression (adding weight or reps) has reached somewhat of a stalemate.
    It isn't that I think I shocked a whole lot of growth in one session, but rather I found a way to continue to progress through a means that my body wasn't accustomed to.
    I did this the other day by doubling my volume for biceps.
    It was shocking!

    Edit: it goes (or should) without saying that methods like this are best for people who are more advanced(meaning have a harder time adding weight or reps).
    What the f*ck, I'm a mack truck. Are you gonna give up like a b*tch, or jump da f*ck up!
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  12. #12
    Creeping Death TexAss's Avatar
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    <-------confused...
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    Registered User carl.c's Avatar
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    Mjw8204: I will take a shot at qnswering your question.
    The terms "confusing and guessing" are wrong interms of what is happening to the muscle but they are terms that the average peorson cna understand and say.
    The physiology behind muscle confustion and guessing is simple. as you change the rep range and or load you activate diffrent muscle fiber types. Even new angles of motion activate "unused" muscle fibers.
    By activating muscle fibers that are normaly inactivated one can make new gains in mass and stregth.
    The part where people get confused is, the body first creates new nerual intervations of the muscle fiber to help adjust to the new load. these new intervation are what create the most strength gains when you fisrt switch programs.
    For the laymen the simplist way to explain these events is to call it " confusition and guessing".
    the terms of "confustion and guessing" I think where created by trainers trying to explain to the average person why theyneed to change their programs more often. I know when I try to explain to a untrained person what is happening they get glazed eyes and to much time is wasted explaining the terms.
    Not saying the average personis stupid but most people don't really want to know the fine details, they jsut want the simplist anwser to a complicated question.
    I hope this helps with your question. I joined this board to help with my ability to comunicate in writting. I have no problem explaining the science behind the body and its funtions but I have trouble doing it in writtting.
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  14. #14
    Mr. Gecko Kiknskreem's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by carl.c View Post
    Not saying the average personis stupid but most people don't really want to know the fine details, they jsut want the simplist anwser to a complicated question.
    If you cater to these people the terrorists win.
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  15. #15
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    I love it when people use a word that has no business being used in conjunction with physiology. How exactly does one 'confuse' a muscle, you can't, it doesn't have a memory....despite what some people think.

    A muscle is just a bunch of filaments and fibres that react to the load you're putting them under, they cannot be confused they can only do what they are being told to do, ie move a weight or keep it in place etc.

    The muscle will only use the amount of fibres the CNS deems neccessary for the movement of the weight, the more weight used the more fibres recruited, eventually you will probably stimulate all the fibres and the body will end up creating more to compensate for the demand of the weights, simple really!

    If you think you can 'confuse' the muscle in order to get gains then you're sorely mistaken, you're obviously not training the muscle with more intensity IE effort/weight and allowing more time to recover from this in order to grow.

    It's obviously a misnomer designed to keep less educated people happy so they don't actually have to think for themselves.
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  16. #16
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    Muscle confusion is just a buzzword created by the "intense home workout" video industry. Most bodybuilders and powerlifters do the same lifts for years and would laugh in your face if you told them they should switch it up every week to confuse their muscles.
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  17. #17
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    could this also be changing the routine each time?
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  18. #18
    Registered User MattY0234's Avatar
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    I'm no expert and I've never claimed to know anything about this, but do know that the P90X stuff is total bull.

    I think the "science of muscle confusion" probably refers to when you get comfortable with a 320lbs squatting, go for 330lbs, or super set with front squats and work a different muscle group in the same motion like someone else on here I think said.

    It's about breaking your comfort zone and forcing yourself to work harder. And if thats not what it means, then its the only thing that actually works.
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  19. #19
    BulknCut gekkoboy14's Avatar
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    The way I understand it is to prevent adaptations by performing undulating periodization, added wt, etc... Also sarcoplasmic vs myofibrillar hypertrophy.
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  20. #20
    Registered User Slow-N-Steady's Avatar
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    It's a buzzword that gets abused and misused.

    However, plenty of experienced people change simple variables to prevent adaptation and the stall of progress on a somewhat frequent basis. Couldn't that be seen as the same thing?

    Take a look at the principles of Westside and other similar systems. Max effort exercises are rotated every 2-3 weeks to allow for progress to continue on each of the lifts (due to preventing over-fatiguing of the CNS).
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  21. #21
    Banned wZk.60's Avatar
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    Muscle confusion is bull**** IMO.
    Lift some heavy weights, now that will 'confuse' your muscles.
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  22. #22
    Registered User mesayseo's Avatar
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    people throw the phrase around a good deal and dont understand it but it does work for them.
    im gonna throw out my opinion on why people think "confusing your muscles" by changing your work out up works.
    i think its psychological people get into a rut after doing the same work out for months on end and lose motivation to work hard and get stuck because they dont typically keep pushing forward like they did when they were seeing fast progress. so they switch it up their workout and they enjoy the change of pace and it keeps them motivated and they see results again. so they therefore concieve that they "shocked" and "confused" their muscles.

    well im not sure if i made any sense but i throw out my two cents.
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  23. #23
    Registered User Engineer_Guy's Avatar
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    I look at it this way, if muscle confusion were true you would see the majority of the top lifters training in such a way.

    Also the fact that the only place I hear people use the term muscle confusion is on an infomercial I see at midnight and these forums.
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