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  1. #1
    Registered User icesprayermike's Avatar
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    Is Muscle Confusion Real?

    I'm sure someone's already asked this same question a million time but I searched and I didn't really find anything.

    I've heard that by changing your workout routine every few weeks you "confuse" your muscles, which allows them to increase in size more. Supposedly this keeps them from achieving the "plateau effect" which means that after working out for a long time you see little or no increase in strength/size.

    I've heard arguments from both sides. Some people say that muscle confusion exists and works and others say that it's just a gimmick. What should I believe?
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    Originally Posted by icesprayermike View Post
    I'm sure someone's already asked this same question a million time but I searched and I didn't really find anything.

    I've heard that by changing your workout routine every few weeks you "confuse" your muscles, which allows them to increase in size more. Supposedly this keeps them from achieving the "plateau effect" which means that after working out for a long time you see little or no increase in strength/size.

    I've heard arguments from both sides. Some people say that muscle confusion exists and works and others say that it's just a gimmick. What should I believe?
    This is interesting, I'll definitely pop in this thread again to see what others have to say. I think that changing the exercises up every week or so even just a little helps, so I do that in my routine.
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  3. #3
    McLovin' life Shinjan's Avatar
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    The one thing that keeps me sore is not so much changing the exercises as it is changing the rep ranges. I find changing exercises over and over, doesn't llow for enough mmc, just because you aren't using the same motion.
    If it was easy, everybody would be doing it.
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    google a workout routine called "dog crap" (srs)
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    Registered User PowerManDL's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by icesprayermike View Post
    I'm sure someone's already asked this same question a million time but I searched and I didn't really find anything.

    I've heard that by changing your workout routine every few weeks you "confuse" your muscles, which allows them to increase in size more. Supposedly this keeps them from achieving the "plateau effect" which means that after working out for a long time you see little or no increase in strength/size.

    I've heard arguments from both sides. Some people say that muscle confusion exists and works and others say that it's just a gimmick. What should I believe?
    This is not an easy question to answer.

    In strict terms, no, you can't really 'confuse' the muscles. Muscles are either being overloaded or they aren't. There's degrees of overload mind you, but in general you're either growing or you arent'.

    Now, you can encounter neuromuscular adaptation which makes rapid strength gains more difficult - say adding 5lbs week to week as most people like to do. But note that this doesn't necessarily mean that growth has stopped.

    Growth and strength only correlate over long time periods. Over the span of say 3-6 weeks, there's no direct correlation. Muscle growth happens but the rate is not connected to the rate of strength gain. Strength happens much faster, and it will plateau much faster.

    What most often happens is that people stop gaining strength quickly, so they switch exercises. Well now they're adding weight all over again, since they aren't adapted to it - you've broken the plateau, so it seems.

    Thing is, that's all independent of muscle growth. Hypertrophy is a side-effect of handling 'heavy enough' weights. Once you're over the threshold of weight, it's all a function of volume. Strength gains are, again, independent of this over the short term.

    Now there is potentially something to the idea that the muscles themselves will become resistant to a given stimulus - but frankly I have no idea if this applies in a general sense or in response to specific rep ranges.

    Meaning, if your muscles become resistant to sets of 5, they may or may not be receptive to sets of 10. My gut says that switching intensities (and thus rep ranges and volume) would help you keep going, but that's a pure guess - there's not a lot of science to back it up. It could just as easily be a deload, allowing the body to recover and reset.

    None of this necessarily mandates changing your exercises, though - it's all permutations of intensity and volume. If anything, consistency with exercises would be advisable.
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  6. #6
    Registered User blackthursday's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by PowerManDL View Post
    This is not an easy question to answer.

    In strict terms, no, you can't really 'confuse' the muscles. Muscles are either being overloaded or they aren't. There's degrees of overload mind you, but in general you're either growing or you arent'.

    Now, you can encounter neuromuscular adaptation which makes rapid strength gains more difficult - say adding 5lbs week to week as most people like to do. But note that this doesn't necessarily mean that growth has stopped.

    Growth and strength only correlate over long time periods. Over the span of say 3-6 weeks, there's no direct correlation. Muscle growth happens but the rate is not connected to the rate of strength gain. Strength happens much faster, and it will plateau much faster.

    What most often happens is that people stop gaining strength quickly, so they switch exercises. Well now they're adding weight all over again, since they aren't adapted to it - you've broken the plateau, so it seems.

    Thing is, that's all independent of muscle growth. Hypertrophy is a side-effect of handling 'heavy enough' weights. Once you're over the threshold of weight, it's all a function of volume. Strength gains are, again, independent of this over the short term.

    Now there is potentially something to the idea that the muscles themselves will become resistant to a given stimulus - but frankly I have no idea if this applies in a general sense or in response to specific rep ranges.

    Meaning, if your muscles become resistant to sets of 5, they may or may not be receptive to sets of 10. My gut says that switching intensities (and thus rep ranges and volume) would help you keep going, but that's a pure guess - there's not a lot of science to back it up. It could just as easily be a deload, allowing the body to recover and reset.

    None of this necessarily mandates changing your exercises, though - it's all permutations of intensity and volume. If anything, consistency with exercises would be advisable.
    awesome post. this man knows his stuff, the first two sentences say it all. ask yourself, how can you confuse something that can't think for itself? muscles know one thing and one thing only, resistance.
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  7. #7
    lol wut kunt Ausswolf's Avatar
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    My 2 cents, I do PL'ing training (low reps), however the other day i did some sets of 9 and 12 and ive got DOMS for the first time in a long time. I dont think my muscles are confused, they just arent used to that rep range with that % load.
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  8. #8
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    Search "periodization".
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    if you isolate your muscles, it might be a good idea to change the workout a bit. I mean, your always working the same area with the same movement, getting in a new position for the same muscle group would work the muscles from different angles and involve slightly different muscle fibers then if you worked only one exercise.
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  10. #10
    Moderator SuffolkPunch's Avatar
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    My own theory is that whenever you change exercises, say from BB bench to DB bench, there is a cost involved - a period of time where neural adaptations occur - during this time your muscle doesn't need to grow to adapt. Therefore, it is better to stick to basic exercises and concentrate on progressing them.

    If you are a beginner and your bench stalls at 175lbs, it is NOT because you have reached your maximum potential on bench, it is more likely that there is something wrong in your routine or diet. For example, too much volume, need for deload or not enough protien.

    Changing around sets and reps is good but stick to the basic exercises...

    Advanced trainees benefit from frequent switching of exercises but that is another story...
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    I think yes and no. I have a theory in my head about it, but I'm in a lazy mood right now, and am not going to type all that...
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  12. #12
    Ever-learning GainThis's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by Shinjan View Post
    The one thing that keeps me sore is not so much changing the exercises as it is changing the rep ranges. I find changing exercises over and over, doesn't llow for enough mmc, just because you aren't using the same motion.
    That's what I've found works best for *me*. I set up my workout plans to last approx. 2 months and they include the basics (deadlift, squats, bench, etc) and every workoutplan I change up the sets/reps.

    I.e. I'm on a 5 x 5 now (with the first 2 sets being warmups, then go max weight for last 3) and next one I'll aim for 3 x 12, etc. I find my body responds better to this and it keeps things refreshing in the gym

    Switching up accessory exercises is fine, but try not to change up your compounds (not squat for 4 weeks on a new plan...).
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    GainThis, are you and Shinjan implying that you're relying on soreness as your indicator of progress?

    If so, you might want a look at this: Why Your Muscles Get Sore: DOMS and Exercise

    The long and short of it is that muscle soreness has nothing to do with whether the muscle is trained.
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    No.

    PowerManDL has already explained why.
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