If you’ve ever heard of the term muscle confusion … or if you’re wondering about the effectiveness of P90x (or similar systems) … then read this, so you save yourself a lot of wasted time and effort when it comes to getting the results you want.
A commenter asked this question:
“I like the idea of a full body workout. I have also have read that one key factor to getting ripped is muscle confusion. After a few weeks, wont your body get used to those 8 exercise you have listed which will then have no affect anymore? Are there more full body exercise i can add in later or a more advanced strength training in order to cut more fat and gain muscle? These are questions i was just curious on, i like all your articles i have read thanks for the help.”
Here’s the (admittedly) long-winded answer …
The Theory Of Muscle Confusion
The idea behind “Muscle Confusion” is this:
“Your muscles and your muscle building/fat loss/strength will stop progressing if you continue using the same exercises in your workout programs”
This sounds correct … and … there is a sliver of truth to this because your muscles do adapt to the demands you put on them … but … it ain’t quite right.
First off …
Strength Does NOT Like Muscle Confusion
First off, if you’re trying to get stronger — you don’t want to “confuse” your muscles.
The commenter asked this:
“Are there more full body exercise i can add in later or a more advanced strength training in order to cut more fat and gain muscle?”
Specifically, if you want to progress in strength on a certain exercise, the best thing you can do is that same exercise — a LOT!
The formula for strength in any one exercise is this:
- Specific Exercise — like a bench press, squat or dead lift
- Done As Often As Possible — 3, 5, even 6 times per week
- As High Tension/Resistance as possible — at 75% of your one rep max in the exercise or above
- While staying as fresh as possible – meaning you don’t want to get fatigued. So low volume training (low reps/sets each workout), but done frequently
So if you’re wanting to get stronger in any one exercise (or in general), you definitely want to NOT confuse your muscles.
What Your Muscles Do Adapt To
The problem with the muscle confusion myth is that P90x and other systems claim you need to always change up your exercise selections and workout routines.
That’s not actually true …
Your muscles WILL adapt, but only to the “volume/load” of your exercises. You could do the same 3 exercises all the time (such as bench press, dead lift, and squats) and just vary the load (how much weight), how many reps/sets, etc … and … you would never really stop gaining strength or muscle.
That’s a fact jack. Power lifters do it all the time.
Granted there are different systems out there for building strength, even within power lifting, there are ones that make use of many different “accessory” exercises (Westside for example) … but … a large majority of a LOT of people have always stuck wit the basic “bread n butter” exercises and varied the load/volume over time to keep seeing gains.
Here’s the other thing …
Getting Ripped Has Nothing To Do With Muscle Confusion
The commenter asked this:
“I have also have read that one key factor to getting ripped is muscle confusion. After a few weeks, wont your body get used to those 8 exercise you have listed which will then have no affect anymore?”
Getting ripped comes down to
- Building some strength, which increases “residual muscle tone”
- And eating less calories than you burn.
- Or burning more calories than you eat.
Of numbers 2 and 3, number 3 — trying to burn more calories than you’re eating is actually the HARDEST way to get ripped.
It’s much easier to NOT eat an extra 500 calories than it is to try and “work off” or “burn off” those 500 calories in the gym.
So the premise of using a system like p90x is kind of flawed from the beginning …
The idea is that the workouts are so metabolically demanding (because they change all the time, never giving your body time to adapt) that you burn more fat.
Basically trying to “out work” the dinner table.
That’s fine and all, but there are easier ways (just eat less).
Here’s a big point most people don’t realize …
Why P90x And Other “Muscle Confusion” Routines Work
Whenever the topic of P90x or some other workout routine comes up that’s sold through infomercials or to the mass market, I hear people say …
“Yeah, that works! I know this guy … “
Umm duh. EVERYTHING works.
All you have to do is work it.
Here’ s the thing: you take someone who normally eats like crap, sits on the couch all day and watches movies and you get him to whip out his credit card and buy P90x. Then when it arrives, if he buys a pullup bar, dumbbells and all theother equipment he needs, then gets off his butt and does the program 6 DAYS A WEEK and follows the nutrition guide, it’s GONNA WORK!
Because you’re doing SOMETHING. That’s the key. You’re no longer just getting fatter — you’re working out 6 days a week and eating better than before.
Makes sense don’t it?
It’s not exactly the “magic” of muscle confusion that’s getting your ripped in 90 days … it’s the “magic” of “getting off your ass and doing something productive” (which I’m sure confuses your atrophied gluteous muscles too!)
Here’s The Bottom Line On Muscle Confusion
- Your body does adapt to certain exercises and become more efficient at doing certain motor patterns.
- Instead of changing patterns/exercises, it’s easier to just change the volume/load/sets/reps/speed/etc of specific exercises (less injury chance because you can do those exercises with better technique, keeps your options down, no confusion about what to do, etc)
- If you WANT to change exercises because you’re bored, that MAY be a good idea. It’s usually not. A LOT of people will change their routine so often that they never get ANY results. I say stick with a basic routine for continued progress and vary your “accessory” exercises or metabolic conditioning exercises (different types of interval training, etc).
- The key to getting ripped is building muscle strength, a little size, and making sure you’re in a calorie deficit most of the time. You can do that by working out more or eating less. Eating less is MUCH easier.
Keep all this in mind the next time someone tells you that you need to “confuse” your muscles … do p90x … or something else to get ripped.