Ask Alfonso: How Does Muscle Confusion Work?
My question for you is about muscle confusion. We’ve all heard that in order to make gains (losses) in working out we should be “changing it up” every so often to trick our bodies (muscles).
My question is why then if we take time off from working out do our bodies not fly into action and produce rapid gains (losses)?
I’m sorry but your question is what confuses my body (and brain!) Seriously though, I think I understand what you’re asking – so here goes!
Let’s first talk about the term ‘muscle confusion’. This is a phrase that Tony Horton made popular with his P90X system. The theory is that you need to keep switching exercises from one workout to the next to make your muscles keep guessing what you’ll throw at them. But I’m going to burst the P90X bubble – even though I’m a fan – and say this is actually a bit silly and way too simplistic an explanation.
The fact is that bodybuilders have known for years that in order to keep progressing every 6–8 weeks they needed to change programs and target their muscles from different angles. And the reasoning is very simple – your body is highly adaptive, and the results you get from exercise are directly related to the changes that occur from the stimulus (exercises) that you place on it. But once you’ve been on the same program; exercises, sets, reps – your body will become used to the stimulus and the gains slow. The exercise program no longer represents a challenge for your muscles. But if you change programs to one with new exercises, reps and sets you essentially issue a new challenge to your body to try and acclimate to. Makes sense right. Your body is really cool!
But there’s a limit to how often you should change it up in my opinion. You must repeat the same workout at least a few times if not for a few weeks to make significant progress and strength gains within a given exercise. Of course this is all dependent on your goals – if you’re looking for general fitness and health goals you don’t need to train like a bodybuilder or strength athlete. But you should be trying the same routines and improving with each workout. For instance, if you were to try any of my YouTube workouts, you want to try and get more reps, go through the circuit more times, or perform the sets for a longer period of time with each successive workout. To really gauge fitness progress you need to do the same workout multiple times and see if you progress from the first to the last. Makes sense right?
I’m not sure what you mean by ‘fly into action’ and ‘producing gains’ when we stop exercising. I think what you’re asking is why we don’t gain a ton of fat or lose muscle right away when we stop exercising – after all we’re confusing our bodies? Is that right? If so here’s the deal. Years of hard work and diligence in the gym don’t miraculously disappear after a couple of weeks away from the gym. Sure you’ll get a little soft, lose a bit of muscle and conditioning, but you won’t go back to square one. And I believe in some cases you can permanently change your body so that if you stop exercising you’ll still hold more muscle than if you’d never worked out in the first place. Case in point – I once had to stop working out for a year to recover from neck surgery and I still weighed nearly 205 pounds and looked like I was still hitting the gym. One year off couldn’t erase 20 years (nearly half my life) of regular consistent exercise.
So Jessica I always suggest for to you change things up in your workout. Doing so every few weeks is good for your body and for your brain. It helps you stay excited and fresh but also it teaches your body to learn new movement patterns, which help enhance your overall muscular coordination.
Hope this helps – and if you have a question – please just click here. I’d love to help you!
All information contained within this site, Angry Trainer Fitness.com, is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any health problem – nor is it intended to replace the advice of a physician. No action should be taken solely on the contents of this website. Always consult your physician or qualified health professional on any matters regarding your health or on any opinions expressed within this website. Please see your physician before changing your diet, starting an exercise program, or taking any supplements of any kind.
|Print article||This entry was posted by Alfonso on June 25, 2012 at 9:48 am, and is filed under ASK ALFONSO. Follow any responses to this post through RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback from your own site.|
No comments yet.
No trackbacks yet.
about 8 months ago - 3 comments
Hey there – it’s Top 10 time again! We figured it was time to bring back one of our most popular strands here at Angry Trainer Fitness and to kick us off we have a very special top 10. Yep, today I’m sharing my favorite Angry Trainer Fitness Workouts that are on my YouTube…
about 8 months ago - 2 comments
Hey Alfonso! So I’ve been warming up to the idea of CrossFit style workouts lately…but I don’t have a box near to where I live and the nearest one is wickedly expensive. Would you suggest CrossFit style workouts at home? If so, what would you recommend doing? Thanks! Danni Hello Danni. How are…
about 9 months ago - 6 comments
Hey Alfonso- Can you explain the benefits of both LISS and HIIT and which is better to use and when? My main goal, right now is fat loss. I know a lot of it is in my diet and I am tightening that as we speak. Thanks for everything. – Antionette Hey Antionette! Great question.…
about 9 months ago - No comments
Hi Alfonso, I am trying to switch from performing all the classes at my gym to different workouts of my own. The classes are usually full body and I normally do some kind of workout everyday, but I am having a difficult time trying to plan what my own training workouts will be everyday.…
about 11 months ago - 4 comments
Hi Alfonso, I love the site. It’s been a huge help for me as I’ve been trying to make up for a few years of poor eating/drinking and trying to get back to my old, healthier self. My question is regarding the circuit style of training that you’re fond of. I completely agree with the…
about 11 months ago - 1 comment
Hey Alfonso, I’m really confused. I’ve read so many articles about circuit training, intervals, HIIT training, muscle confusion and metabolic circuits? My friend did a metabolic circuit while I was using P90X and he looks much better than I do. He lost more fat and looks like he gained more muscle. Can you explain what…
about 1 year ago - 1 comment
Hi Alfonso OK, I’m a 47- year old female, pre-menopausal, borderline diabetic, high triglycerides and just getting over plantar fasciitis in both of my feet. I quit smoking 4 months ago (yeah for me). But with all of the hormonal crap going on in my body right now I can’t seem to get any weight…
about 2 years ago - 9 comments
Have you ever been awake at 3am and seen adverts that promise you’ll “get fit in 3 easy payments”? I know I’ve seen my fair share, and it’s one of the aspects of the fitness industry that really irks me. But now it seems as though fitness infomercials aren’t just running during early morning hours,…