Muscle Confusion is Making You Confused

Muscle confusion.  Are you familiar with that term?  Maybe you used to (or do) train in a way that involves you doing unrelated things all of the time to diversify your training. This is to “keep your body on its feet” and not adapt too fast. 

Read that sentence again.

Get the joke?


Well you just looked again and even if you got it now, it’s not funny anymore.  Keep reading.

So yeah, keeping your body on its feet, it has it’s merit.  Muscle confusion is a trendy term that deals with the fact your body adapts to stress and so you need to change the stress to keep your body adapting.  That’s very sound science.  I’m not gonna sit here and say “muscle confusion is stupid”, though many coaches worth their weight would.  It’s just that, I’ve found many people and trainers take that term way too far.   The term has a bad reputation. 

What do I mean by that?

Over 2 weeks, they may do 8 completely unrelated workouts in the name of muscle confusion.  And well, that’s not the most effective way to train.  Why? Because you aren’t training any particular quality long enough to actually improve it.  

Think if you went to a bootcamp class from 8 different trainers every 2 days.  How varied would that be?  What have you gotten better at if you are not a complete beginner.

Especially for athletes, you want to measure progress.  When you’re running, if your workouts dramatically change every day & week, how will you know what you’re training and if you’re getting better at that aspect?  When lifting weights, if you change your exercises and sets/reps every time, how do you know you got stronger without having to test? 

Let’s take a look at the science of adaptation and easy ways to upgrade your training. 

The Science of Adaptation

As I said, your body adapts to stress, of all kinds.  When you do a workout, you’ll find that if you do the same exact workout every 2 days it will get easier and you’ll soon stop making progress and hit a plateau.  Do the same thing long enough and you can even risk an injury.  You need to change something.  

Often, more sophisticated training plans feature workouts that change their focus day to day, but stay somewhat similar week to week for 1-2 months, many times focusing on specific qualities.  With moderate changes happening during those 1-2 month training cycles.  

Furthermore, you can find programs that have sets of weeks (1-3) focus on one training quality to enhance and then move on to another.  

There is some predictability of when you should change things that can serve as a guide.  From research & experience, after 3-8 weeks, your body will adapt to a training plan and it requires you to change it to continue making progress.

This is called the law of diminishing returns. 

The changes that you need to make do not have to be drastic to make progress.  If you’re easily bored mentally, then you may need more changes to stick with it.  If you are tracking your performance across workouts by logging weights, times, and effort, you can objectively tell when it’s time to change.

Ways to Have a Consistent, Varied Training Program

Only so many aspects of training need to truly be changed at any given time.  And you can’t train everything at once.  You have to focus on particular aspects of training.  Our coaches create athletic programs that have a daily, weekly, & monthly-ish focus that tie to the bigger picture for the performance goals that year.  

What can you focus on?  Many things, but let’s keep it simple when it comes to lifting and running:

  • Endurance
  • Explosive Power
  • Strength

There’s A LOT of nuance to this as these can be broken down and even combined.  But to keep it simple, make a workout, or group of workouts, focusing on one of these. 

What should you change?  Day to day, week to week, and month to month you can change various aspects of your training to better challenge your body to change while keeping your focus intact.  

Remember, you need to train a quality long enough to get better, but change enough that your body is challenged to get a better adaptation.

I highly recommend that you set different workouts for the week and only make small changes week to week and moderate changes month to month.

  • Volume.  Change how much you are doing.  Example: More sets.  Less reps.  More reps.  More distance.  More sprints. More hills.  More hills is always a smash hit.

  • Load.  Hit faster times for a given distance and rest time.  Increase your weight for your sets/reps.

  • Rest.  Take less time in between lifts.  Decrease your rest between runs or challenge rest by walking or jogging.  Or increase rest.  

  • Intensity.  Run closer to your maximum ability.  Lift closer to your max.

  • Exercise selection.  Change the lifts you are doing but keep the sets/reps the same.  Change the hills you’re sprinting on

In most cases, you really only need to change 1 or 2 of these to challenge your body for a training effect.  This can easily be done week to week.  

As an example, many times, 1 of those changes is just to lift more weight as you get stronger or hit faster times without changing any of the running workout.  Particularly when it comes to speed.  

Going to the Gym and Not Feeling Dumb

Take a look at your training plan.  Don’t have a plan?  Well, how do you plan to win?  You need a plan.  

Again, take a look at your training plan.  Look at what your focus is.  Then look at what small things can be changed week to week and what your focus will be in the next month or 2.  These are called “training cycles” by the way.  

If you feel like that’s out of your league, check out my webinar I’m hosting on Monday March 5th at 7:30pm.  It’s called “How to Go to the Gym and Not Feel Dumb”.

I will walk you through how to easily create a training plan.  Will it be Olympic caliber, no.  But honestly, being consistent matters more than having a great plan.  A training plan is only as effective as your ability to consistently show up and do it.  

In my experience and learning to respect coaches’ time, great training plans are reserved for the consistent. 

Use this link to sign up and be there for the webinar.

And if you want me or the GHP team to make your plan, just set up a Success Strategy Meeting and we can make it happen.  All you gotta do is reply and say “the word”.

Get out there and keep your body on its feet!  It’s a necessity.

Global Human Performance
Global Human Performance

Life Changing Fitness

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