Confused About Confusion? What is Muscle Confusion?

Core Spotlight

By: Shawn Hulsey, Core Concepts Fitness Director

“All great changes are preceded by chaos.”

–Deepak Chopra.

“Muscle confusion” has become a common saying among those starting a workout program. This terminology has found its way into our homes and gyms through the myriad of new workout techniques often advertised on early Saturday morning television. Before you freely start accusing muscles of being confused, you must first try to understand the meaning behind this catchy phrase.

The meaning is usually translated correctly to most people. When you expose your muscles to different modes of training, they are not prepared to efficiently accomplish the exercise.  This causes the muscles to adapt or change–and break the bonds of a plateau.

Confusion is a conscious state. Your muscles do not have a conscious state. Instead of using confusion as a descriptive word, I prefer to use the term “shock” instead. Your muscles can undergo a shock-like state when they are exposed to unfamiliar environments. Results of this shock include micro-tears, muscle growth, strength gains, improved circulation, improved neural response and the ever-elusive muscle soreness we get after a workout.

This shock stimulates changes to your muscles, causing them to change for the better. An example of shock can be seen when micro-tears are created within the muscle. The tears lead to soreness, which brings about adaptation and, ultimately, leads to change.

The lack of shock results in just the opposite. Without shock there is no soreness. Therefore, there is no adaptation and, if there is no adaptation, there are no changes. Because of this, you can conclude that this does not excuse the seasoned athlete from getting sore, but rather it gives you even more reason to find a way to shock your system by switching your exercises.

If it is true that you are continually trying to improve yourself at the gym, then you need to dedicate yourself to a different workout each week. As a consistently active gym member, you can organize your weekdays into muscle groups and different times/days allocated just for the gym.

These components are not variables but committed segments of your week. The variables that can be changed in your gym time are intra-workout related. Exercises, techniques, machines, cables, bands and plyometrics should be changed on a week to week basis. Technique changes could include drop sets, pyramids, pause sets, half-rep sets, negative sets and super sets. Just changing the technique offers you weeks of different workouts. By implementing different techniques with different machines, cables, bands, and plyometrics you will find yourself rarely repeating your workouts.

A personal trainer can assist you in understanding the different variables.  Hiring a trainer is an investment, and will foster change and progress towards your fitness goals. However, if you want to keep your figure and wellness where they are now instead of making steps forward to becoming better, then keep on track with what you are currently doing.

Plain and simple, if you want your body to change, you have to make a change. Step outside your comfort zone and do something different at the gym starting today. If you are not sure about how to begin just ask your Core Concepts fitness director for proper advice. After all, you only have one body in this lifetime. Choose your future wisely.