Muscle Confusion Workouts – Are They Really Helpful?
If you read much mainstream bodybuilding advice, you will probably come across the idea of “muscle confusion workouts.” Training “gurus” who look like they’ve never lifted a weight in their lives often tell beginner weight lifters and bodybuilders that the key to growth is to “shock” or “confuse” your muscles with crazy, painful workouts. Is this really what works? Some people think so, but my experience has shown this type of advice to be total BS. Read on to find out why it doesn’t make sense, and how you should actually be training to get bigger.
Where’s the Logic?
The idea behind muscle confusion workouts is that they force your muscles to adapt to all different types of stimuli and ultimately grow bigger and stronger. For instance, you might do something totally crazy and different every time you train your chest. Maybe one day you do high-rep bench presses. The next time you train chest, you superset dumbbell presses, flies, and machine presses in one long, painful circuit. The next week, you do nothing but dips for an hour.
Will this type of training give you a killer burn and a great pump? Absolutely! Will it make you sore? Almost certainly, especially if you do the sheer volume of work most of these “gurus” recommend. Will these workouts actually stimulate growth and strength increases? Probably not. In fact, I would say that in the long term, training like this will get you nowhere fast.
What Really Builds Muscle?
In the simplest possible terms, you build muscle by tearing the fibers down in the gym to stimulate growth, eating to get the nutrients necessary for recovery, and resting long enough to be able to do it all over again. However, the way to really stimulate muscular gains week after week is not “muscle confusion workouts” that just leave you sore and pumped. You have to make some kind of tangible progress!
Think about it this way. There are tons of ways to make your muscles sore and “confused.” If I curl a five-pound dumbbell for an hour straight, my biceps will be VERY sore the next day. If I have my buddy punch me in the shoulder for a few minutes straight, my delts will feel sore and fatigued. If I run a marathon, my quads and hamstrings will be sore. Do you think any of these activities is going to stimulate muscular growth? No! The only way to get bigger week after week, month after month, year after year until you actually look like a bodybuilder is to make progress in your weight training.
Strength IS Size
Next to muscle confusion workouts, the biggest myth in the bodybuilding world is the idea that you can train for strength or size, but not both. Getting stronger is what makes you get bigger! The best way to make the kind of tangible progress you need to grow is to make sure the weight on the bar gets heavier with every workout.
If you’re skeptical, consider this. Have you ever seen someone who looked pretty big, but wasn’t all that strong? Maybe. However, have you ever seen someone who was truly, immensely strong but wasn’t big? Hell no! Once you get to the point when you can squat 500 for reps, do you think you’re going to have small legs? Do you think your chest and arms will be small when you finally get that 405 bench?
I’m not trying to say that you need to hit these numbers to get big. In fact, I have no idea how strong YOU have to get to gain a certain amount of muscular size. The point is that getting stronger will make you bigger. Want a bigger back? Stop doing these stupid muscle confusion workouts and worry about putting a couple hundred pounds on your deadlift. You get the idea – now train hard AND smart!