If you were on a quest to REALLY discover the truth about building muscle, what do you think your ideal first step would be? Should you eat more protein? Should you spend no more than forty minutes to complete a workout? How about doing big compound exercises and making sure to eat so often you can hardly hold a conversation without spitting food from your mouth? Yeah… there’s a lot of great advice out there, isn’t there? (Sarcasm overload)
No 'Muscle Confusion' here - yet I keep making natural bodybuilding gains.
How do I know my muscles aren't confused? I asked 'em! They said that they were "slightly bewildered" - but not confused.
Your best bet would be to first eradicate any bodybuilding fallacies from your repertoire of training knowledge and practice. Holding on to such fallacies or purchasing a muscle building course that adheres to them is further unneeded advancement toward natural bodybuilding futility and frustration. I’ll assume that’s not what you want to spend your hard-earned money or valuable time on.
The worst of such fallacies is the age-old ‘muscle confusion principle’. In fact, it’s such a crock of malarkey that’s been popularized through common gym-speak and bodybuilding periodicals for so long that we might as well call it the ultimate bodybuilding myth. It’s derived from absolutely no factual premise, and worse; it can actually be a hindrance to your bodybuilding progress. Let me explain.
The so-called ‘muscle confusion principle’ is subtly hidden in much gym-talk and many a personal trainer’s everyday advice. Here’s a sampling of those ubiquitous yet erroneous utterances and suggestions:
“You need to constantly change your workout to keep making progress.”
“If you don’t change your exercises, your muscles will get used to them and stop growing.”
“Muscles need to be ‘shocked’ in order to keep growing.”
“In order to keep your muscles ‘guessing’, you need to constantly change your routine.”
Keep your muscles “guessing”? Yes… I’ve actually heard people say this. Most of the time it’s been a ‘personal trainer’ who’s possibly trying to keep his/her CLIENT guessing so as to create the illusion of being an indispensable bastion of knowledge. But that’s a different topic.
Let’s get something straight: The contractile material in muscle that can grow as a result of tissue breakdown and recovery is composed of two proteins; ‘actin’ and ‘myosin’. This actin and myosin of the myofibrils is not equipped with a mini brain that needs stimulation in the form of “confusion”. It doesn’t need to be ‘puzzled’, ‘baffled’, ‘befuddled’, or in any way ‘perplexed’. What it does need is incentive to grow in the form of breakdown from overload and compensation for the overload through recuperation. That’s it! When you get this formula mastered – your muscles will grow. When it’s not mastered, puny muscles will remain that way whether the trainee they’re attached to changes his/her routine every day, week or month.
The perpetuation of the muscle confusion myth is often found in a misinterpretation of a REAL bodybuilding phenomenon: ‘The pump’. The pump is the common occurrence of one’s muscles feeling and appearing much expanded during and immediately following a weight training workout. It’s an unimagined and physiologically explained experience. But a misunderstanding of this sensation and a naïve belief in the muscle confusion myth often go hand-in-hand. Many trainers think they achieve a better pump during a workout for which they’ve changed exercise selection or sequence. Then they associate this perceived sensation as an indication of accelerated progress.
Why do I say “perceived” sensation? Because one might or might not achieve a better pump during a changed workout routine; that’s usually only subjectively measurable. Yet the phenomenon becomes extraneous when considering what a “pumped” muscle really is: temporary swelling due to lactic acid build-up. A pump is caused by a rush of blood into the capillaries of the working muscles after a constriction of blood flow had been created by myofibril contraction and lactic acid accumulation. Being such, this phenomenon is no indication of whether a bodybuilder is actually making progress – or even whether he or she is engaging in a productive workout. It simply means that the trainee has created… ‘a pump’… that’s it – great!
But if one’s objective is to make bodybuilding progress, focusing on the tangential pump through an attempt to “confuse” the muscles can actually be detrimental. When an individual keeps changing his or her routine in a quest for “muscle confusion”, it often causes goal setting and progress measurement confusion. Accomplishing an exciting goal in life (whether bodybuilding or otherwise) requires our ability to read and measure feedback. How can one possibly interpret feedback in the form of output if they are too-often changing their input? They can’t! And that’s why people I observe at the gym who prefer spontaneity in their workouts while rationalizing that they’re “shocking” their bodies rarely if ever possess nice physiques.
Do yourself this favor: Remember that the biggest truth about building muscle can be summed up in two words; ‘overload’ and ‘recuperation’. When you carry out these two things successfully, you’re on your way to bigger muscles.
Above all, don’t drag your progress down by adopting fallacious bodybuilding principles – the most counterproductive of which being the confusion created by “muscle confusion”.