Are you really confused about the fuss word “muscle confusion” floating around the fitness industry?
Millions of Instagramers and Snapchatters are trying to be the next famous fitness influencers, in their pursuit to become famous they are coming with new terminologies that leave many people confused about.
Many people seem to be following muscle confusion techniques to make constant progress towards strength and muscle gains.
Does muscle confusion really work? or is it just another myth? We will crackdown every question. But first, we need to go through the basics.
What is muscle confusion?
To be accurate, muscles don’t get confused and they don’t understand bodybuilding either.
They just respond to the resistance you provide.
But after following the same training protocol for weeks and months your muscles start getting used to the training pattern which results in hitting plateau.
The term “Plateau” refers to the decrease in noticeable results of the regular workout.
Muscle confusion is just a fancy word that involves a change in training protocol to shock the muscle and burst plateau. The term “muscle confusion” has been thrown around by fitness enthusiasts to encourage the introduction of variety in training patterns.
Problem is, most people are still applying the concept incorrectly because of the confusion regarding the whole process. To understand and implement the concept of muscle confusion for strength and muscle gain you require the basics of muscle hypertrophy and when you need to implement muscle confusion.
Arnold Schwarzenegger speaks about shocking the muscle to break the plateau.
How muscle confusion benefits growth?
Muscle confusion is a technique of a shocking muscle with a new pattern of workout that can reset the stagnation. There can be hundreds of ways to confuse your muscles to stimulate growth, but let’s talk about the most common benefits of muscle confusion-
Breaking plateau: Most of the time when your muscle stops responding to the training protocol, its because of its adaptation to the training regime. Muscle confusion techniques work to reset the adaptation and stimulation of muscle growth.
Allow required rest: As discussed earlier, muscle reaches a plateau because of the imbalance between the training protocol and the recovery routine. The majority of fitness enthusiasts are training too hard but totally neglecting the essence of a recovery routine.
Stimulation of growth: Following a proper technique to muscle confusion can aid in the stimulation of muscle growth.
The issue is, there are thousands of ways to fool muscles, it requires an expert to figure out the right technique as per your body’s need and goals.
Muscle confusion Techniques to break plateau:
Now you know about the basics about the muscle confusion techniques, now let’s get to know the ways to burst plateau. We are going to talk about three scenarios here.
- Overcoming stalled progress
- Overcoming decline in strength
- Overcoming lack of muscle activation and pump.
1- Overcoming stalled progress
You might have stopped seeing progress in strength gains because of the body’s adaptation to the routine. Now its time to shock your muscle with the following workout techniques.
Drop sets need no introduction for most of the people, it has been one of the most common ways to stimulate muscle growth. A drop set is a technique when you start with an amount of weight and drop some weight once you reach failure to get a few more repetitions.
Many fitness trainers have been using a drop set as an effective method of trimming down fat while developing lean muscle mass.
Another super shocker way to break the plateau.
Supper sets are a method of targeting two different movements one after the other with almost no break. For example, you can mix bicep curls with some tricep extensions or combining dumbbell flyes with bent-over rows.
Use Negative Reps for Positive Muscle Growth
If you are not paying emphasis on the negative reps then you actually leaving lots of gains on the table.
Negatives are performed by controlling the Tempo of each repetition and slowing down the lowering phase of the lift by about 3-4 seconds.
German volume training:
German volume training has been largely used by powerlifters to improve strength and lean muscle development.
It’s a 10×10 workout pattern when you follow 10 sets of workout with 10 reps. You are not allowed to change the weight between the sets.
Optimum lifting weight should be 60% of your personal one rep max. So if you are able to bench press at 300lbs then your German Volume Training Bench Press routine should weight 180lbs.
It’s a brutal workout that should not be followed for more than 4 weeks if you are trying it for the first time.
2- Overcoming decline in strength
Experiencing the decline in strength is a sure shot sign of insufficient recovery. giving your body some peaceful recovery time is the best way to regain your strength. here is what you can do:
Active recovery routine involves body into low-intensity aerobic activities that are not hard on the body and allows you to burn some extra calories while recovering from the previous workout session.
Passive recovery involves no activity and you allow your body to completely rest for a particular duration.
You opt for active recovery for 2-3 times a week but your body needs periodic passive recovery time after every 6-8 weeks of intense training.
We covered a whole article on active recovery, check it out here.
3- Overcoming lack of muscle activation
Muscle activation and muscle pump might not be the most essential ingredient of muscle building but they play a very significant part.
If you have stopped getting the feeling of muscle activation and pump then there is something wrong with the workout routine. Shock your muscles with the following techniques.
Increase time under tension
Increasing time under tension by controlling the tempo of your workout. In pursuit of lifting heavy weights, we sometimes skip the basics of bodybuilding.
Slowing down the tempo and opting for higher volume training allows greater blood flow towards the targeted muscle for better muscle activation.
Variable resistance training
Variable resistance training is one of the most underrated training patterns that most of the people have never followed.
Variable resistance training (VRT) is just a scientific term which means the load changes at the different points of the exercise.
Force in VRT is weaker at the bottom of the range and strongest at the top. The more you stretch your range of motion, the greater the force will be experienced. Chains and resistance bands are the most common and effective variable resistance training equipment.
Check out a whole article on the “Benefits of Variable Resistance Training“.
When do you require to muscle confusion?
The biggest mistake people are doing is they are trying to fool their muscles every other day.
Muscle confusion techniques work only in certain situations when your body and muscle stops to respond to the training protocol. Let’s check when you actually need to fool your body-
1- Duration of the training protocol:
Since how many weeks you are following the same training protocol?
Many people are not proficient enough to figure out the halt in progress, I have seen people who were following the same training pattern for eight months straight.
To be on the safe side, I personally suggest my clients change the training protocol every 3-months.
2- Strength Stagnation:
Sometimes we all just reach to the point when our strength doesn’t seem to improve, here is when muscle confusion techniques work really well.
Are you stuck in the same rep range with the same weight for the last three weeks? Do you feel the stagnation in strength gains? Maybe its time to introduce yourself to a new training routine. We are going to talk about muscle cofusion techniques ahead in this article.
3- A decline in strength:
Most weightlifting plateaus are caused because of an asymmetry between the training protocol and the recovery process.
Yes, hitting plateau may lead to a decline in strength because of muscle overuse. It’s a sign that your body hasn’t been able to recover properly after the workout routine.
A little break to your traditional workout regime may help in allowing recovery time.
4- No progress in muscle gains:
A good thumb rule of estimating constant progress in muscle strength is progressive overload.
Keep a record of your workout and compare the results in previous weeks, progression doesn’t need to be huge but it should be enough to trigger new growth. Progress can be an extra rep or adding 5% of extra weight on the barbell.
If you cant keep track of your workout then its time to install a fitness journal app to do the work for you.
5- Failure to achieve a pump and muscle activation:
Although I am not really concerned about a good muscle pump still, it is definitly a clear indication of a good workout.
If you are constantly experiencing a lack of muscle activation and pump then its time to rethink your training protocol, either your muscles are not getting enough repair or they adapted to the workout pattern.
6- Lack of motivation
The human body is smart and capable, it has got its own way to indicate that its time to take a break.
Because of the muscle overuse and lack of recovery body feels tired, fatigue and does not support your thoughts of training heavyweights. It’s a pure indication of rising levels of stress within the body and its time to give the body some break by changing strategies.
Tips to improve strength and hypertrophy
Before you try to confuse your muscle by changing your training protocol it’s essential to understand the basics of strength gains. Here are some basic but very important tips to improve strength & hypertrophy.
- Progressive overload: the biggest factor that determines your strength gain is progressive overload. Increasing resistance over time is the foundation of muscle building.
- Workout programming: Frankly speaking, this is the sector where most of the people are lacking. Workout programming includes training volume, frequency, exercise selection, rep ranges, and the rest period. You should be seeking expert help to design a perfect workout program according to your body type and goals.
- Nutrition and recovery: Resistance training results in micro-tears in the muscle fibers that need to be healed and recovered for improved strength and hypertrophy. Poor nutrition and recovery routine leads to poor gains.
- Proper workout form: this is where many people still lacking. I have seen many folks who are trying muscle confusion technique but they still don’t know anything about proper workout forms.
so we just went through the basic strength and hypertrophy tips that are a crucial part of bodybuilding.