“Bro, make sure you change your workout every three weeks or you won’t make any gains, gotta confuse the muscles bro!”
I’m guessing if you’ve been training for good amount of time you’ll have heard something similar no doubt.
So what does confusing the muscles actually mean?
Well so far, nothing to be honest. Your muscles don’t possess the ability to become “confused”, however when people talk about “muscle confusion” they’re most likely referring to the law of adaptation.
This law basically states that if you subject your body to repeated bouts of identical stimuli (a.k.a repeating the exact same workout continuously) then you will cease to progress and will ultimately adapt to this stimulus.
Therefore it is necessary to alter and progress your training slightly up to every three weeks or so. Sadly most of the advice I’ve seen/heard being dished out in gyms by the guys who bench press on the smith machine and don’t do squats because it “hurts their knees” is grossly exaggerated and explained in such an uneducated manner that it makes people think that if they don’t drastically change their program every three weeks they’ll cease to progress and make any gains. While this has some merit, it’s often over exaggerated. Let’s take an example of a male lifter who bench presses 60kg for 3 sets of 10 with 2 minutes rest between sets.
If he listens to the above advice then in three weeks he’ll be bench pressing, incline pressing, decline pressing, doing cable flys, dumbbell flys then finishing off with dips in order to “confuse” his muscles (this isn’t far from a program alteration I was shown a couple of years ago).
Now hopefully you can see that this is an absurdly ridiculous jump in volume and totally unnecessary, but unfortunately stuff like these happens quite often with new and/or inexperienced lifters who are innocently looking for solid advice and instead receiving a steaming pile of ****.
Some of the keys to progression are relatively simple and include:
Increasing volume either by increasing sets and/or reps.
Increasing density by decreasing rest time.
So now let’s take our lifter repping 60kg 10 times for three sets with 2 minutes rest and make more logical adjustments.
This lifter could either;
Increase the weight – keeping everything else the same
Increase the reps – keeping everything else the same
Increase the number of sets – keeping everything else the same
Decrease the rest time – keeping everything else the same
Or he could do a combination of the above, not necessary but still no where near as drastic as some of the things I’ve seen.
So there you have it in a concise simplified manner, I advise anyone new to training seeking a solid plan to educate themselves on linear periodization and/or undulating periodization.