What Is Muscle Confusion And Why It’s a Big Fat Lie

March 25, 2014 | 40 Comments

Muscle Confusion workout

“You gotta switch it up man. If you keep doing the same routine, your body is going to plateau.”

That’s just so not true.

I’m sure you’ve heard it before – programs like P90x and personal trainers telling you that the only way to get results is by constantly switching up your exercises and workout routines. But the problem with muscle confusion and “switching it up” isn’t that it’s particularly bad for you but is because it’s a flat out lie.

Wait, what is muscle confusion?

For those that don’t know, the theory behind muscle confusion is that your muscle building and fat loss progress will hit a plateau if you keep doing the same routine and the only way to make consistent progress is by switching up your routine.

I mean this sounds great in theory but in reality it’s nothing more than a slick marketing scheme used by some of the most popular workout programs in the world. And hey, if millions of people believe in muscle confusion, then it must be true, right?

So what’s the problem with muscle confusion?

I don’t like muscle confusion simply because it’s a falsely marketed concept. There’s simply no evidence that shows that “switching it up” will lead to greater fat loss or muscle growth.

If muscle confusion is a lie, then what works?

Your muscles will only respond to progressive overload. That’s it

Progressive overload is a law that states you must continuously increase the amount of weight or reps lifted each workout in order to increase muscle mass.

If you continuously increase the amount of weight you push, then you will gain muscle. And similarly, if you continue to increase the amount of reps you push, you will gain muscle.

But if you go into each workout and do the same amount of work each time, then your body isn’t going to change. Make sense?

For example if you’re trying to get bigger biceps, you don’t need to do 20 different bicep curl variation to hit the muscle from “different angles.” All you have to do is pick a handful of exercises and continuously increase the weight or reps over time and I guarantee your biceps will grow bigger. Doing a wide variety of exercises is fine for the sake of variation but it’s definitely not necessary to induce consistent muscle growth.

muscle confusion workout

But why does it work for some people?

“But but but it works for me.”

– Person who got results from doing muscle confusion workouts

Well no shit buddy.

With muscle confusion, you’re simply switching up your routine on a consistent basis but that doesn’t necessarily further increase fat loss or muscle growth.

Remember, everything can get you results. And I mean everything. Crossfit works, pyramid training works, steady-state cardio works, HIIT works, hell even the Shake Weight probably works if you jerk it enough times.

Being sore doesn’t always mean your workout was effective

I mention soreness in this article because a lot of people tend to equate being sore the day after a workout to having an effective workout.

And with muscle confusion workouts, people tend to get sore a lot. And since people constantly get sore, they think that their workout was effective.

But in reality being sore is simply the result of doing something your body isn’t accustomed to.

And due to the nature of muscle confusion workouts, people are more likely to get sore and are thus more likely to believe that their workout was effective.

But soreness doesn’t always mean progress.  Being sore simply means that your body is doing something it isn’t used to.

The real reason behind plateaus

When it comes to training, plateaus aren’t created because you didn’t “switch it up.” Plateaus are created because you’re not progressing forward anymore.

If you’re not consistently adding more weight or more reps or if you’re not training with enough intensity, then you’re going to plateau. People don’t plateau because they don’t mix it up, they plateau because they aren’t progressing in their workouts anymore.

Many muscle confusion workouts work because the workouts are progressively getting harder and harder. And it’s due to that increased difficulty, not the varied exercise selection that people are continuously able to progress.

Keep it simple

Besides being physiologically impossible, muscle confusion just makes it all the more confusing for people who simply want to look good.

I’m not saying switching up your routine every once in a while is bad, but just make sure you’re doing it for the right reason.

Every workout has a purpose – whether it is to increase size, strength, speed, etc… but don’t start randomly changing your routine just for the sake of changing it.

Always add more weight, always do more reps, always move forward – rules to live by.

Let me know your thoughts on muscle confusion in the comments below.

40 Comments - Leave Your Thoughts

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  1. I hit a weight loss plateau in the very beginning of my journey and heard a guy on a show I watch say that muscle confusion was BS, just ask a doctor. Honestly with the years people have pushed muscle confusion it was the first time I’d heard this. Great article; I’m convinced and you just made my life much easier.

  2. Being a trainer and massage therapist, I totally agree. I hear this muscle confusion crap all of the time and I’m tired of it. It needs to be put to rest.

  3. Ya I think the muscle confusion stuff if bullshit in terms of hitting a plateau in muscle gain, but the whole point is that if you continuously gain muscle you will hit a plateau in wrought loss. Not everyone wants to keep gaining muscle and bulk up…women generally want to tone up but get rid of fat so they can look slender. Switching up routines helps you burn calories while exercising different muscle groups in different ways so you won’t bulk up too much in your quads or hams or biceps, for instance, but you still get the benefit of toning up and biting those calories.

  4. I really appreciate this article since muscle confusion is a major selling point of commercial fitness products, and it has a catchy name, so it sells. There is so much misinformation out there about the billion dollar fitness and supplement industry that it is hard to distinguish truth from lies, so your contribution is especially valuable. Thank you.

  5. Muscle confusion..
    I agree the name is somewhat ‘confusing ‘..
    But very simply put..
    ‘Working out the same muscles in different ways.’
    Why does it work?
    No one exercise is perfect for every muscle group. Nor will it completely work the max muscle fibers within that particular muscle group.
    In addition, the body becomes accustom to singular exercises performed exclusively. And such singularity often leads to overuse training injuries.
    So switch it up occasionally and reap the benefits.

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