Are your muscles confused?
If not, they should be.
“Muscle confusion” is a popular concept, as anyone who pays attention to fitness trends knows.
The term was promoted in the past decade by the creators of various weight-training programs. They tell exercisers to vary their routines relentlessly.
The rationale is that unfamiliar movements should “confuse” our muscles. This prevents them from settling into a rut and hitting a training plateau.
When you first start lifting, you become stronger quickly. With each passing week, you are able to lift heavier weights and do more reps.
But eventually, your improvement stops. This is a plateau. Muscle confusion is supposed to prevent this. By doing unfamiliar movements, your muscles are forced to continually adapt. And they get stronger without plateauing.
That’s the theory, anyway.
But new research has found that confusing your muscles has a different benefit. It makes you more likely to work out.
The study was published in the journal PLOS One. The subjects were men who were fit and familiar with most weight-training exercises.
The researchers tested the participants’ strength and measured their leg muscles. They also assessed their levels of interest and motivation.
The volunteers were then split into two groups: One did the same standard, supervised workout routine four days a week. The other group followed an app on their phones which randomly assigned them different exercises for every workout.
Both groups did the same number of upper-body and lower-body exercises. They used about the same amount of weight.
After eight weeks, gains in strength and muscle size between the groups were nearly identical.
But one thing was different.
The subjects who “confused” their muscles with a varied workout routine felt more motivated. They wanted to exercise more.
Professor Brad Schoenfeld was a co-author of the study. He said muscles don’t respond to novelty, but minds do. “From a purely motivational standpoint, variety matters,” he said.
Vary Your Workout: There’s an App for That
The subjects in the study used a phone app called Ace Workout, which costs $1.99. The app generates random workout routines and promises you’ll never repeat the same workout.
Or you can check out websites like The Fitness Tribe, which lists 50 different exercises for virtually all body parts. Of course, you can also decide for yourself when and how to mix up your exercises
Many of us want to exercise more but are plagued by lack of motivation. Variety can help you overcome that obstacle.
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