By now I’m sure that most of you have heard of P90X and it’s training philosophy known as muscle confusion. For those of you who have been living under a rock (and/or don’t watch TV), P90X is an infomercial training system that boasts instant results in the form of chiseled abz and huge gunz in only 90 days. First off, I have to call bullsnickers on this one.
Second, muscle confusion? Whoever came up with that is sadly confused which in turn only confuses you, the consumer. Behind my confusing alliteration, the theory behind muscle confusion is that your body adapts quickly to whatever stress is placed on it. By changing around the exercises – so that your body does not become accustomed to the same movement each workout – you can prevent the body from adapting and as a result avoid muscle building plateaus.
All I have to say to that is:
Note: This post is not meant to bash some of your beloved P90X and will state that any program that gets someone to do more than they would is beneficial. I will also state that it is NOT actual training and there are better programs out there.
I mean, when in your life have you ever said “I want to be confused, will you confuse the shit out of me?”. Never. Life is confusing enough, and as promising as this theory sounds, it just makes no sense. Your body doesn’t need to be confused either. In actuality, it thrives on consistency.
Since when is adaptation a bad thing?
In Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers, he states that it takes over 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to master a skill. Although it isn’t an exact science, I’m sure the same holds true to most athletic endeavors be it having the perfect squat or becoming a ping pong master.
In order for your body to adapt, you must maintain a certain level of stimulus over a period of time. For instance, training a certain exercise or movement. This usually happens over a course of 3-5 weeks. If you want to continue to suck at everything, then keep changing your workouts weekly. Just sayin’.
Also, strength is a skill. Learn it. Period. Boom.
I understand that doing the same exercises over and over can get a little tedious. As a competitive powerlifter I have endured numerous training protocols that require you to bench, deadlift, and squat 4 times a week for 2 hours at a time. I still have 5,648 hours to go before I can become super power ninja master.
Do I recommend training like this? Not unless you have ever dreamed of becoming a powerlifter.
How/when To Change Exercises
In order to avoid getting bored with the same 4 exercises, I simply recommend changing up the exercises/variations every 3-6 weeks depending on how frequently you train. If you are only training 1 or two days a week, you can probably hold off a bit longer whereas if you are a gymanimal and train 4 days per week you can probably benefit from rotating exercises every 3-4 weeks.
Here are a few variations of some of the main exercises that you should include in your programs:
- Trapbar Deadlift
- Sumo Deadlift
- Romanian Deadlift
- Front Squat
- Box Squat
- Goblet Squat
- Rear Leg Elevated Split Squat
- Pushups (master these first!)
- Dumbbell Bench
- Barbell Bench
- TRX Pushup
- Pullups (Chin, neutral, overhand)
- TRX Row
- Dumbbell Row
- Seated Cable Row
A good rule of thumb is to choose 1 or two exercises from each category and work on them for 4 weeks. If you get bored, try adding some more weight or sets each week. Once it feels near impossible to increase the weight, switch the exercise and cycle back to it several months down the road. You will get stronger, trust me.
Confusion does notplay a role, only the intelligent manipulation of the exercises, correct execution, and proper progression will help you achieve your goals. What is needed and is needed in fitness programs and training is intelligent manipulation of specific variables within the program such as frequency, intensity, and volume. This should be done monthly or weekly in order for proper adaptations to take place. If you change too frequently, your going to be spinning your wheels and not getting anywhere bro.