The idea of "muscle confusion" has gained acceptance in recent years. Programs such as P90X use muscle confusion as their mantra, swearing that constant variety prevents plateauing and is vastly superior to traditional 10- or 12-week strength programs.
The idea is that by consistently rotating in new exercises, your muscles never get "bored", resulting in greater gains.
But if you really want to see significant muscle and strength gains in your routine, some regularity is essential. The S.A.I.D. principle, an acronym for Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands, states that the body changes based on what it does over and over.
When faced with the same movement on a consistent basis, it makes certain adaptations—such as stronger muscles, increased joint flexibility, and thicker tendons and ligaments—to adjust to that movement. It's not unlike developing a callous. If your toe continually rubs against the side of your shoe for days on end, your body will adapt by creating a patch of rough skin there.
"Muscles need to be exposed to similar exercises over and over so they can adapt by getting bigger and stronger," says Tony Bonvechio, strength coach and co-owner of The Strength House in Worcester, Massachusetts. "The whole point of exercising is to make an adaption. If you're constantly doing new exercises, you're not giving your body much of a reason to become bigger and stronger. You're not letting your body adapt in anticipation of performing certain movements."
No if you're following a well-designed program, there's no need to lose any sleep about "muscle confusion." A good strength program will include a set of core lifts repeated on a weekly basis, although with different sets, reps, weight, etc., while also swapping in certain accessory exercises to address muscle imbalances and keep things fresh. It will also include plenty of progressive overload, changing the variables to make the exercises more difficult over time and consistently forcing your body to adapt.
Learn more about the right combination of variety and regularity in a workout program here.
Photo Credit: Ridofranz/iStock