After training for a while we all tend to fall into ruts of always using the same favorite exercises. Those favorite exercises are usually those that are effective and seem to work with our natural bodily movements – those that suit our bodies well. There is nothing wrong with sticking with what works for your own body, but sometimes to break through a plateau in your progress you need to make some changes. That’s where a bit of muscle confusion can be extremely valuable.
Most experienced trainees have, at least, heard of the principle of muscle confusion, even if they haven’t put it into practice. It has become a buzzword in the fitness industry recently with the success of programs like “P90X” and “Insanity”, but an internet search will find as many articles against it as those for it.
Personally, I don’t recommend extreme muscle confusion for my clients which might involve completely changing exercises, sets, and reps for every workout. I do however recommend and put into practice with myself and my clients, subtle changes in exercise technique to prevent major plateaus in progress and prevent injuries which result from ignoring the smallest muscles and overworking the big ones.
There are many types of subtle exercise variations which can easily be applied in your routines to keep your progress moving forward.
Change the width of your grip on barbell movements
Reverse your grip on barbell movements, or apply rotation to dumbbell movements.
To add an extra cardio element, try combining movements.The classic example is the Arnold press which is a dumbbell bicep curl which, at the height of the curl, you rotate out to the sides and turn into an overhead press.Overhead presses can be added to most standing movements.
Change your stance width on standing, squatting, and lunge movements.
Change the exercise speed from very slow reps to very fast reps.
These are all subtle changes which work best from workout to workout. It is still important to periodically examine your routines to see what is working and what is not. Some trainers strongly promote the idea of making major changes every workout, and some dismiss the idea entirely. While I don’t personally recommend major muscle confusion for my clients, I do strongly advocate finding out what works best for your own body. Listen to your own body, not to marketing hype.