|Tony Horton has based his P90X workout on the premise of ‘Muscle Confusion’, in which the 3 month workout is broken down into different phases, each containing a different variety of moves. The idea is that constantly changing the nature of your workout will help you avoid the ‘Plateau Effect’, where your body grows accustomed to the nature of the workout being asked of it, and stops growing as quickly. Is this true? Is there science behind this claim? In today’s blog post, we take a closer look.It’s common sense that doing the same workout day in, day out will result in diminished gains. If you do the same volume and the same intensity, you will not improve, mostly due to the fact that you are not attempting to overload your muscles in any way. For muscle growth to take place, you need to constantly attempt to lift more than you did the day before. This forces your body to adapt to greater demands, and leads to greater muscle growth. But that’s just an increase in weight. It’s been shown that beyond the beginner level, where pretty much anything will help change your body, a change in routine also helps your body by challenging it to adapt to new stresses.
A study performed by the Federal University of Sao Carlos, Brazil, has shown that the more frequently you make alterations to your workout, the better. Researchers had 40 young men perform three different exercises for 12 weeks, the exercises being the basic bench press, 45 degree leg press and bicep curl. Half of the subjects trained with linear periodization, which means adding more weight every few weeks, and the other half did daily undulating periodization by altering variables on a daily basis. And guess what? The daily group showed considerable strength gains compared to the linear group.
What does this mean in terms of muscle confusion? That Tony’s idea of consistently and frequently challenging your body with different exercises, even within the same workout, is based on good, solid evidence of improvement. Varying your routine frequently, even on a daily basis, is the key to rapid gains, and that’s a fact that Tony has locked in on with PX90.
I am a personal trainer and I completely believe in muscle confusion. I also am living proof that the P90X works. I even impliment a lot of the principles into my own personal training sessions with my clientele.
I have the P90X and the muscle confusion definitely works. I have tried other workouts with the same concept and they have worked as well.
“Muscle confusion” works and the reason is logical when you think about how the body works.
Your body is built to be efficient – so to store fat and avoid making extra muscle unless it’s necessary to do a task. To make your body build muscle you need to increase intensity and frequency of muscle use by pushing the muscle to failure.
If you are lifting at about 5 reps before failure in one move – say flat bench press, you will mostly be targeting your fast twitch, high strength muscle fibres. Pushing these to failure will make the body release growth hormone and testosterone which will aid growth and repair.
You get most of the benefit from the first set and if you pushed hard enough these muscles should be fatigued so it’s no sense to bang out another 2 sets of reps as you can’t maintain the same intensity. It’s best to move to another body part as Tony does.
Our example, the flat bench does not work the chest uniformly. Although the lower chest is one muscle, the exercise will only fail a certain group of fibers. By doing a slight variation each time different muscle fibers are pushed to failure increasing hormone release by the body and expediting your gains.
It doesn’t stop with variations in exercise though. Variations in weight also help. We have 5 types of muscle fibers (that we know about) which to keep things simple can be reduced to 2 – fast twitch for strength and explosive power and slow twitch for endurance. These fibers fatigue at different rates but the rates that they fatigue are predictable – this is why runners can predict race from race performance with a high degree of accuracy from sprints to marathons.
So varying the amount of resistance and reps will also create muscle confusion. 1 set heavy where you struggle to do 5 reps will fail your fast twitch fibers but your slow twitch still have plenty left. If you want these to grow and be able to contribute to maximal strength, you need to push those to failure too. You can accomplish this by decreasing the weight and increasing the reps so that instead of failing at 5 reps, you fail at 20 or 30. Tony recruits this principle also with the maximum rep rounds.
To summerise, muscle confusion maximises the intensity and recruits as many different muscle fibers as possible which P90x does in a well structured wrapper that allows adequate rest / recovery for each part