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Friday, May 11, 2007

The Biggest Muscle Building Fallacy in Bodybuilding

I�ve just read yet another article about bodybuilding which only shows more evidence that writers of this sport or hobby are only too happy to regurgitate the same old tired out information that�s useless at best and a complete crock of doodie at worst. Frankly, I�m getting a little tired of it. And I don�t like seeing other natural bodybuilders spin their wheels by latching onto pseudo-scientific malarkey that only keeps them groping in the dark for something that works.

You�ll probably be surprised to find out which widely-embraced and beloved theory I�m prepared to debunk. No, it�s not the one about muscle being incapable of turning into fat or fat turning into muscle. I think even your average five-year-old knows that by now. Neither is it the one about muscles not growing directly from workouts but rather from recuperating between workouts. I have non weight-training, nerdy friends who already have that figured out.

No, this is about the much coveted, yet completely erroneous �muscle confusion principle�. For clarity, let�s look at some common assertions that this silly concept hides within:

�You need to �shock� your body by changing your routine.�
�Once you do a routine for awhile, your muscles get used to it and stop growing.�
�You need to change your bodybuilding exercises to keep your muscles guessing.�
�Muscles won�t continue to grow unless you keep them �confused�.

Let me straighten this out: Muscles don�t need to be confused, baffled, perplexed, puzzled, bewildered, disconcerted or befuddled.

They also don�t need to be �shocked�.

What they need in order to continue growing is to be systematically overloaded and recuperated. Let me repeat that: Systematically Overloaded and Recuperated.

Here�s another piece of startling information. In order to systematically overload and recuperate your muscles, you could feasibly use the same exercises in the same sequence for the next twenty years. I�m not saying you need to or should � only that you could. You could do it and keep gaining muscle mass as long as you know how to accurately and unremittingly overload and recuperate your muscles.

To check the validity of my claim, simply apply your rational faculty. Why would your muscles need to be �tricked� or �confused� in order to grow? Although they might be connected to neuro-transmitters present in the nervous system, they�re not equipped with little micro-brains that need to be fooled.

Simply put, they�re made out of actin and myosin; two proteins that need to be broken down in order to start the process of recuperation that possibly leads to compensatory size increases.

Notice I used the word �possibly�. If we break the tissue down and don�t allow enough recuperation to not only repair the damage done but also build compensatory strength and size, our muscles simply won�t grow. They�ll stay the same size or even worse, become a little smaller. That�s what can happen from extreme over-training.

Where did �Muscle Confusion� Originate?

The stimulus that started and perpetuates the muscle confusion lie is another common phenomenon and myth in bodybuilding: the �pump�. This is a phenomenon because it really occurs; people do get a feeling of expansion in their muscles after working them. It�s a myth, however, from the standpoint of believing that this sensation represents evidence of muscle growth. A pumped sensation in a worked muscle is caused by a back pressure of blood flow and lactic acid in the capillaries. It has nothing to do with inter-workout recuperation and compensatory tissue growth. Therefore, regardless of whether a change in our workout routine causes us to imagine or actually feel a better pump, it�s not an indication of real progress.

But the facts haven�t stopped it from feeding the muscle confusion myth. People will swear up and down that their change of routine has given them a better pump and a subsequent resumption of progress. My objections are only proven correct when these individuals possess muscles that haven�t grown at all six months or a year later.

Why �Muscle Confusion� can hold you back

Frankly, too much adherence to the muscle confusion principle can cause feedback confusion. If we change our exercises and routine too often, we won�t accumulate enough feedback to tweak our volume strategy and put it in to the momentous gaining zone. I�ve seen people change their exercises every week. I�ve even been one of those people (years ago). Would you like to know where all that �muscle confusion� got me? Absolutely nowhere � nadda - Zilch! I had good workout pumps. But I experienced no gains at all from massive confusing and befuddling of my muscles and entire body.

Some people claim they need to change their bodybuilding exercises once in a while to alleviate boredom. That�s fine, as long as it�s not so often as to hamper the ability to read feedback and make adjustments that lead to actual gains.

Personally, I never get bored in the gym. There�s something so exciting about seeing continuous muscle growth happening naturally and directly on my formerly hard-gainer body. It blows away any fleeting sensation I might have once gotten from merely changing an exercise in the name of� �confusion�.

Scott Abbett is the author of HardBody Success: 28 Principles to Create Your Ultimate Body and Shape Your Mind for Incredible Success.

Scott is a certified fitness trainer and a certified Master Practitioner and Trainer of NLP. You can view his own phyical transformation by visiting

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