Muscle Confusion

Share This:

Sorry I’ve been a bit absent this week.  Between fighting off this bitch of a cold, prepping for a presentation on posture and low back pain I’m doing at Bose Headquarters this afternoon, and tying up loose ends before heading off on vacation this weekend, my hands have been a bit full.

There’s all of that and a funny story about Lisa almost attacking me with a pillow in the middle of the night thinking I was someone breaking into our apartment. But I’ll save that for a Miscellaneous Monday post down the road.

Nevertheless, today I have an awesome guest post by Nate Palmer on muscle confusion.  For those who enjoy my writing style, this one will be right on par.  Enjoy!

Muscle Confus….. whaaaa????

If you’re reading this right now, I’m making some broad assumptions about you:

  • You have above average knowledge of muscular and athletic training.
  • You’re a 7.5 or better on the general attractiveness scale.
  • You know and respect the work of people like McGill, Polquin, Bieber, and Cressey.
  • You are passionate about squatting, building muscle, moving well, and quoting Bane as much as possible.

If you fall into any of those categories, I believe it’s safe to assume that you’ve also heard the phrase “muscle confusion” thrown around like a hipster at a Ramstein concert. It’s all over the news, in radio ads, general fitness articles, and p90x.

Generally the definition of muscle confusion is that by continuing to mix up the exercises/sets/reps/tempo etc. one can ‘trick’ the muscles into growing or burning more fat based on the idea the muscles will adapt to the same stimulus over and over again.

The benefit here is that it is possible to continue to coax new growth out of your muscles without them ever catching on to the fact that you are not, in fact, Mariusz Pudjianowski. Another benefit is that the same routine can be used by a variety of types of trainees with good results.

This is actually science, and since science should not be ignored, I wanted to help clear up the mystical BS surrounding the theory of muscle confusion, and help you create your own muscle confusion workout.  At the end, I will give you an example of a workout that I have used for many years with great results, both in my own training, and for many of my clients.

Here is a proven 10 step system that will help you go from Hayden Christiansen status to being a training Yoda in just minutes.

  1. List your goals out on a piece of paper. Be as specific as you can. (i.e. don’t just put “I want to be ripped” put that you want to be bodyweight of 185 at bodyfat percentage of 8%. Don’t put “get stronger” but say you want to squat 315 x 10)
  2. Underneath each goal, write 2-5 exercises that will contribute to your success in that activity.
  3. Now take 12 sticky notes and write down other activities that you enjoy doing, whether that’s sewing, rock climbing, or watching Jumanji on repeat.
  4. Put the sticky notes on your fridge for motivation
  5. While you’re at your fridge, grab something to eat. You don’t want to be hungry while dealing with the advanced principles of muscle confusion.
  6. Grab a calendar for the month. Write down your 7 favorite numbers on it.
  7. Tear all the papers into small pieces and put them into your protein shaker bottle. Shake vigorously for 30-60 seconds to maximize triceps involvement.
  8. Go to the gym with said protein shaker, and begin removing pieces of paper. If legible, tear into smaller pieces and repeat step 7.  If you’re becoming confused, that means your muscles are becoming adequately prepped for the workout. While pulling out scraps of paper, you should be haphazardly guessing what they say and doing the exercises with the sets and reps in the way they come out of the shaker.
  9. Your workout should end when the sum of all your sets and reps = 37, or when the minute hand of the clock hits a really cool number.
  10. Make sure to end every session with a naked bosu ball kettlebell snatch on the stair master. Your muscles won’t have any idea what the F just happened!

******BONUS *******

Muscle Confusion Nutrition; the do’s and don’ts.


Mix 3 parts margarita, with 1 part jack3d and 1 part goji berry extract for the perfect pre-workout beverage. For optimal results, use as a suppository.

Consume as much rotisserie chicken as possible during the workout to involve the digestive system, and to confuse the abs from the inside out.


Have a traditional post workout meal, but instead eat the third thing you see on the way home from the gym. Take a different route every time, or close your eyes while driving to ensure proper confusion.

Listen to the experts. Every body is different, and needs different stimuli to continue growing. Optimize your gains the right way! The confusing way.


Please don’t do this. Any of it really. Except the naked bosu ball snatches. You should do those.

If you’re interested in the actual scientific principle of muscle confusion, look no further than progressive overload, which very simply states that in order to make progress, you must challenge your muscles in ways they haven’t been challenged before. This can take the form of something as simple as adding another rep, or another 5lbs to the bar.

If you are the guy who constantly goes to the gym and does the same 3×10 with 135 every Monday on bench press, you’re not going to make any progress because you haven’t given your muscles any reason to change from the size they are, because they are fully capable of doing your workout.

Constantly changing the stimulus by doing more work per session is the way to create and maintain lasting gains. You don’t need to be jumping from program to program week after week. This will never allow your central nervous system (CNS) to adapt to the movements (which is a good thing that will help you lift more), and you’ll never get any bigger or stronger.

Want to get big and strong? Pick 2-3 big exercises and get really, REALLY strong at them. Add 5lbs per week to start, then add 2.5lbs per week, and if necessary, add 1 lb per week. Do that for a full year. That way, at the end of this year, you will have put somewhere between 50 and 150lbs on your squat. Instead of what you did last year, which was jump around too much and end up with a strained shoulder and a 180lbs squat.

If you want to get brutally strong, stay lean and get legs the size of tree trunks, institute a 20 rep squat protocol.  Start lower than you think you should, and add between 1 and 10lbs per week, making lower jumps as you increase weight. At the end of a year, you can easily go from doing 135×20 to doing 250×20.

The most confusing thing you can do for your muscles is squat 300lbs 20 times.  Do that, and ditch your fitness DVD’s.

You’re welcome. That will be 49.99.

Author’s Bio

Nate Palmer is a NASM certified personal trainer and corrective exercise specialist. He specializes in weight loss, rehabilitation and stretching, and athletic training. He also loves the smell of vanilla candles, and looking at pictures of puppies online, but he would never admit it.

He’s currently employed at PRO Sports Club in the greater Seattle Area, and for more information check out his website HERE.



Did what you just read make your day? Ruin it? Either way, you should share it with your friends and/or comment below.

Share This Post:


Plus, get a copy of Tony’s Pick Things Up, a quick-tip guide to everything deadlift-related. See his butt? Yeah. It’s good. You should probably listen to him if you have any hope of getting a butt that good.

I don’t share email information. Ever. Because I’m not a jerk.

Comments for This Entry

Leave a Comment