Muscle Confusion 101: The Myth of the Plateau

Muscle Confusion

Muscle Confusion

So, you’ve been hitting the gym every day for weeks and seeing some good results. You’ve added muscle mass and definition and everything seems to be going fine but then, suddenly, nothing. Not only are you not adding muscle, you’re having a difficult time keeping up with your routine. You’re tiring easily and can barely manage the same number of reps you did last week. What’s going on?

What you are experiencing is commonly called an exercise plateau. Don’t confuse an exercise plateau with a dieting plateau. They are entirely different animals. Simply put, an exercise plateau means you’re in a holding pattern, unable to move forward. You might even find you are losing ground with your fitness goals. The plateau can be one of the most frustrating experiences you’ll encounter on your way to your fitness goals.

Causes and Misconceptions

One myth associated with the exercise plateau is muscle confusion. Some argue that your muscles become too efficient at the workout and therefore stop improving. That advice leads you to switch your routines and try to power through the plateau. The problem with this thinking is that most plateaus are caused by overworking your muscles, not under-stimulating them. If you are experiencing a plateau, then it’s likely you haven’t been allowing sufficient recovery time between workouts. Muscles need time to rest and repair in order to grow. If you aren’t taking a sufficient break between workouts, or are consistently working the same muscles repeatedly in the same way, prepare to plateau.

Working through a Plateau

The best way to work through a plateau is to rest. Take a week off your strength training routine and focus on cardio instead. This will help you maintain your fitness level while giving your muscles a chance to recover. When you go back to your workout, your muscles will be refreshed and ready to work.

Avoid Plateau by Resting your Muscles

Your body is an amazingly efficient tool. While it’s true that your muscles easily adapt to routine movements, plateaus are not caused by routine as many believe. You can follow the same workout routines. Although your progress may slow, you will continue to see gains…unless of course, you work yourself too hard.

The most important things to remember when designing a workout routine are that you should rest at least one day between workouts and you should avoid working out for more than an hour and a half

To get a complete workout but still get enough rest for your muscles, follow this routine:

  • Workout Day 1: Perform cardiovascular exercise for 30 minutes then do strength training for your chest and back. Take 15 minutes for core strength training as well.
  • Take a day off.
  • Workout Day 2: Perform cardiovascular exercise for 30 minutes then do strength training for your shoulders and legs. Take 15 minutes for core strength training as well.
  • Take a day off.
  • Workout Day 3: Perform cardiovascular exercise for 30 minutes then do strength training for your arms. Take 15 minutes for core strength training as well.
  • Take two days off.

Other Considerations

In addition to rest and variety, your muscles also need the proper building material. Make sure your diet is balanced and includes enough calories to keep you going. Write down everything you eat for a week and check it against the calorie recommendations for your weight and age. Be sure your daily diet includes at least eight servings of fruits and vegetables combined. Be sure you are eating protein rich foods at least twice a day.

I really believe muscle confusion has nothing to do with fitness plateaus. My regular routine hasn’t changed and I’m happy with my results. What has your experience been with fitness plateaus? What have you don’t to get beyond them?

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