By Kyle Arsenault CSCS

“I need to confuse my muscles.” “My body knows what is coming, so I need to switch up the exercises.” “I am not seeing any more progress with my training…time for some new exercises.” Have you ever heard one of these statements before? Or maybe you have even said these things yourself. It is all over the infomercials on television, in our favorite “meathead” magazines and, unfortunately, this idea of constantly switching up your training program has become mainstay in many gyms and training facilities.

Muscle Confusion or Just Confusion?

I am not saying that progressing a program is not conducive to training success, but I am arguing that too many coaches, trainers or self-programmers feel that they can never perform the same training day twice within a week…or even worse, a month! And what is the first thing to change within the program? Yep, the exercise selection. Consistently switching the exercises will not provide the body with the repetition needed to become more efficient and therefor more athletic. And worst of all, if you can never become proficient in a movement due to lack of repetition, you are more likely to move incorrectly and increase your chances of injury.

Lack of Practice…

“But if we don’t switch the exercise, how can we ever progress?” A valid question, and one that needs to be addressed. The exercise is the last variable within a training program that has to change in order to achieve a progressive stimulus. You can manipulate the amount of sets performed, reps performed, rest incorporated, speed with which the exercise is executed, intensity / resistance used, order in which the exercise is performed, position in which the exercise is performed (1/2 kneeling vs split stance) and more. As you can see, the exercise can be manipulated and progressed in many different ways before the movement pattern is exhausted and therefor perfected. And perfecting the movement should be the primary goal for the fact that the better the movement, the better the results. Enhanced movement is the first step to enhanced strength, power, agility and most importantly, reduced risk of injury.

Repetition Provokes Efficiency

So next time someone tells you that you have to switch up the exercises in order to “confuse” your body into results, know that there are a number of various factors you can (and should) manipulate before tossing out an exercise. You need to allow your body time to adapt, grow more efficient, grow bigger, become faster and get stronger within a certain movement/exercise to achieve the greatest results. And when exactly is it time to switch things up? If you begin to lose motivation due to boredom or if your training has not increased for a few weeks (more weight, more reps, faster times, etc) then it is time to switch things up a bit (I prefer refering to “switch” as “progress/vary”). This could simply mean switching grips, stances, speed of execution, etc. Don’t feel that you have to change the exercise completely to experience continued progress.

Consistent Practice Makes Perfect

The old saying goes, “practice makes perfect.” I would like to leave you with a bit more and state that it, “repetitive, consistent and smart practice makes perfect.” And with that said, don’t think about “switching” your training program as much as “varying” your program.

What are your favorite ways to progress/vary your training program. Leave your thoughts below.

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