Are You Confused About Muscle Confusion?

If you know and love CrossFit, you probably already have a good idea of what muscle confusion is and how it is beneficial to your workout.

But if you’re new to the CrossFit world or are thinking about joining a gym, learning about how muscle confusion works will be one of your first steps when understanding your Workouts of the Day (WODs). The first thing you’ll notice is that these movements are functional and focus on involving multiple muscle groups as opposed to isolation exercises like curls and presses.

And in case you’re really green (and eager!), here’s a quick refresher:

What is CrossFit?

CrossFit is a specific method of training that is designed to be more of a lifestyle than simply a workout. Promoting efficient, functional exercise and healthy eating habits. CrossFit is not only a form of exercise, it’s a community, and everyone involved is welcoming to those of all levels of experience.

The second thing you’ll notice is that your CrossFit training program will seem different every day! Don’t get fooled, though. WODs adhere to categorical planning, providing a constant variation and focusing on compound movements in high intensity.

What are the components of CrossFit workouts?

Providing constant variation of functional movements through your daily workout allows athletes to maximize the efficiency of their workouts, providing the most possible benefit to individuals pursuing CrossFit as an activity.

There are three segments of movements in CrossFit workouts:

  1. Monostructural - metabolic conditioning (cardio)
  2. Gymnastics - bodyweight exercises
  3. Weightlifting - any type of lifting including Olympic and powerlifting

Each of these segments of movement are included in your CrossFit schedule, either on the same day as a variable workout or on alternating days, depending on your programming.

What is muscle confusion?

CrossFit workouts incorporate a wide variety of movements. While some CrossFit newbies may see these workouts as seemingly “random” this is simply not the case.

The goal of the different combinations of exercises is to cause “maximum muscle confusion”.

Muscle confusion has been shown not only to help overcome fitness boredom but also to provide a mental and physical confusion while preventing complacency or a “routine” way of working out. The muscles and the mind respond to unfamiliar/new workouts by adapting to the environment instead of becoming complacent.

It has been proven that workouts must be varied as the body (and the mind) will get “used” to them and the benefit will start diminishing.

Of course, doing your same routine over and over is more beneficial than sitting on the couch, but taking a CrossFit approach to working out (including muscle confusion) can help keep all your workouts fresh, exciting, and productive.

What are the benefits of muscle confusion?

CrossFit utilizing muscle confusion and varying workouts according to the three segments of movement is entirely strategic, as there are many benefits of structuring workouts this way.

Benefits of exercise variety include:

  1. Overcome boredom with your fitness routine
  2. Keep muscles from becoming complacent
  3. Working more parts of your muscles through varied movements
  4. Motivation to workout is increased

In fact, The New York Times reported that in a study on muscle confusion, groups participating in the muscle confusion workouts reported feeling “much more motivated to exercise” than their counterparts with the “same old routine”. (The New York Times)

Examples of muscle confusion include: high-rep, low-weight days; low-rep, high-weight days; and "normal" days (in between). Basically, the concept is to provide as much variation as possible which will ensure you are getting a more well rounded workout, hitting more muscle groups with the functional and compound movements.

Summary

While CrossFit may not be the ideal workout for everyone, there are merits to creating workouts to incorporate “muscle confusion” or more exercise variation. One major benefit is the increased desire to workout, which is a huge struggle for many people in the first place. When a workout is exciting and fun, it’s easier to motivate yourself to make your way to the gym. And we’re all on board for that.

The lesson we should take from this is to switch up our exercises through the week. You aren't confusing your muscles to keep them from getting too comfortable; you're realigning them in a balanced, helpful manner at each workout. Consequently, you'll be less likely to plateau or get injured, something everyone will support!

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