Muscle Confusion: This easy switch will help you stick to your fitness routine, and get more out of your workouts
Working out can sometimes be a bore. Especially if you stick to the same routine day in and day out. Now, a new study recommends being more adventurous in the gym for greater physical as well as mental health gains. The key recommendation of the study, which made several suggestions for getting more out of your workout, was “muscle confusion”.
Muscle confusion is the act of building variety into your workout. This has at least three advantages. First, muscles can get used to certain movements and stop growing; switching things up helps you avoid these plateaus in strength-training. Second, engaging different muscles on different days helps to prevent muscle fatigue - giving the muscle enough time to rest and recuperate also enhances the benefits of the workout. And third, mixing things up means you can’t do the exercises on auto-pilot, as it were, and engaging the brain in a physical workout keeps you young(er)!
With the surge in technological innovation and research on working out, there are more ways than ever to attain a fit and healthy body. Building on this, a study published in PLOS One, a peer-reviewed journal, in December looked at ways to augment resistance training.
Researchers from Spain's University of the Basque Country UPV/EHU and the Health Sciences Department, Bronx, New York, US, randomly assigned participants to a control and experimental group. In the control group, participants performed three sets of six exercises four times per week and in the experimental group, participants performed routines of similar duration and intensity but the exercises were randomly chosen by an application. Both groups exercised for a total of eight weeks.
Imaging tests and measurement techniques were used constantly to gauge muscle thickness after the workouts. Crucially, the researchers asked the participants to fill out a survey detailing their motivation levels one day before and after the intervention. Fifteen of the participants completed the survey fully.
The results of the study suggested that there was no significant difference in muscle mass gain between the two groups. Interestingly, however, the motivation level of the participants who performed the random workouts was significantly higher than those who stuck to conventional workouts.
The study had a few limitations, too. For starters, it was small, with only 21 participants, and two dropped out for personal reasons while it was ongoing. The researchers only studied males around the age of 25 all of whom were well-versed in weight training. They had all done resistance training for at least two years before the study.
Recommendations to get more out of each workout
Given that the study was small and only consisted of fit, young men, there were no claims of causality or any radical recommendations. However, there is some practical advice that can be ascertained from the study:
- Try different variations of exercises when you’re at the gym.
- Being actively involved in your workouts engages your cognitive abilities as well.
- Lots of people start with grand plans which fall to the wayside as repetition piles on. Looking at the gym through a more entrepreneurial, adventurous lens may help you stick with your fitness routine, and achieve your goal - whether it’s muscle tone, weight loss, bulking up or running a half-marathon!
- Having a gym buddy might motivate you as well. If there is someone there to track your progress and push you to work out when you are not feeling it yourself, it could make a big difference.
The researchers had some more specific advice as well:
- More complex, free weight exercises (such as squats, deadlifts, etc.) should be kept in constant rotation without the need for variation. Complex exercises challenge many muscle groups at the same time.
- Simpler exercises with a limited degree of movement, and which don’t require much motor learning, are the ones that should be experimented with more in terms of variations and inclusion in the regimen.
All the participants in the study gained muscle mass, and the common denominator was persistence: 95% of them completed all the workouts assigned to them!
For more on this topic, please read our article on Intense Bodyweight Exercises You Can Do At Home.
Health articles in Firstpost are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health.
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Updated Date: Jan 10, 2020 15:41:55 IST
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