workout variation

Chances are you’ve come across the term “muscle confusion” at some point or another…

It’s the idea that you need to be constantly switching up your workouts from week to week by varying your exercise selection, rep ranges and rest periods in order to “shock” your muscles into new growth.

Fail to do this, and your body will quickly adapt and become accustomed to the same stimulus, stopping your muscle building and strength gaining efforts dead in their tracks.

While this might make sense on the surface, the truth is that continually changing up your workouts every week or two is actually a key mistake that will slow down your progress rather than speed it up.

Here’s why…

Why Constant Workout Variation Will Slow Down Your Progress

muscle confusion

Intensity, volume and frequency are all important factors that play a central role in determining what type of results you achieve from your program…

When it all comes down to it though, progressive overload is the ultimate bottom line.

In other words, the underlying variable that will primarily determine how quickly (or slowly) you pack on muscle is how efficiently you’re able to increase the amount of weight lifted on all of your exercises in the gym. (While maintaining proper form of course)

As a general rule, the faster you gain strength, the faster you’ll gain muscle.

And this is exactly why “mixing up” your training variables on a highly frequent basis is NOT the way to optimize your gains…

Utilize different exercises, rep ranges and rest periods from week to week (or even every few weeks) and it will become very difficult to properly measure your progress over time.

If today’s chest workout consists of a low rep flat dumbbell press and medium rep cable fly, and the next week you perform a medium rep incline barbell press and high rep machine fly, followed by something different yet again the week after that, you really won’t have anything concrete to measure your progress against.

In all likelihood, this type of approach will simply leave you spinning your wheels and aimlessly bouncing around from workout to workout just like most lifters in the gym do, progressing at only a fraction of your true potential, if at all.

Since steadily adding more weight to the bar over time should be your #1 focus, you’ll be much better off to follow a pre-set workout plan and commit to it over a reasonable length of time before moving on to something else.

how often to change workout

Lay out a concrete sequence of training days, exercises, sets and reps, and then put all of your effort on getting as strong as possible on that particular routine for as long as you can.

As long as you’re coming back to the gym stronger from week to week by lifting slightly more weight or performing additional reps with the same weight, there’s really no need to change anything at all.

Strength gains are the best indication that your training plan is on the right track, so why would you want to take a routine that’s working and randomly switch to something else?

As long as you’re executing your workouts with a sufficient level of intensity, are resting adequately between sessions and have a properly structured eating plan in place, then you should be able to make steady progress on the same routine for quite a while before there’s any need to make changes.

This is especially true for beginners, as they can typically make linear progress using the same basic workout plan for a very long time (even a year or more) without needing to deviate at all.

The whole concept of “muscle confusion” or “muscle shock” is completely over-blown, and in many cases, worrying about this will be directly counter-productive to your goals.

When Should You Change Your Workout?

muscle shock

I’m of course not saying that you should never change your workout or mix up your training variables…

I’m just saying that you should always commit to a set routine and progress on it for a consistent phase of training before moving on to something different.

If your strength gains hit a plateau (despite making the proper nutritional adjustments) or you’ve made significant strength gains on a particular routine and are ready to switch things up, then you can consider changing your workout.

For example, as you move through various stages of training from beginner to intermediate or intermediate to advanced, different training splits may be more appropriate for you.

That could mean switching from a full body routine as a beginner to an upper/lower split as an intermediate, or an upper/lower split as an intermediate to a legs/push/pull split as a more experienced trainee. (This is just one example)

Another reason to change your workout might be to incorporate different exercises in order to emphasize certain muscle groups or movement patterns, or different rep ranges if you’ve been primarily training within a specific range for some time.

Or, if you’re an advanced lifter then you may want to include a phase of specialization training to bring up a lagging muscle group.

Let’s also not forget the simple issue of mental variety, as you may want to mix things up purely for that reason in order to keep your workouts fun and interesting and to increase your motivation to train.

There are many possible reasons why it may be appropriate to change your workout, but it shouldn’t be happening nearly as often as you might think, and it has nothing to do with this nonsensical idea of “muscle confusion”.

The Bottom Line On Frequent Workout Variation

when to change workout

The bottom line is this…

Get yourself onto a step-by-step routine that’s appropriate for your goals…

Stick with that routine and make as much progress on it as you possibly can…

And if/when your strength gains begin to plateau OR the time is appropriate to move onto a different workout split or style of training, then you can change things up.

However, varying your workouts too often is not only unnecessary but is directly counter-productive in most situations.

If you found these tips helpful and want to get my complete recommended sequence of routines for beginner, intermediate and advances lifters, make sure to check out my interactive video presentation below…

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