Muscle Confusion – the Key to Strength and Tone?

About 3 weeks ago, I met my workout partner at the gym on a Saturday morning and we ran through a new workout sequence that Michael called a “super set.”   This involved 50 repetitions of a variety of machine equipment exercises set at a medium weight.   We did leg presses, seated arm presses, seated tricep push downs, hamstring extensions and seated shoulder presses.

That afternoon, I was so exhausted, that I took a 3 hour nap.

Over the past 3 weeks, we have added this “super set” to our weekly routine – performing it twice a week and even adding additional exercises.  This morning (Saturday) we did a super set that included more exercises at higher weights than the one we did three weeks ago.

I have a normal post-workout burn but I am not fatigued like I was after that first set and I feel no worse after doing these super sets than I do with any other exercise routine.

I suspect that muscle confusion and muscle adaptation offers an explanation.  I do find it interesting that the fatigue associated with muscle confusion happened only after that first set.

I am thinking that I need to come up with different routines to re-create that muscle confusion, both for weight loss and for increased strength.

Use a Decline Bench for Free Weight Exercises

There are many possible weight lifting exercises that you can do to improve your strength and increase your muscle tone.   As a rule, I prefer free weights over machine exercises because machines limit you to one plan of motion.  By contrast, free weights force you to use stabilizing muscles which tends to improve tone.

Further, there is a bit of  a fear factor with free weights  – you know that if you drop them you could embarass yourself, hurt yourself or your workout partner.  In my experience, you are much more attuned to your limits when you use free weights.

I find that I get a lot out of decline bench workouts.  A decline bench is like a regular weight bench except that the head of the bench sits at a 45 degree angle – in other words, your head and arms are inclined below your feet.  For me, this type of workout fits my body type and I feel that it puts less stress on my shoulder joints.

At some point, I will do my own video, but for now, here is an example of a decline bench exercise that is done effectively.  You can use a barbell, dumbbells, or kettlebells with a decline bench.

You can find other examples of decline bench exercises on YouTube although many of them feature blaring music and gym rats who are lifting 400 lbs.  You don’t need a lot of weight – lift what you can do comfortably and handle 10 to 15 reps for 3 sets before you move up in weight.

Great Blog Post – Top 10 Ways to Build Muscle Mass Fast

I recently ran across a very helpful post at the Ririan Project blog.  The post, entitled "Top 10 Ways to Build Muscle Mass Fast" summarizes in a very easily understandable fashion the importance of both the type of exercises one must do to build muscle mass and the duration of those exercises.  Guest poster Mark McManus also discusses the role of cardio and the importance of eating lean protein.

Marc’s post summarizes in a few hundred words what a lot of folks put in entire books.  Take a look.  Also take a look at Mark’s blog – MuscleHack.  This week he has an insightful post called "10 Things I Wish I Knew When I Was 21."   With March Madness in full swing, this must be the month for numbered lists.