In Part 1 of this series Batman destroyed the myth that 12-20 reps is how you tone a muscle. It is my understanding that since the post went viral The Toner can’t even get a job as head of security for Tracy Anderson. If you understand that joke we just became best friends. Cue the scene from “Step Brothers.” I also went over and referenced an article by Mike Robertson debunking the myth that high intensity interval training is all you need to do. If you haven’t read part 1, it’s pretty awesome (http://www.jbperformancetraining.com/blog/2014/11/18/4-myths-that-need-to-stop-part-1). Part 2 is dedicated to dissecting the concept of ‘muscle confusion’ and dispelling the myth that Pilates and yoga creates long lean muscles.
Myth #3- Muscle Confusion
Muscle confusion is a concept championed by P90X, Insanity, and Crossfit. The premise is that you ‘confuse’ your muscles into continually growing/getting stronger by doing random workouts. This way, the body will never adapt to a certain stimulus.
Sounds believable, and unfortunately that’s hook, line and sinker for a lot of people out there. Not to mention your Crossfit instructor who has a weekend certification told you this, so it must be true.
The fitness industry is filled with spectrums. People like to be at one end or the either. However, the answer usually lies somewhere in the middle. On one end you have people that lack any sort of variety whatsoever. They love their routine and haaaaate change. They’ve also been bench pressing 185lbs every Monday for the last 4 years. After all, every guy knows that Monday is ‘International Bench Press Day.’ Legs on a Monday? That’s crazy talk.
If you’re one of these people, realize that doing the same thing over and over again will not produce results after a certain point as the body becomes accustomed to that stimulus. Don’t be afraid to throw in some dumbbell work and weighted push-ups to create a different stimulus.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have the concept of muscle confusion.
There is a wide array of evidence to show that variety is one of the most important aspects for continual muscular growth and development in a periodized training program.[i] (A periodized program is a systematic way of planning your training regimen.)
Yet, there is absolutely no evidence to show that muscle confusion is superior to a periodized training program in terms of strength and development. None.
The problem with random is that you’re essentially overwhelming your CNS (central nervous system) with too many different stimuli. Your CNS needs to be as efficient as possible. Think of it as the boss when it comes to any sort of movement. It needs to work proficiently to allow more motor neurons to fire to the muscle. More neurons means stronger and more efficient contractions (that’s a good thing).
In a nutshell…variety is crucial, doing the same thing over and over again is stupidity, and random is counterproductive.
What method do you think will get someone to their fitness goals faster?
Doing the exact same thing over and over and over and over again;
Completely random workouts with no care for what you did the day/week/month before;
A well thought out, systematic program based on an individual’s needs and goals.
If you do Crossfit, P90X, or Insanity style workouts, go hard. All the power to you. It’s way better than doing nothing. In fact, you’re probably in the best shape of your life because of it and that’s fantastic!
So before you get upset, read this next paragraph carefully, and read it more than once…
Just because it worked for you doesn’t make it the most effective or safest way to get into shape. I can lose weight eating 1000kcal/day worth of Twinkies. Does that make this strategy the most effective weight loss approach? The “it worked for me so it must be the best thing out there” argument is invalid. Stop using it.
I could get into the injury rates of these types of workouts but it’s not really clear in the literature how many they actually produce. The one thing I will say is this…Crossfit is a fitness regimen for 99% of the people that do it. Quit comparing the injury rates of a fitness regimen to sports like football or hockey to justify them happening. These sports involve an element of outside chaos where grown men/women are trying to rip your head off. I get that shit happens sometimes, but everything in the weight room can and should be controlled.
Crossfitter: If muscle confusion is as counterproductive as you claim, then why am I in the best shape of my life? Clearly you don’t know anything about science and you’re just a hater.
I hate on stupidity and misinformation, which is what these 4 myth are. If you disagree with the science presented because it gets in the way of your own personal belief, then it’s time to expand your mind.
You’re in the best shape of your life because of two things:
Hard work and consistency.
Crossfit is hard. They create a great environment that people love. This keeps them coming back, and keeps them consistent. Just imagine the results they would get if they started showing some semblance of good programming. They do a lot of things right, but the programming done by Crossfit HQ isn’t one of them. Until they cut out the random programming, kipping pull-ups, and high rep box jumps/Olympic lifts…their methods are tough to respect.
To the Crossfit owners that do their own programming that actually makes sense...Quit defending something you don’t actually do. If you don’t want to be associated with “the bad Crossfit” then change your name.
Much respect to you for doing your own thing. Keep fighting the good fight.
Myth #4- Pilates and Yoga Creates Long Lean Muscles
Pilates and yoga have numerous benefits that everyone should take advantage of. The main benefit I see is that it slows down your sympathetic nervous system which is critical for recovery[ii]. A person who is overly driven in their sympathetic nervous system will have decreased nutrient absorption, decreased quality of sleep, decreased adaptive response to training, decreased anabolic hormones, increased catabolic hormones, increased body fat and decreased lean muscle mass.[iii]
Both are also a great tool to improve one’s flexibility (something most people need more of). I will say this though…flexibility is determined mainly by neural control, not muscle ‘tightness’.
However, the claim that they create long lean muscles is simply not true.
Have you ever heard of a short fat muscle?
A ‘fat muscle’ does not exist. That’s called fat.
Adding flexibility to a muscle doesn’t give you a long lean look. If you want that, there are really only 2 options for you;
1) Get lean. Do yoga, do Pilates, do Crossfit, go for a swim. I don’t really care. Some ways are better than others at losing body fat but please just do something. Get your nutrition on point (Read anything and everything by Alan Aragon). Get a good night’s sleep. Take care of your body. Be consistent. Most importantly, enjoy life!
Unfortunately for some people, this look is never attainable. So that leaves us with option #2.
2) Build a time machine. Go back in time. Pick better parents. The taller the better. A short stocky person will never have a long lean look. Go to as many Pilates classes as you want, it won’t change anything.
This is just my personal opinion but I think this myth is tied into the ‘toning’ concept. Females are afraid of bulking up if they lift weights. They still want to stay active, and Pilates and yoga are a great way to do so. The marketing machine takes over and the myth begins. Like I said at the start of the post, they both have benefits everyone should take advantage of. But they do not create long lean muscles.
Pilates Enthusiast: Everyone that does yoga and Pilates has that long lean look. Ipso facto you’re wrong again and you don’t know anything about science…again.
The people that do Pilates and yoga are the types of people that take care of themselves. They eat right. They do some sort of physical activity every day. They’re consistent.
Has anyone else noticed the correlation between being consistent and getting results? Remember that.
Like I stated before, you and I can disagree on a few things. But we cannot disagree on what the science says. If your personal opinions and beliefs get in the way of science then I can’t help you past this point. I really do feel sorry for the general public. There’s so much misinformation and stupidity out there it’s tough to know what to believe. My hope is that this sheds some light on 4 myths that are continually circulated in the mainstream media. At the end of the day, do what you love doing and stay consistent with it.
[i] Harries, S.K (2014) Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Linear and Undulating Periodized Resistance Training Programs on Muscular Strength. J Strength Cond Res. Sep 29
[ii] Sharma, S. (2014). Mindfulness-based stress reduction as a stress management intervention for healthy individuals: a systematic review. J. Evid Based Complementary Altern Med. 19(4):271-86.
[iii] Hulse, E. (2009) How to Increase Anabolic Hormones By Balancing the Autonomic Nervous System.