In the old days, the best workouts were ones you stuck to no matter what. Monday and Wednesdays you tackled your chest, on Tuesdays and Thursdays you blasted your biceps, and on the weekends you did some cardio. It was safe, it was comforting, and, unfortunately, it probably wasn’t doing you as much good as you thought. Muscle confusion, or "periodization," replaces structure with variability. You change the regimen, not the exercises. One of the main upsides to muscle confusion training is that you can do it easily at home. Switch up the schedule week to week and make sure you use as many exercises as possible to blast the same muscle groups.
The principles of periodization offer several ways to change up your routine. Divide your workout week into super set days, endurance days and strength training days. Schedule at least one rest day during the week. It is okay to use rest days to do endurance workouts in between super set and strength training days if you keep your endurance workouts to 30 minutes or less. Longer endurance sessions require full rest days afterward. Switch out the exercises you do every three weeks, but replace those exercises with routines that target the same muscle groups. This is a sample week: Do super sets on Monday, endurance training on Tuesday, upper body strength training on Wednesday, lower body strength training on Thursday, endurance training on Friday and super sets on Saturday. Take a full rest day on Sunday.
One of the most effective ways to confuse your muscles is to use super sets. Normal progression workouts group the same or similar muscle groups into a routine of exercises that work only those groups. A super set involves pairing opposing muscle groups and incorporating sets of back-to-back exercises. You do not rest in between sets. Pick an exercise that hits one major muscle group and then target another muscle group. For example, do a set of 10 kettlebell biceps curls followed immediately by a set of 10 triceps dips. Do three or four super sets that target each major muscle group and rest for no more than two minutes in between each super set. For best results, use super sets for no more than two training days a week and find different exercises to hit the same muscle groups week after week.
Boost your workout intensity by skipping rope for 10 minutes. Switch to high-intensity calisthenics such as jumping jacks for five minutes. Rest up to 90 seconds and then do three sets of 10 wind sprints. Switch to five minutes of shadow boxing, followed by another five minutes of jump roping. Cool down after the endurance workout with a five-minute walk. For your second endurance training day, you should vary the times and arrangement of the exercises, but you don't need to change the workouts themselves. The reason for this is that your body doesn't develop muscle memory in the same way -- you only need to increase the time of the exercise to match your body's ability to acclimate to it.
Use a regular set structure for your non-super set strength training days. Rest for a short amount of time between sets. For your shoulders, do three sets of 20 kettlebell overhead military presses. For your chest, do as many pushups as you can, with your hands placed at shoulder-width, until you reach muscle failure. For abs, do a couple sets of raised leg crunches and then do a couple of sets of standard situps. For arms, do a set of 30 to 40 pushups with your elbows close to your body and then do a couple of sets of biceps curls with a kettlebell. To work out the legs and lower back, do three sets of 20 lunges. Split up the muscle groups into at least two strength training days.
Bobby R. Goldsmith is a writer and editor with over 12 years of experience in journalism, marketing and academics. His work has been published by the Santa Fe Writers Project, "DASH Literary Journal," the "Inland Valley Daily Bulletin" and WiseGEEK.