I’m sure most people reading this have heard of the Muscle Confusion Principle. The idea is to change exercises and set and rep schemes on a regular basis, to keep the muscles guessing. How can you make great progress in any one exercise if you don’t focus on it long enough? Sticking with and practicing a skill is the only way to master it. I don’t recommend jumping around when trying to be successful at anything, including lifting.
[Pistol Pete Maravich, carried a basketball around with him 8 hours per day from the age of 12 until he reached the NBA. When asked why…”You don’t get here by just wishing”. I love that quote!]
Going from a Beginner to an Intermediate is Easy…
Getting stronger is a skill to a certain extent. Just like any other skill, the quickest amount of improvement happens when starting out. Within a few years a soccer player can go from a complete beginner with no skill at all, to an Intermediate who has great control of the ball. The route from beginner to Intermediate is a short one…going from Intermediate to Elite can take decades. The same thing goes with lifting. Don’t expect to master the bench press or military press in 2-3 years. It can take 10-20+ years to reach your highest potential in these lifts.
You Don’t Perfect One Skill by Switching to Another
Getting in top shape and getting stronger at a lift isn’t that much different from any other skill. Take the example of a soccer player. It doesn’t make sense for that soccer player to switch to baseball to improve his soccer skills. On the path to greatness this soccer player will go through periods of time where progress “appears” to be at a standstill. The “greats” in any sport or endeavor are the ones who practice in spite of no visual signs of progress.
“The Jack of All Trades, Master of None”
Becoming great at anything involves doing practicing a skill even after the initial enthusiasm wears off. It is fun to “hop from one thing to the next”, but mastering a skill involves performing that skill with a ton of repetition. Most people quit when things get boring. To reach the top in anything…push through the boring times. This isn’t just an approach to lifting, it applies to anything worth doing.
How This Applies to Lifting Weights and Exercising
I recommend picking at least one basic exercise per body part and keeping it a constant in your workout routine. Do it first so you have a way of measuring progress. For variety, you can change the other exercises in your routine…but keep this one a constant. Pick one exercise for each muscle group and measure your progress over a period of years.
Take Breaks from This Lift for Periods of Time…
You certainly can take breaks from these lifts for a month or two at a time, but then come back with a renewed focus on these lifts. I’ve been mastering the basic barbell curl, the seated dumbbell military press, the incline dumbbell press, and one arm dumbbell rows for over 15 years. I’ll mix it up every now and then to give my joints a rest, but I always come back to these lifts for sets of 3-5 reps. When I come back I try to work my way up to personal bests. After 4-6 months I may only get stronger by 2.5 pounds or one more rep, but over a period of many years this has translated into impressive weight as well as major muscle definition in the muscle group being worked.
The Myth of “Hitting the Muscle from Every Angle”
I will do a post on this subject as well at this point. Just realize this…there isn’t a need to work a ton of different angles to insure that a muscle gets worked. This should be good news to you who workout at home with limited equipment.
One Last Thing…
I’m not talking in “absolutes” here. You can switch things up and get great results as well…just don’t be afraid to stick with something for a while. Many people hop around too much in my opinion.
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