Body builders are as prone to reaching plateaus as dieters and other runners. A plateau is where you are successful to a point and then progress seems to stop. You are still working, perhaps as hard as ever.
With a runner the plateau is a distance he can’t seem to get past while training for a race. Dieters hit a reasonably happy place with their weight loss regimen but are unable to push through those last few pounds to reach their ideal number.
Body builders are gaining muscle then suddenly they aren’t. That big competition is just weeks away and they do not know what to do in order to restart their original pattern of growth.
Muscles Get Bored
In a way, the body becomes bored with the same old routine of doing the same exercises and feeding it the same food. With boredom comes complacency and a “ho hum” response. Whereas it was challenged before to keep up, now you can’t motivate your muscles or metabolism anymore. Your system needs a reboot; a recharge; a challenge. That is what muscle confusion provides.
What is Muscle Confusion?
Often, athletes create a circuit where they rotate through a variety of machines or weights, complete a selected set of repetitions, perhaps increase the weights little by little, always working out in the same way. They use the same moves, do them the same number of times, and perform them the same way. If a body builder is not getting bored after three months of this, his body sure is.
With muscle confusion, the athlete changes things enough to make his metabolism sit up and listen. Alterations can be big or small but all of them signal the muscles to do something new.
Methods of Muscle Confusion
Experts say that even a minute change is potentially helpful. For instance, holding a weight differently (vertically rather than horizontally) could trigger a response. Add a different movement entirely and do the movement more slowly. Sit in a shorter range during your reps instead of filling out the move.
Body Weight vs. Free Weights and Machines
A new craze is sweeping the fitness world: using body weight to achieve desired results in fat loss and muscle building. If you have not tried it, this could be the easiest way to confuse muscles and encourage growth once more. Intersperse body weight moves (push ups, burpees, T-stands, and planks, for example) throughout your routine. Alternate one set of dumbbell lifts with a series of push-ups.
Recommended Time Span
The experts recommend that no more than a few months should go by before you are switching your routine, even a little. Remember to measure muscles at the start and the end or you will not know if the change-up is helping.
Another answer to muscle-building plateaus could be nutrition; that is, are you eating sufficient amounts of protein and consuming food after working out? Rule out a catabolic reaction where muscle cells are recruited as fuel after an arduous session of squats and lifts.
Explore the world of protein powders and BCAA drink mixes in order to send the required amount of amino acids to muscle tissue. This will help muscles to heal and to grow even after you have stopped working out.