Those who do an internet search on the words “muscle confusion scam” are usually confronted with two contrasting opinions. One opinion is that the notion of muscle confusion is a scam. This view is often expressed by those who’ve tried fitness programs such as ‘P90X’ or ‘Supreme 90 Day’ and allege to have not achieved the proclaimed benefits after following the respective program to a tee. The counter opinion to this “muscle confusion scam” claim is that muscle confusion really “works” (whatever that means) and that the individuals labeling it a scam are just undedicated buffoons who didn’t give the workouts enough time or commitment. This view is typically expressed by affiliate marketers who are selling the fitness program and have about as much objectivity as a mother judging the performance of her kid’s first music recital. They have too much “skin in the game” to provide a really honest review.
Why “Muscle Confusion” is such a draw
Using a pseudo-scientific buzzword like ‘muscle confusion’ is appealing to both marketer and prospect of a fitness product like P90X. The marketer has a catchy label to which he can attach success of his product’s use in the prospect’s mind. The prospect has a simple, one-word reason to believe. If the product then “works” by the prospects/customers definition of that word, an anchor has been set; there’s a mysterious and esoteric reason for its working; “It must be the muscle confusion.”
But therein is the first level of ambiguity that feeds the ‘muscle confusion scam’: What does it mean for a fitness product to “work?” Does the product help a person to lose fat? If so, how much better is it for that purpose than the thousands of other ways those pounds could be shed? Moreover, what’s the reason for so many people in our society to use such a vague question as “does it work” in so many circumstances? Think about where you hear it:
“Does that business opportunity work?”
“Does trying to meet someone in a place like that really work?”
“Does that diet work?”
“Does P90X work?”
This is often the uttered pattern-of-thought of those who’ve absolved themselves of personal responsibility: Either the circumstance outside oneself “works” or it “doesn’t work” – having little to do with discipline or commitment-to-action from the individual who says it. This mentality just might appear most prevalently among those susceptible to influence by the latest buzzword that not only has no scientific bearing – it has no semblance of common sense; muscle is simply tissue – it cannot be baffled, perplexed, or confused.
But let’s acknowledge those who do take responsibility for their lot in life and might merely ask if a workout program “works” with the intent of determining if positive results will be commensurate with expended effort. I’ve noticed that these people are less likely to fall for the muscle confusion scam; they just want to know if a program like P90X will be effective.
‘Muscle Confusion Scam’: Anything works when “works” is defined loosely
If a person goes from spending most of the day in front of the television soaking up excess calories – to suddenly spending one hour of the day dancing around in front of the television – that person will begin shedding body fat if they consistently keep up the new activity without consuming additional calories. If weight resistance is added to the mix, they’ll begin feeling soreness and tightness in the muscles.
At this point, the P90X zealot/affiliate marketer insists the program’s “working”… via “muscle confusion” no less.
The skeptic will point out that it’s doing nothing that any additional intense activity wouldn’t do for the body. If “working” is defined by how suddenly sore and tired an otherwise sedentary person would be after beginning an activity, a day of rearranging furniture and running up and down a flight of stairs will “work.”
Since many people define fitness progress so loosely, I’ll simply interject this: Any program that increases activity while reducing or keeping calorie intake constant will “work” for losing body fat. Yet the question of whether that program can build a perceptible degree of muscle is a different topic entirely.
“It’s the ‘Muscle Overload’… Silly”: When “muscle confusion” becomes a scam
Muscles make progress in increased strength and size through a process of
- Adequate recuperation (with compensatory strength/size increase)
- Greater Work (Volume Overload)
- Adequate recuperation for the ‘overload’
- Etc… etc…
Pretty simple; there’s no confusion involved. We don’t attempt to keep our muscles “guessing” – we make progress by keeping them intermittently overloaded and recuperated.
So why are some DVD marketers and personal trainers perpetuating the ‘muscle confusion scam?’
My opinion: ‘Perpetual esotericism!’
What do I mean by that?
I mean that a trainer can attach ongoing mystique to any routine he or she conjures up using the justification of “muscle confusion.” Let’s say I’m your trainer and I tell you that today I need you to do sets of push-ups with dumbbells in your hands. Between each pushup repetition, I want you to pull each dumbbell toward your body in a ‘rowing motion.’ (Never mind the ridiculousness of this exercise – in the name of muscle confusion, I can almost have you dong a circus act.) Tomorrow, I could tell you to do the same exercise while changing the reps and bringing each dumbbell up to your sternum in a curling motion. I could tell you that this is all in the name of “shocking your muscles.” If you’re a neophyte, you just might buy it; after all – I’m an “expert.”
If you ARE a neophyte, let me warn you: What I just described is absolute poppycock (as they say in the U.K.). It won’t “shock your muscles.” It won’t “build your core.” It’ll do so little in helping you build a stronger and more attractive body that the imperceptibility of its effects will be almost laughable.
In fact, if a personal trainer or DVD program has you doing this or any unfocused, multi-movement exercise even resembling this – and… especially if it’s all in the name of “muscle confusion”, you’ll have your most salient indication that you’re being duped by…
… the “muscle confusion scam.”
I suggest putting a damper on any preconceived notions and apply rational thinking… immediately.
Even acknowledging that “confusion” in the sense that it’s used to market fitness products means “regular change” rather than literal confusion, I still side with the opinion that muscle confusion is a scam.