Muscle Confusion: Which Workout Is Best?

Which workout is best?

Do you really want to know the answer to that question, because it might disappoint you. I’ll give you a few minutes to think about it. All set? Good. Here we go…

The best workout is:

There is no best workout.

Class dismissed!

I know what you’re saying right now. This guy is a lunatic. I came to find out if Doggcrapp or Wendler’s 5/3/1 was the best was to go, and he just served me a steaming pile of nothing. Well hold on before you go, and let me explain.

Which specific workout you use doesn’t matter much. Now don’t get me wrong. I am not telling you that you can perform a random sequence of pilates, bosu ball squats, and isolation exercises and you will look like Ronnie Coleman. No sir. That’s not what I’m saying at all.

What I am saying is this: when training for muscle and strength, there are a few basic (but important!) rules to follow. If you follow these rules, it won’t matter much which workout program you use.

And what are the rules, you ask? Good question. Everyone in the pool…

My Rules for Productive Weight Training

Here are the rules. Follow them, and you will get big and strong. Don’t follow them and, well, you’ll take a winding road to an unknown destination.

Rule #1: Use Primarily Basic Compound Exercises

What is a basic compound exercise? Sounds complicated, huh? Not really. A compound lift is a movement that utilizes multiple joints and muscles to perform a rep. Example compound lifts are:

  • Squats
  • Deadlifts
  • Dips
  • Pull Ups
  • Bench Press
  • Overhead Press
  • Power Cleans
  • Barbell Rows

There are many more decent compound exercises, but those listed above are a great start.

Compound exercises give you the most bang for your buck. Life is busy, and finding the time to workout can be hard. When you’re in the gym you will want to maximize your time by performing the best possible lifts. Compound exercises are just that!

Rule #2: Focus on Progression

Progression is the adding of reps, and eventually weight. If you benched 200 pounds for 6 reps last week, try for 7 reps today. And when you can perform a reasonable amount of reps with 200 pounds, somewhere around 10 or so, add weight the next time you bench.

That’s progression, and it doesn’t have to be rocket science.

Simple progression of weight is the fastest way to maximize muscle and strength building. remember this statement:

Never waste a set. Never!

No matter how tired you feel, no matter how weak you feel, never waste a set. Always do as many reps as possible, stopping each set when you feel like you may not be able to perform the next rep. There is no need to train to failure, but that is a topic for another article.

Rule #3: Don’t Worry About Complexity

There are a lot of ridiculous rules in the weight training realm. “Rules” like:

You must confuse a muscle and change programs every 6 to 8 weeks… or you will die!

When gains slow, you are doing something wrong and must use advanced training techniques like supersets, drop sets, and bombing and blitzing from every angle.

Complexity and slick approaches are better than basics and hard work.

Listen up, because this is important: nothing is better than hard work with the basic exercises. Nothing. You don’t need supersets. You don’t need Hany Rambod’s FST-7. And you absolutely don’t need to confuse your muscles.

Sure, these can be great tools, but the real magic is consistency, progress and enough food intake.

Natural lifters experience a slowing of gains over time. When these gains naturally slow, there is no need to jump ship on the basics. Stay the course, keep using the basic, staple exercises, and keep focusing on progression.

Advanced lifters who have hit real training walls will need to experiment and evolve their training. If you are not an advanced lifter, don’t overly complicate things and waste your time.

Again, nothing is more effective than hard work on basic exercises. used the advanced tools them you need them. If you need them.

The Final Word

So let’s recap:

Find a workout that focuses on basic compound exercises. Focus on progression or reps and weight on every set. Never waste a set. Avoid the impulse to try advanced training techniques that aren’t needed yet, and will not be better than good, old fashioned hard work for you right now.

Lastly, stick to your program. Whatever you do, don’t jump from program to program every 3.2 weeks. If the excitement of reading about programs and trying programs is more exciting to you than gaining a rep on squats and dips, you are on the fast road to failure.

Steve Shaw
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