Monday, November 09, 2009
Muscle Confusion Explained
I finished cleaning, bolting, and doing the moves on a route in the Wasatch this weekend. I can do it in sections but linking them is going to take improvement. With winter around the corner I don’t have much time to improve as well as peak. It’s time for a short cycle.
One of the concepts that seems the hardest to impart to our P90X athletes is how (or why) to peak. Even though Xers tend not to consider themselves athletes because they lack a performance-oriented goal, it’s important to understand that all training at this level adheres to athletic principles. The entire theory of “muscle confusion,” as we call it, is based on periodization, or training in targeted cycles that keep your body adapting and growing, while minimizing the plateaus that happen in between.
All periodized programs are structured around some sort of peak. This is why most of our customers get the best results during the latter phases of our programs. It’s by design. In a less intense program, customized for less conditioned clients (like Power 90), the structure is less rigid because the adaption takes longer. The fitter you are the quicker your body reacts to training.
Most science shows that a three week on, one off, cycle of training is about as short as you can go to maximize the adaptive and growth phase so that’s what we’ve used in P90X (though we often recommend that certain individuals lengthen the training blocks). The idea is the halt the growth phase before a plateau happens, recover, then re-shuffle and add intensity in the subsequent training block. In X, the final block adds a week of high intensity, at which point we recommend a break before taking your final fitness test. This is where we’ve designed your peak to happen, about a week or more after your final hard workout.
The longer you have to meet your goal the more effective your training can be because you can focus entire training cycles (the 12 weeks of P90X is one cycle) on your weak areas and still have time to blend this new strength into your body’s system for performance (integration training). This is why athletes make their biggest changes in the off-season.
But none of this helps me. I’ve got a few weeks, tops, to train (foundation, adapt, growth phases) and peak (integration and recovery phases). This requires a whole different mindset about training, which I’ll explain tomorrow.