"I want you to write an article about muscle confusion." These words from the "Master Blaster" himself Joe Weider left me confused, much less my muscles. I had just arrived for a meeting with Joe at his Woodland Hills, California office. Surrounded by classic Western sculptures by Remington, Joe seemed relaxed and eager to talk about what he referred to as his "Weider Muscle Confusion principle." Joe liked to adapt long-standing training principles, some of which dated back to Eugene Sandow, the archetypal bodybuilder at the turn of the 20th century, and attach his name to them as if he devised them. Joe chose me to write about many of these venerated training techniques because I was a member of the "Weider Research Clinic." The problem with that was that no one knew where the Weider Research Clinic was, although the former Editor-in-Chief of Joe's Muscle and Fitness magazine, Jeff Everson once told me that the Weider Research Clinic regularly met in a broom closet at the Woodland Hills office.
Luckily for me, I knew what the Muscle Confusion principle was about. It stated that you needed to "confuse" a muscle by regularly changing exercises. According to the principle, muscles became complacent and stopped responding to exercise if the same exercises were used too long. I had seen many examples of this in real-world practice. I trained briefly under the guidance of my bodybuilding idol, Bill Pearl, who had among his credentials four Mr.Universe titles and a Mr.America win in 1953 while still serving in the U.S Navy in San Diego, California. Although he didn't refer to it as "muscle confusion," Bill nonetheless was a firm believer in maintaining a high degree of variety in training. In practical terms, he recommended changing workout routines at least every 6 weeks. He thought that the larger variety of exercises that resulted from this practice would lead to more complete muscular development, as well as faster gains in muscular size and strength. He used this technique to train a number of elite bodybuilders, such as Chris Dickerson, the first black man to win the Mr.America contest in 1970, as well as Jim Morris, who won the title in 1973. While Morris was also black, his win was another bodybuilding first in that he was the first openly gay bodybuilder to win the Mr.America title. But Pearl trained countless other athletes, always ensuring that he completely revised their training routines at least every 6 weeks. Later, he cataloged a huge number of exercises for each muscle group in his massive compendium of exercises book called Keys to the Inner Universe.
Another top trainer, the late Charles Poliquin, went even further than Pearl in relation to the need for exercise variety. Polliquin advised changing exercises every week, and in some cases, every workout. Once again, the thought behind this was that the . . .