Sunday, March 18, 2012

Shocking the Muscle: Important or Not?

The importance of frequently switching up your routine in order to shock your muscles is often preached around the bodybuilding and fitness community. The idea is that your body will get used to doing the same thing over and over and therefore you must constantly change routines and exerercises in order to continue to make progress. Some people go as far as not doing the same workout twice in a row. However, I believe that people become so obsessed with "shocking" the muscle that they are actually doing more harm than good.

If it Ain't Broke, Don't Fix it

People get too caught up in switching up their routine just for the sake of switching it. If what you are doing is working, then there is no reason to switch routines. Additionally, gaining muscle takes time and it generally takes at least three months on a routine before you can even tell if it is working for you or not. You need to give it time before you make a judgement. Some people will follow a routine for a month, decide it's not working, and switch. This is a sure fire way to make sure you never find a routine that works.

Progressive Overload is the Real Shock for Growth

Some people don't take it to the extreme of revamping their entire routine every month. Instead, they follow relatively the same routine but every workout they feel the need to change up the exercises in order to "confuse" the muscles. This is unnecessary and if anything, more negative than positive.

The key to growing muscle as previously mentioned in other articles is progressive overload. Progressive overload means gradually increasing the stress placed on your body during your workouts over time either by increasing the amount of reps you can do with the same weight or increasing the amount of weight you can handle. If you benched 185 for 10 reps today and a year from now you do 225 pounds for 10 reps, you have grown and your chest will be bigger. You don't need to alternate barbell bench with dumbbell bench every week to continue growing. If you want to keep growing, you just need to do more than you did previously.

Switching Exercises

This doesn't mean that you should do the exact same routine every single week forever. The problem is that people change up exercises so often that they can't tell if they are getting stronger. If you don't do the same exercise for at least two weeks in a row, then there is no way to know if your strength improved from one week to the next. You need to give your body time to get used to a certain exercise and then continue to get stronger. If you are constantly switching, your body will never get used to the exercise and you won't give yourself a chance to get stronger. This will cause you to stall.

I recommend choosing at least one exercise per body part to do every workout for at least three months. You should use that exercise to try to improve your strength and do it first in your routine. The remaining exercises can be changed more often. The point of changing the other exercises isn't to "shock" the muscle but just to make your workout less boring. If you like doing the same exercises all the time then that is perfectly fine and won't cause you to progress any slower.

Change the Reps

Another thing you can do is vary your rep ranges. Your body might not care whether you are doing a cable fly or a pec deck but it does know if you are doing 6 reps or 15 reps. It's a good idea to incorporate different rep ranges in your routine to make sure you are utilizing every type of muscle fiber. You should stick to the 6-8 rep range for your first exercise that you are trying to improve your strength on but vary the remaining exercises. One week you can do 8-10 reps, another week you can do 12-15, and another week you can go heavy in the 3-5 range. If you neglect a certain rep range for too long, your body loses the ability to work in that rep range effectively.


To sum up, you do not need to change your routine and exercises to shock your muscles into growth. Progressive overload is the real key to growth and as long as you are adding weight to the bar, you will progress. It's a good idea to pick one exercise per body part to use as a strength gauge. You can switch up the remaining exercises however you would like. It's also a good idea to utilize different rep ranges to ensure you are using every type of muscle fiber.


Anonymous said...

I am just loving your entire blog! I find it very useful, thank you for all the information. A question on this post- I can keep with the same program for 3 months, no problem. But how often should I vary the rep ranges? 1 month low reps on all exercises, then 1 month high reps? Or should I just stick to low rep ranges for certain exercises and do the rest high range?

Post a Comment

Design by Free WordPress Themes | Bloggerized by Lasantha - Premium Blogger Themes | Best WordPress Themes