So I had the idea for this post, wrote it in the title, then forgot about it for a full year. When I opened the draft recently hoping to find some helpful prompts or witticisms, turns out all Past Charlotte had written for Future Charlotte was “do some research.” Thanks young biatch.

So I did some research and basically it all boils down to the following: Muscles are like people.

muscles they're just like us

I’ll explain in 8 points:

8. Muscles are like people, they remember things.

Muscle memory is the theory that repeated movements will come back to the doer, even if it’s been a while since they were last done. This is the reason you never forget how to ride a bike.

It’s also the reason you inexplicably remember all the words to Tiffany’s “I Think We’re Alone Now,” and that snappy dance she did in the video even though you haven’t tried to imitate it since 1989 (ok, 2009).

7. Muscles are like people, sometimes they forget those things.

While your muscles may remember these movements, you can’t always pick right back up where you left off. This is why even though at one time you had the final dance from Girls Just Want to Have Fun (starring a young Sarah Jessica Parker, Helen Hunt and Shannen Doherty) fully memorized and nailed (except for the flips and stuff), if you managed to remember the whole thing today, your body wouldn’t be as forgiving with some of the high kicks.

girls just wanna have fun dance

6. Muscles are like people, they need routine.

Muscles develop by doing something over and over again. It makes them better, stronger and more efficient. This is true for both daily routines and dance routines like the one Stephanie Tanner did to Motown Philly.

5. Muscles are like people, they hit plateaus and get depressed about it.

Just like an apathetic office worker, a bored muscle will never progress. (However unlike office workers, muscles will spare you from the melodramatic existential crisis that usually ensues.)

chandler im gonna die alone

4. Muscles are like people, they have to be alert to accomplish things.

How much work gets done before coffee? (Haha work, I’m not even confident I’m fully human before coffee.) Wake those muscles up!

3. Muscles are like people, they have to be properly motivated to perform at their peak.

While you can bribe people with money (or in my case all it takes is something caffeinated), muscles are motivated by variety.

2. Muscles are like people, they have a love/hate relationship with surprises.

Your muscles will be kinda mad at you for making them achey, but they will also be happy you switched things up because it made them stronger (and shows you care.)

1. Muscles are like people, they get confused rather easily.

This is good news- it means little changes to your workout routine go a long way.


There are still two camps to this theory, some say you must confuse your muscles by switching up your routine every 1-2 weeks to see results. The other camp says consistency yields higher rewards.

I say, find some things you love to do and do them often.



Thanks for hosting, Amanda!



What do you do- keep your workouts consistent or mix it up?

Who has the better memory- you or your muscles?

Do you like surprises?

34 Thoughts on “Muscle Confusion vs Consistency and Why Muscles are Like People (TOL)

  1. Muscle memory schmemory.

    I was benching X amount, went on holiday for 2 weeks and hit the gym again. 6 months out, I’m still to hit that amount again. FML.

    Muscles do need routine. And (good) surprises. Not like a bone pop…oops.
    Arman @ thebigmansworld recently posted…From Dinner to DinnerMy Profile

  2. I love your theory…Find things you love to do and do them often…Very wise words to happiness!
    carlotta recently posted…Giving Up? OR Accepting What Is?My Profile

  3. OMG ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’ was my most favorite movie of all time when I was a tween!! I absolutely had all the dance moves down – including the flips!! Oh Janey, you’re just too cool….um, well, at least you were.

    As for muscles? Confusion and change is always good but, for something like running and racing, you need consistency too. It’s very confusing :-)
    Allie recently posted…3 Ways A Non-Runner’s Perspective Can Help RunnersMy Profile

    • I lovvved that movie! (sorry, present tense- i lovvvve that movie :) ) yeahh i think it was the p90x craze that reintroduced the muscle confusion conversation into mainstream… dont quote me on that though)

  4. Greeaaaaaaaat. Now I have “I Think We’re Alone Now” stuck in my head. Thanks for that. Ugh. Anywho… I usually like to mix up my routines, but I think that’s more for me than my muscles. I tend to get bored pretty easily, so keeping it varied keeps it interesting, and there’s a higher chance that I’ll keep at it. Keep, keep, keep 😉
    Amanda @ .running with spoons. recently posted…. thinking out loud #98 .My Profile

  5. hahaha hilarious twist on muscle memory (all true, btw). recommended routine change-up is about 4-6wks; it takes about 4wks for your muscles to reach their full potential (with consistent workouts) and then you should start to switch things up. i will work on a muscle group but instead of doing the same workout, i use other exercises to work every part of that muscle.
    kathy @ vodka and soda recently posted…humpday confessions [10-1]My Profile

    • Yesss thats pretty much what bar method does- same muscle groups in slightly different exercises each class to target different parts of that muscle.

    • Kathy has it right….any good trainer will tell you that you shouldn’t vary too many elements of your routine within the 4-6 training cycle. But the change can occur in a variety of ways including load changes, set/rep changes, or even changing the exercise all together. The principles of progressive overload are pretty standard at that 4-6 week mark, but differ based on each muscle group and your training routine.
      AmberLynn Pappas recently posted…Tone It Up TuesdayMy Profile

  6. So, I am going to go back up and read the post for realz in a minute, but first I just have to say…OMG, JANEY AND JEFF FOREVER!!! Seriously, as if I didn’t already love you to pieces, you then include that GIF!!! God, I love that movie so much. Okay, now am going to read about muscles. Am back. I do think switching up the routine for your muscles is a good idea. Now must scroll back up.-Ashley
    thedoseofreality recently posted…25 Things You Don’t Know About MeMy Profile

    • LOL janey and jeff forever!!! i think they need to make a Girls Just Want to Have Fun Part 2. It’s never too late for that to happen. it will star all the same people. NO WAIT- get that cast on dancing with the stars!!

  7. I think the more confused you make your muscles in a new workout, the new calories you burn–so it’s actually a good thing! :)
    Thank you for sharing this.
    Linda @ The Fitty recently posted…September Finds and a Foodie PenpalMy Profile

  8. Definitely singing that song now. I go through phases with my workouts. I’ll go months where I’m switching it up and doing new and exciting things. Then I’ll go other months (like now) when I feel like I’m just going through the motions. Guess I’d better work on that!
    Kelly @ Kelly Runs For Food recently posted…Day in the life: WIAW on the roadMy Profile

  9. Hahaha, yes, muscles definitely hate surprises!!! My husband did a brand new workout with a trainer three days ago, and he is STILL so sore!!! Being sore is the worst!
    Sarah @ Sweet Miles recently posted…10 Ways To Not Smell Like a Sweaty MessMy Profile

  10. So true on all accounts! Before starting CrossFit, I remember always being concerned about switching up my routine in order to avoid the dreaded PLATEAU! It’s so much easier now knowing that “constantly varied functional movement” is built right into my program for me. Still, I don’t know that there’s a right way and a wrong way, so I completely agree that just doing what you love (often) is key!
    Shelly recently posted…Wod Love Wednesdays – 89 Handstand Push-Ups & Drop SnatchesMy Profile

  11. Awesome post! So glad to be introduced to your blog by The Dose of Reality gals!
    McCall Humes recently posted…First Aerial Arts ClassMy Profile

  12. I agree with Shelly, I love how CrossFit provides me with built in variation. Muscles definitely do get complacent. Small changes like you said are key to keeping them guessing. And growing!
    Chris recently posted…Supplementing Strength Into My CrossFit Programming (531)My Profile

  13. so…I’m going to be humming that song all day. As for mixing it up – I try to stick to a general routine for a few months at a time, take a week off, then switch it up. So a little bit of consistency and a bit of change? Seems to be working ok so far.
    Sam @ Better With Sprinkles recently posted…Rehashing September.My Profile

  14. I hate surprises, really..I’m a big fat Grinch. Well, let me rephrase. I hate them when I know they are coming. You know, when someone is like “I have a surprise for you!!” I’m like, bitch WHY didn’t you just NOT TELL ME THEN!? Total tangent…
    Brittany recently posted…Experimenting on HumansMy Profile

  15. Lol this is a fabulous way to really understand how muscles work. Also, don’t you just HATE when one “fitness expert” says one thing and then another “fitness expert” says another?! No wonder people get confused out of their mind and give up. Just lift some weights sometimes, people. Just find what you love and do it every once in awhile and we’ll be square :)
    Lauren @ ihadabiglunch recently posted…What makes you strong?My Profile

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  17. I’m probably the only person who will admit this, but I’m thrilled you’ve got Tiffany stuck in my head. Plus young SJP; you just sealed the deal.

    Wait, this post was about muscles? Oh yeah, those are rad too. 😉

  18. Hahah yes to all of these! Muscles are also like people, they need regular down-time to avoid burnout :)! I am consistent with my workouts but since working out with a trainer, I never know what to expect..definitely keeps me & my muscles on our toes!
    Khusboo recently posted…Waffle iron hacksMy Profile

  19. Haha – nos. 5 and 4 – so true! My muscles probably remember a whole lot more than I do – the cold weather we had this weekend has made my brain cells dormant!
    I try to keep them muscles of mine challenged by alternating a week or 2 of running with a week or 2 of strength raining – lately I have been doing The Beast workouts and Charlotte – they rock – for me! My muscles ache for 3 days and I love it – that just sounds so wrong! :)

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