Changing exercises and body positions are needed to maximize muscle growth; it is important to change exercises frequently, but not too often. There needs to be some consistency in your workouts. If you change your workout from day to day, this can be counterproductive.



  •       Changing your workout routine too often may result in less favorable muscle growth.     
  • Consistently using an exercise will result in better strength gains than frequently changing exercises.
  •       Changing the exercise angle can increase muscle growth in various muscle regions.


A systematic review of the literature examined the effects of training variation and muscle growth. An overall positive effect for different exercises was found for strength and muscle mass.

However, they addressed that changing exercises too frequently can hurt muscle growth, potentially because of difficulty in achieving progressive overload.

Changing an exercise too frequently can cause excess muscle damage because there is no adaptation process with more prolonged fatigue. Moderate exercise variation was suggested to be better for increasing muscle mass, whereas excessively changing exercise can be detrimental to muscle growth.

They suggested that exercise variation has an inverted U-shaped curve, with moderate changes being beneficial and excess being detrimental. [14] In sum, if you are a bodybuilder looking for maximal hypertrophy, it is best to use a variety of exercises to stimulate different muscle regions. In contrast, a strength athlete will need less variation.


If you want to optimally stimulate muscle growth, it’s best to use a variety of exercises. When a muscle increases in size, it does not increase throughout the entire region; individual parts (i.e., regional hypertrophy) are stimulated, and some grow more than others. Researchers had subjects train with an equal volume and intensity but performed two different exercises.

One group performed smith machine squats, and the other did leg extensions. Researchers used ultrasound and measured muscle growth in the legs in various muscle regions (25% and 50% of the femur length). The subjects followed a high protein diet of 2 g/kg/bw throughout the 5-week resistance training protocol.

The squat increased the vastus lateralis more, whereas the leg extension increased the rectus femoris to a greater extent. See the chart below. If you want to develop optimal leg muscle growth, the study suggests using a variety of exercises to stimulate muscle growth. (15)

muscle confusion, workout plateau, how often should you change your workout routine, is it bad to do the same workout everyday, variety is important for an exercise program because it, weightlifting plateau, when to change workout programs, how often

muscle confusion, workout plateau, how often should you change your workout routine, is it bad to do the same workout everyday, variety is important for an exercise program because it, weightlifting plateau, when to change workout programs, how often


It is common for lifters who are frustrated with their lack of progress to use different training techniques and exercises. They will try advanced training techniques for a few weeks, such as supersets, dropsets, and rest-pause; after that, they will try something completely new. This is referred to as “program jumping.”

Variety is important for exercise selection because it is necessary for the optimal recruitment of different muscle fibers; however,  there needs to be consistency in a workout routine for muscle growth and strength gains. Constantly changing the workout exercise angle with different exercises may reduce your ability to adapt to a workout.


Doing the same exercises week after week without variety can be boring. One may question whether changing the sets, reps, duration of the contraction time, etc., every week, can promote greater muscle growth. Researchers measured quad growth in response to two different workout routines for 16 weeks.

One leg did leg press and leg extension the same workout each time, and the other leg changed one variable each time to ensure that each workout was different; each group trained to failure. The variable group changed the exercise weight, volume, contraction type, and inter-set rest interval. Muscle protein synthesis was slightly higher for the varied group than for the constant group.

The total volume load (sets x reps x load) was higher in the varied group than in the constant group; however, leg growth was the same.[1] They didn’t change the exercise angle; they only changed a training variable (i.e., load, volume, contraction type, and inter-set rest interval). This is consistent with various periodization programs comparing periodized to undulating programs.

When the volume is similar but the exercise intensity changes, there are similar increases in muscle growth. Again, this points to a certain amount of training consistency with the same exercises, with the volume being the determining variable for muscle growth. There is nothing wrong with changing any of these variables; however, changing the exercise angle requires a new neurological adaptation to occur.

Some lifters like to change the exercise they do each time they exercise, and having a variety of exercises performed for a training cycle is perfectly fine. A recent study compared training with just one exercise (i.e., the leg press on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday) to training each muscle group with 3 different exercises per week (leg press on Monday, half squat on Wednesday, hack squat on Friday).


Total workout volume and intensity were matched in both groups. At the end of nine weeks, three different exercises resulted in a slight trend towards better overall muscle growth (12 different muscle sites) throughout the body. In contrast, the same exercise group failed to experience significant growth in 2 measured sites.[2]

Performing exercises with different angles will affect muscle growth in various regions compared to just one exercise. Do not misinterpret the study; the subjects did the same three exercises for nine weeks. They did not use a new exercise each time they went to the gym. They just alternated leg exercises on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

This study should not be misinterpreted to change your workout every time you go to the gym. Changing exercises is perfectly fine, but ensure it is consistent with a designated workout mesocycle.


The process of constantly changing the workout is commonly referred to as “muscle confusion” or “confusing muscles” by bodybuilders. It advocates that frequently changing your workout will cause a greater increase in muscle growth. An example of muscle confusion would be to change the exercise every week. You never do the same workout twice.

Researchers put the Muscle Confusion Theory to the test. They had subjects perform a set workout routine in which they performed a designated workout (i.e., same workout) or a group in which they were allowed to randomly choose exercises from a workout app of over 80 different exercises (i.e., muscle confusion). Their training volume was similar, and all sets were taken to failure.


At the end of the study, the randomly chosen exercises found their workout more enjoyable, whereas the fixed routine resulted in decreased motivation. The 1-RM bench press went up about 4% in the fixed group and about .77% for the variation group. In terms of muscle growth, both groups similarly increased muscle growth, but the group that performed the set workout routine had a slight advantage towards more muscle growth in parts of their legs (11%) as opposed to the group that varied their workout each time (3%).[3]

This study suggests that muscle confusion or changing your workout each time you go to the gym can lead to less strength and muscle gains.

Here is how muscle confusion can cause less muscle growth. The body adapts to training by protecting muscles from further damage after consistent training; if you constantly change the exercise each week, there is no adaptation because it is a new exercise, and there is constant muscle damage.

One of the biggest mistakes lifters can make is going from one routine (i.e., drop-sets) to another (rest-pause) with no training consistency. Training variation is perfectly okay, but stick to consistent core lifts (i.e., multi-joint) for a training cycle and finish the workout with single-joint exercises at the end.

For example, doing bench presses and incline presses for six weeks, but each week performs a different type of cable crossover fly, dumbbell fly, or pec deck. Changing your workout frequently can lead to impaired strength gains and muscle growth.

If you need to improve your upper chest, doing more incline bench press makes sense than doing bench press and decline. Choose exercises that you enjoy doing to get the most out of your workouts and muscle growth. Higher motivation and enjoyment during your workout will result in better gains.


Copy a generic routine you don’t enjoy makes for a miserable workout. This is consistent with a 2020 study in which subjects were assigned to a fixed workout (had to perform the workout given to them) or a variability exercise group (self-selected the exercise for each muscle group). The group that had the freedom to choose the exercises they preferred for each muscle group had greater increases in lean muscle mass.[4] The group that could choose their exercises still chose the same exercises for most of the 9 weeks (i.e., bench press, leg press, cable press down).

This suggests flexible exercise selection should increase motivation, but there needs to be some consistency in workouts to gain muscle. The study suggests that even when lifters can choose exercises, they tend to stick to exercises they enjoy doing. If you hate doing an exercise or it causes joint discomfort, do not use it, and find an exercise that you enjoy and can do consistently.

This is consistent with the above study; despite having a choice of various exercises, they used exercises they enjoyed performing most of their workouts.

muscle confusion, workout plateau, how often should you change your workout routine, is it bad to do the same workout everyday, variety is important for an exercise program because it, weightlifting plateau, when to change workout programs, how often


The big three exercises commonly used for building mass are squats, bench press, and deadlift. Other mass-building exercises commonly used are the bent-over row, military presses, etc. Some may wonder if it is necessary to include accessory exercises (i.e., isolation exercises) with each body part.

A common gym myth is that you must do the bench, squat, and deadlift to build mass. Some have even said you don’t need other exercises, just these three lifts!

Tension is applied to a different muscle region each time you change exercise angles. There are definite advantages to changing the exercise angles in your routine. Varying exercise angles hit the muscle fibers from different areas, causing regional hypertrophy of that muscle.

When you apply tension to a muscle, the whole muscle does not always grow uniformly. Depending on the exercise variation, the muscle region most directly exposed to tension will grow. For example, the shoulder should be considered three different muscle groups: the front, side, and rear. You need exercises that stimulate all three regions of the deltoids (i.e., military press, side lateral raises, rear deltoid raises). The quadriceps have four muscles (vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, rectus femoris, and vastus intermedius). If you just perform squats, this will not maximize the growth of the quadriceps compared to a combination of different exercises.


The classic study had one group train with smith machine squats while another group trained with machine squats, leg press, lunge, and deadlifts. The volume was the same for both groups, but the group that did a wide range of exercises resulted in a greater increase in muscle growth of the legs that trained the muscle from different angles compared to squats.[5]

Those that did a combination of squats, leg presses, deadlifts, and lunges led to greater increases in all four muscles of the quadriceps (vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, rectus femoris, vastus intermedius). In contrast, squats alone failed to increase in two muscle groups (rectus femoris and vastus medialis).

A similar study had men train with leg extensions or squats for five weeks. The leg extensions increased muscle size in the area of the quadriceps called the rectus femoris, but the squat did not. The squat increased the muscle size of the leg region called the vastus lateralis, but the leg extension did not.[6] This suggests you need a wide variety of exercises to stimulate multiple muscle regions for optimal muscle growth.


Others have found that a combination of exercises is needed to maximize hamstring growth. The hamstring muscles consist of the semitendinosus, semimembranosus, and biceps femoris. Nordic hamstring curls display greater semitendinosus activity than biceps femoris activity.[7]

Conversely, stiff-legged deadlifts present similar activity between the two muscles. This suggests that you need a wide variety of exercises to maximize hamstring muscle growth. Another misconception is that many lifters think the squat will increase hamstring muscle growth. Squats are great for quadriceps growth but result in little to no hamstring growth.[8]

Therefore, you need seated hamstring curls, stiff-legged deadlifts, and glute-ham raises to maximize the growth of the hamstrings. Instead of the traditional “stick to the basics,” if muscle growth is your goal, one should “hit muscles from various angles.”


Looking at how most people do calf raises, they often place the feet forward. One study had subjects train calf raises with their feet pointed in, pointed out, and forward. The group that pointed their toes out had better growth of the inner calf, the group that pointed their feet inward had more outer calf growth, and the group that pointed their feet forward had all the calf muscles grow equally.[9]

So, why does your exercise program need to be updated occasionally to increase muscle growth? Let’s take a classic bench press study.  The chest has an upper, middle, and lower region. It is three different muscles, so training with one particular exercise will not effectively stimulate all three muscles maximally. It was found that the bench press alone led to the growth of the middle and lower region, while only the incline bench press led to a greater increase in the upper region of the chest.[10]

The Study

In this study, researchers examined how different chest exercises influenced muscle growth. Subjects were randomly assigned to one of the three groups:

1) a horizontal bench press group

2) an incline bench press group

3) a combination (bench press + incline press) group.


The group that did the bench press first, followed by the incline, did not increase the size of the upper region of the chest compared to the group that did the incline bench press first. This suggests that you should train the muscle groups you want to maximize first!

Changes in body positions can lead to increased muscle activation. For example, simply going from a seated dumbbell shoulder press to a standing dumbbell shoulder press leads to 8% greater front delt activation, 15% greater lateral delt activation, and 24% greater rear delt activation than the seated version.[11]

Other examples of increased activation of the lateral side of the deltoid would be to lean into the position slightly. For example, a leaning dumbbell side lateral raise in which you hang onto a post or gym apparatus with one hand and do a lateral extension with the other works the lateral head of the shoulder to a greater extent than a standing lateral raise.[12]

Changing your stance from a narrow conventional-style deadlift (narrow stance) to a sumo-style stance or using a trap bar deadlift will increase quad activation. Whereas conventional deadlifts result in more activation of the lower back.[13]

Changing exercises and body positions are needed to maximize muscle growth; it is important to change exercises frequently, but not too often. There needs to be some consistency in your workouts. If you change your workout from day to day, this can be counterproductive.


  • ·      Consistently using an exercise will result in better strength gains than frequently changing exercises.
  • ·      Changing an exercise routine too often may result in less favorable muscle growth.
  • ·      Changing the exercise angle can increase muscle growth in various muscle regions.


1.     Felipe Damas et al., “Myofibrillar Protein Synthesis and Muscle Hypertrophy Individualized Responses to Systematically Changing Resistance Training Variables in Trained Young Men,” Journal of Applied Physiology (Bethesda, Md.: 1985) 127, no. 3 (September 1, 2019): 806–15.

2.     Bruna Daniella de Vasconcelos Costa et al., “Does Performing Different Resistance Exercises for the Same Muscle Group Induce Non-Homogeneous Hypertrophy?,” International Journal of Sports Medicine 42, no. 9 (July 2021): 803–11.

3.     Eneko Baz-Valle et al., “The Effects of Exercise Variation in Muscle Thickness, Maximal Strength and Motivation in Resistance Trained Men,” PloS One 14, no. 12 (2019): e0226989.

4.     Jacob T. Rauch et al., “Auto-Regulated Exercise Selection Training Regimen Produces Small Increases in Lean Body Mass and Maximal Strength Adaptations in Strength-Trained Individuals,” The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 34, no. 4 (April 2020): 1133–40.

5.     Rodrigo M. Fonseca et al., “Changes in Exercises Are More Effective than in Loading Schemes to Improve Muscle Strength,” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 28, no. 11 (November 2014): 3085–92.

6.     Aitor Zabaleta-Korta et al., “The Role of Exercise Selection in Regional Muscle Hypertrophy: A Randomized Controlled Trial,” Journal of Sports Sciences 0, no. 0 (July 10, 2021): 1–7.

7.     Hegyi et al., “Region-Dependent Hamstrings Activity in Nordic Hamstring Exercise and Stiff-Leg Deadlift Defined with High-Density Electromyography,” Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports 28, no. 3 (March 2018): 992–1000.


8.     Lawrence W. Weiss, Harvey D. Coney, and Frank C. Clark, “Gross Measures of Exercise-Induced Muscular Hypertrophy,” Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy 30, no. 3 (March 1, 2000): 143–48.

9.     João Pedro Nunes et al., “Different Foot Positioning During Calf Training to Induce Portion-Specific Gastrocnemius Muscle Hypertrophy,” The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 34, no. 8 (August 2020): 2347–51.

10.  SUENE F. N. CHAVES et al., “Effects of Horizontal and Incline Bench Press on Neuromuscular Adaptations in Untrained Young Men,” International Journal of Exercise Science 13, no. 6 (August 1, 2020): 859–72.

11.  Atle H. Saeterbakken and Marius S. Fimland, “Effects of Body Position and Loading Modality on Muscle Activity and Strength in Shoulder Presses,” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 27, no. 7 (July 2013): 1824–31.

12.  P. J. McMahon et al., “Shoulder Muscle Forces and Tendon Excursions during Glenohumeral Abduction in the Scapular Plane,” Journal of Shoulder and Elbow Surgery 4, no. 3 (June 1995): 199–208.

13.  Rafael F. Escamilla et al., “An Electromyographic Analysis of Sumo and Conventional Style Deadlifts,” Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 34, no. 4 (April 2002): 682–88.

14. Kassiano, Witalo & Nunes, João Pedro & Costa, Daniella & Ribeiro, Alex & Schoenfeld, Brad & Cyrino, Edilson. (2022). Does Varying Resistance Exercises Promote Superior Muscle Hypertrophy and Strength Gains? A Systematic Review. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.

15. Zabaleta-Korta, Aitor & Fernández-Peña, Eneko & Torres-Unda, Jon & Garbisu Hualde, Arkaitz & Santos-Concejero, Jordan. (2021). The role of exercise selection in regional Muscle Hypertrophy: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of Sports Sciences.

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