How to cut your workout time in half, but double your results
Below is an excerpt from Fit Body, Happy Joints: Episode 100. “100th EPISODE BEST OF: Improve workout efficiency & feel better”. The amount of time you spend working out actually has very little to do with the results you will see. What you are doing with your time is more important.
If you select effective movements, your workouts don’t need to be longer than 45 minutes. And many times can be effective in as little as 30 minutes.
Why you’re not seeing results
The reason people aren’t seeing results (even though they are working out hard for an hour or sometimes longer each day) is because they are overloading joints and underloading muscles.
They are choosing exercises that are only part-way effective for creating change in their muscles, which means they have to spend longer doing more exercises to make up for the half-stimulus from poor exercise selection.
This, of course, takes more time and energy. It also adds unnecessary wear-and-tear on your body.
The result from this type of training is that your body and joints don’t feel so great, you spend a ton of time during your week at the gym, and you get so-so results. In fact, this can lead to an overdose, so to speak, of exercise that happens when people workout for too long, and choose exercises that are stressing their joints for relatively low muscular reward.
When it comes to exercise, my philosophy is that you want to choose just enough that will elicit positive change, but not too much that will overdose and lead to negative change.
How to spend less time in your workouts
Here are three of my recommendations for getting better results with shorter workouts.
Use mechanics to your advantage for better results
Just because you can push a lot of weight in a certain exercise, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s more effective load to the targeted muscle.
Choosing a body weight exercise can sometimes be more effective at targeting a muscle group than choosing another exercise that doesn’t use ideal levers so you have to use heavier weight.
The longer the lever, the more work to the muscle. So if you choose an exercise with an effective lever, you can use less weight to get a lot of work.
Let’s say you’re holding an egg with a spoon. Your hand and wrist have to work harder when you are holding the end of the spoon. However, it gets easier to hold if you are holding closer to the egg. This is levers at play, which can (and should) be applied to exercise.
An exercise example
Let’s compare a barbell upright row for targeting the deltoids and a side-lying lateral raise for targeting the deltoids.
If I calculate the mechanics of these two exercises, you can get 125 lbs of work to the middle deltoids in a side-lying raise when you’re holding a 5 lb dumbbell. I calculated this using the length of my arm, so your values might be slightly different.
If you wanted to get the same amount of work to the middle deltoids in a barbell upright row, you’d have to hold 81 lbs.
This is because the moment arm, or the lever, to the deltoid in an upright row is much shorter than in a side-lying lateral raise.
And although it might feel satisfying to be able to lift 81 lbs easily (nothing wrong with that!), it isn’t necessarily because you are stronger than the person doing the side-lying lateral raise. It’s because the levers are shorter and you’ve given yourself a mechanical advantage.
So don’t be fooled that more weight equals more work. It’s so much more about mechanics and levers than it is about how much weight you’re holding.
Fatigue muscles properly using simple exercises
There is much debate about how heavy you should go and how many reps you should complete to get the best results.
Interestingly, volume doesn’t matter as much as people think. You just have to get to a certain threshold of stimulus. You can get it through low volume, high weight or high volume, low weight.
When the signal to the muscle is maximized, that’s all you need.
Depending on your training, you need about 5-10 sets/week per muscle group.
After your set, you want to make sure you’re pretty fatigued. Research says that ending the set when you have about 3-4 reps left in reserve creates the muscular stimulus needed for hypertrophy.
Are combination moves better for results?
You’ll often see combination moves on Instagram, and I don’t recommend doing these for hypertrophy.
Combination moves like a squat to an overhead press to a burpee are fun, but they don’t put the targeted muscle under enough constant load.
If you are trying to grow your shoulders, for example, you do the press, then squat, set the weights down, jump back to a plank, jump back up, grab the weights, sit your hips back for the squat, and finally press again.
So your shoulders get a few seconds with all that extra movement to rest and aren’t under continuous load.
This means you either have to do a lot more reps to get close to that failure point to influence muscle growth, or you don’t get close to that failure point at all.
Either way, you are putting unnecessary wear and tear through your body.
Instead, choose a simple movement that places more constant load through the targeted tissue. Movements do not need to be complex and involve your entire body to be effective.
Implement workout splits to decrease time spent in sessions
Since we know muscles need about 36 hours, sometimes longer, to fully recover, we can switch which muscles we are working each day to keep the workouts more brief.
When you are only focusing on a few muscle groups per workout and you choose exercises that utilize levers to add substantial stimulus to the muscles without overloading the joints, you truly only need about 30-45 minutes to get a great workout that will drive results.
So this is how you can workout 3-5ish times per week for short periods, and still see results.
- Ditch the idea that you have to do super heavy compound lifts or combination moves to see muscle growth.
- Worry more about using effective levers.
- Find the right dosage for your body, and fatigue yourself at the end of every set while keeping about 3-4 reps in your reserve.
- Implement workout splits so your muscles have time to heal in between workouts.
If you’re repeating this process week after week and fueling with enough protein, you will begin to see your body change. I’ve actually worked out for less time than I ever have, and yet I see better results because I implement this process. Give it a go and see how you feel.