See Better Results, in Half the time at the Gym: Part One

As we discussed in the podcast a few weeks ago, everyone wants to be able to spend less time working out and still see great results. 

And while many fitness enthusiasts may believe that we need to be killing ourselves with our workouts, the amount of time you spend working out has very little to do with the results you will see. 

What is more important is what you are doing with your time. 

Time Well Spent 

If you are strategic in selecting effective movements in your workout, you don’t need to spend longer than 45 minutes at the gym, and oftentimes, longer than 30 minutes. 

Rather, the reason people aren’t seeing the results they want, even after working hard for an hour, is because they are overloading joints and underloading muscles. 

Many individuals are choosing exercises that are only part-way effective for creating change in their muscles, which means they have to spend more time doing more exercises to make up for the half-stimulus from poor exercise selection. 

This, of course, is what everyone wants to avoid. 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. To say the least, it’s not ideal.

In some cases, this can lead to an overdose, so to speak, of exercise. This often happens when people workout for too long, and choose exercises that are stressing their joints unnecessarily. 

When it comes to choosing exercises, my philosophy is always to choose just enough to elicit positive change, but, not overdose so you see negative changes in the body. 

This is incredibly important, for many reasons, but I want to focus on one in particular. 

The Systems in Play

Within your body, you have two states: your catabolic state and your anabolic state. Healthy results come from an overall balance between these two processes, but oftentimes, are easily tipped to one side or the other. 

The body’s catabolic state breaks down tissue. Catabolic inputs are stressors to your system. In the correct doses, these stressors (like exercise) make your body stronger and more resilient. 

However, on the other side of that seesaw, we have the anabolic system, which is the system within the body that rebuilds damaged tissue. 

This is where we need to strike the proper balance. 

Exercise should be applied with intention. You should have enough of it to stimulate change and trigger the catabolic system, but not so much that you create damage that overwhelms your anabolic systems and delays the body’s natural healing process. 

Many exercises are inefficient, and as a result, require more time and more effort to see any muscular results. 

Fortunately, if you learn to load your muscles effectively, it doesn’t have to take as much time, and you can begin to see better results, with shorter workouts. 

Why we want more Muscle 

Let’s discuss how the body adapts optimally to exercise, and how some individuals find themselves overdoing it with their exercise. 

From a physiological standpoint, increasing muscle happens through hypertrophy. 

This means you are increasing the size or diameter of your muscle cells. Muscle cells that are regularly loaded in workouts then allowed proper rest, and are fueled with enough protein, will enlarge and hypertrophy. Therefore, giving people the results they so desire. 

Another bonus is that, when you have bigger muscles, your metabolism increases, as I've touched on in other episodes

Bigger muscles also improve your cardiovascular system, because the heart has to work harder to serve more muscle tissue since muscle tissue demands more blood and oxygen. 

So having more muscle is the goal of your workouts because it will eventually help you stay leaner, and it will improve your cardiac system. 

Exercise Overdose

Where people often can go wrong in their workouts, is when they begin focusing on the wrong outputs, like how long they are exercising, how much they sweat, how many calories they burn, or how tired they feel afterward.

In reality, though, these things have little to do with the actual effectiveness of your workout! Of course, they can sometimes be correlated - in that an effective workout can sometimes cause sweating or high caloric burn, but those outputs don’t automatically dictate a “good” workout.

As I mentioned earlier - effective workouts stress the muscles in a way that stimulates hypertrophy or adaptation, without unnecessary stress to surrounding joints. This can sometimes cause sweating and fatigue, and can sometimes take a long time, but not always.

This is where focusing too much on these outputs becomes detrimental - if you are only concerned about the calories burned or how much you sweat, you miss out on some beneficial strength training methods that could be giving you the results you’re after.

Let's take the example of running for one hour or lifting for 30 minutes:

After the hour-long run, let’s say you burned 500 calories.

After the 30-minute lower body lifting session, let’s say you burned 200 calories, 

It’s reasonable to assume the running session is more beneficial to your body since it burns more calories. 

However, what isn’t taken into account on your FitBit is the physiological adaptation that’s happening under the hood of your body. 

If you have properly targeted and loaded your legs in ways that will stimulate hypertrophy and change, and give your body the time it needs to recover and fuel properly, you will start to see your hard work pay off for you faster.

The Results

So, why does this matter? If you can add 5 lbs of muscle on your frame over 6 months to a year, your body could potentially be burning 500 more calories/day than it ever did before.

However, the runner, on the other hand, isn’t building muscle in their runs, and some studies show that running depletes muscle. So they aren’t improving their metabolism, they are potentially making it worse.

So if we take a step back and look at our long term goals and results, they might look a little something like this:

  • The runner burns 500 calories in their run (and could potentially have some orthopedic issues because of the repetitive impact).
  • But the lifter is burning 500 more calories/day at rest plus the additional 200 calories in their workout. And if they are following the proper methodology, they may also have healthier joints.

And this starts to have a compounding effect. It might not be the “fastest” way to lose weight, but it is the most sustainable, joint-friendly, and time-efficient. 

I’m not at all trying to imply that running is bad. AIt all comes down to your personal goals and priorities, which for many people, include weight loss and muscle growth. My goal is to educate people who have often been misled that long-term, sustainable results don’t just have to come from calorie burn or length of time exercising. 

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