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Less is More: Exercise With Efficiency

Updated on September 20, 2017
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Professional in physical rehabilitation and fitness fanatic. A minimalist of effort, trying to rid the world of wasted time.

How to exercise for less time and get more results.

Most people don't have the time to spend at the gym that they think would be effective. Some of it may come from our busy lives. Some of it may come just from being lazy. Wouldn't it be great if you could still be lazy most of the time and just use a small portion of the day for strenuous exercise? Luckily, it's not really a question of how much you work out, it's a question of how efficient your workout is.

Some people claim they need the environment of a gym to get motivated to exercise. Even if the gym is five minutes from your house, it takes at least five minutes to get ready and get in the car, five minutes to drive, at least five to ten minutes to get out of the car and get into the gym before you start working out. Double that for the return trip home, though it's probably much longer, and you're looking at at least thirty minutes wasted getting to and from the gym.

Unless you are seriously bodybuilding and need hundreds of pounds of free weights, you can save time and increase the likelihood of actually consistently exercising if you try at home. The home workout does of course require some more creative exercises and not all exercises are created equal. Depending on what type of effect you want to have from the workout, different exercises may not work for you and understanding of the difference between endurance and strength training is essential.

For most purposes, strength training is a more appropriate exercise routine. With resistance at sixty to eighty percent of your maximum strength, those exercises will burn fat, increase muscle size at a much faster rate than high repetitions of lower resistance. Endurance training is highly beneficial for certain types of athletics and for cardio respiratory health. I am in no way trying to minimize the importance of endurance training but for individuals like me who have no time, we are more likely to not exercise than to put the time in required for endurance training.

If you can do more than ten repetitions of an exercise, you probably are not working within that 60 to 80% of your maximum strength. In other words, you need to increase the resistance. This is a good thing. Most people will avoid exercises that require high repetitions. It's just plain boring to keep doing the same thing over and over agin. Try to stick to 8 to 10 repetitions per exercise and when you can do more, add weight. Keep the increments of added weight quite small. There's no point in doing something if you start compensating and not work the muscle group you intended.

Sometimes you don't even need weights for resistance. Some exercises that use body weight resistance can be altered just slightly to change the resistance.

Sometimes you don't even need weights for resistance. Some exercises that use body weight resistance can be altered just slightly to change the resistance. Of course, you have to understand the mechanics and the intended muscle groups before attempting to alter and exercise.

I once had someone tell me that he could do 80 push-ups without stopping. It turned that what he was doing couldn't really be called a push-up and was mostly a waste of time. Both strength and endurance exercises can be performed wrong. If you can do more than 10 repetitions of push-ups, you should be changing the pattern to make the push-up more difficult. If you can do 80 repetitions of push-ups, you are probably doing them wrong. If you are doing them correctly, and you still can do 80, you need to find a more difficult exercise.

The best way to get the most out of your work out is to make sure that you perform the exercise to its maximum efficiency. Even a push-up can be made more difficult by simple hand placement or foot elevation. Changing the position of an exercise to where those last few repetitions require maximal effort can make the difference between increasing strength and simply maintaining what you were able to do the last time you did it.

Feel the burn. Find out what muscle group each particular exercise you are attempting is targeted toward. Then make sure you can feel it in those particular muscles. If you can feel a bicep curl working your lower back or a lunge working your calf muscles, you're compensating and not getting the most out of that exercise. While you may be working the intended muscle group, you could be working it harder and possibly with less weight.

It's best to start out making the exercise as hard as possible for the intended muscle group. Even if you've already started and realized that you are compensating, it's not too late to back off on the weight, and feel it working a smaller group of muscles a little harder. Doing it right makes more difference than doing more. Less really may be more.

Maybe less really is more.

There's been some question lately whether that third set of repetitions is really necessary. Even some professional bodybuilders skip the third set and settle for two sets of repetitions. I tried a simple experiment on myself. The workout included 2 sets of one particular exercise every day, progressively increasing the repetitions or resistance, every day. With the amount of muscle growth I found after 28 days, I found no need to add a third set of repetitions. Even more effective than more sets during a workout might be the amount of days per week that a particular body part is exercised.

The best way to get the maximum efficiency out of a minimalist work out is to exercise every body part every day. Only lazy people recommend you take a day of rest after exercising a particular muscle group. A patient recovering from a surgery is expected to exercise the same body part at least once a day, more than likely 2 to 3 times a day. Why should a healthy individual need more than 24 hours between workouts. More consistent exercising may even help prevent late onset muscle soreness.

Muscle soreness is not lactic acid buildup from exercise, that is gone within 30 seconds. Muscle soreness is not an indicator of a good work out, it is not a good thing. Instead of an indicator that you pushed your self hard enough to have and effective workout, muscle soreness really means that you just weren't ready for that level of exercise. It is actually a sign of damaged muscle that wasn't built up enough for the resistance. You probably could have prevented that soreness if you had done the same exercise every day for several days, building up to the resistance that you used that day.

It's not about how much time you spend working out, it's about how much you get out of the time. No matter what your reasons for exercising, whether you want to tone up or bulk up or just kick little harder, you might be able to achieve your goals with less time spent on the work out and just a little more preparation to make it more efficient.


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