You know how important it is to exercise on a regular basis. You also understand the diligence required and the struggle to consistently commit to an exercise program and an active lifestyle.
Now, pretend you have more free time in your busy schedule What would you do with your free time and how would your life improve? Would you make more memories with your family, friends, or you’d be working more hours and go on trips? For example, what if you could cut down your gym time to 90 minutes per week while achieving the same results? Although this sounds too crazy to be true, this is 100% possible.
Fortunately, the truth is that you don’t need to spend 6 or 7 days at the gym if you are seeking optimal results. Frequency is only one part of the equation when it comes to improving your body composition and functionality. Volume and Intensity are just as important and play a big role when it comes to designing the right program, with an adequate amount of exercise, for you. You can refer to my article “The Purpose of Exercise” (article). In short, your workouts need to be intense, brief, and infrequent. Let’s dive deeper into this concept.
A Background on Physiology
Our muscles, along with all body functions, obey the same physiological processes. We all share the same biochemical reactions that occur during muscle contraction and recovery. You cannot change it. However, we likely respond in different ways to the same exercise stimulus.
Tip: Start to look at exercise as a stressor that will disrupt your current capabilities and balance (homeostasis).
Upon challenging your body, physiological adaptations will occur within the endocrine, skeletal, and muscular system. This process can be summarized in three stages: response, adaptation and exhaustion. This is known as General Adaptation Syndrome or GAS theory. I always describe the purpose of exercise as digging a deep hole into our body’s capacities and refilling it once we are done exercising. If your goal is to progress, you need to dig a deeper hole every time you train so that your muscles can improve their ability to recover above their previous capabilities.
General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS Theory) Applied
Stage 1 – Response (alarm reaction): when you reach substantial muscular fatigue, through aggressive muscular contraction, your body releases different hormones because of the damage caused to the muscle fibres. Cortisol, also known as the “stress hormone” has inflammatory effects on the body and is released into your system.
Stage 2 – Resistance & Adaptation: once the alarm reaction takes place, the body’s resources must be replenished (compensation phase). You need recovery time in between your workouts to completely replenish your energies and allow the muscular, endocrine, and skeletal systems to return to their original functions. It goes without saying, but it is paramount to have a nutritious diet. As well, your sleep and recovery play a major role in adaptation – I always recommend 8 hours of restful sleep every night. If the exercise demand is intense and challenging enough to impact the original homeostasis (i.e. you do more reps or lift more weight), and you allow your body enough time to recover, a super-compensation phase follows. An enhancement of the body’s functional abilities occurs by increasing the size of a muscle, improving the ability to produce more energy, and creating new neurological pathways.
Stage 3- Exhaustion: this occurs when:
- You are not making any progress after several workouts
- The weights and the number of reps you track on your journal are still the same
- You feel highly unmotivated to go to the gym and workout
These are all signs that you have reached a stage of exhaustion and overtraining – every amount of activity is counterproductive to the end goal and does not optimize your results. In this situation, you are not allowing your body enough time to recover. Your muscles and nervous system don’t have enough time and resources to recover and super-compensate, so you are actually digging the hole deeper and deeper without properly replenish your energies.
Tip: take a 10-day break and don’t do any type of strenuous activity. The purpose is to allow enough for your body to recover.
I know, this sounds crazy and unbelievable, but your whole body will benefit from it. Allowing time to rest will make you more motivated and driven to commit to your exercise program, allowing you to get back on track and hit the gym productively.
Often times, you may have been told that in order for you to build muscle, become stronger, look leaner and healthier, you have to exercise at least 5 or 6 times per week for at least 1.5 hours per session. You likely see this on social media or in popular health and fitness magazines, where celebrities and fitness gurus preach to working out daily or abide by the “no pain no gain” philosophy. Don’t be a fool and don’t follow the mass. “The more you do, the better” is not always the case. My recommendation is that you start focusing on the quality of your workouts and not the quantity. As you learn to increase the intensity of your training, you won’t need to go to the gym as frequently. Just remember that everything can be done in thirty minutes, three times per week.
Check my article “The 5 Biggest Mistakes”
If you are interested in finding out more about a strategy on how to build a better physique, increase strength, and improve your performance. Book a free consultation with Luca now.
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