Try a Little Less

This can be counter-productive, so…

Don’t be afraid to try different.

I was brought into the lifting world with a bodybuilding message.

At the age of 14, I was inundated with “information” from bodybuilding magazines.

“Lift for 3 hours a day, ideally splitting the time between two workouts.”

“If you’re not puking at the end of your leg day, you haven’t worked hard enough.”

“Pick two body parts per day and destroy them with as many sets as possible.”

“Any day off is a day you’re not making gains and someone else is.”

Etcetera, etcetera, blah blah blah.

I did all of this, and it worked.

Then, I did the opposite, and it worked.

At first, I worked out for 2 hours a day 6 days a week.

For years.

And I had good results. I was strong and had gained the muscle that I was after.

I competed in 5 bodybuilding shows and did well.

Then it got…old.

Let me tell you, you can only do so many “chest days” before the whole thing becomes stale.

Then I tried something else. I focused on Olympic lifting for 2 years.

This was a departure from the reps, sets, and bodypart training I was used to.

More rest, less total volume, generally heavier loads, and less training days.

And it worked.

I kept my physique and learned some new lifts to boot.

Then 4 kids caught up with me and time became more precious than ever. Every minute spent in the gym meant I was sacrificing a minute in some other aspect of my life.

So I decided to bring my training time per day down to 45 minutes. I added a few runs of 2 miles in per week. I focused on 4 large movement patterns for strength (push and pull, squat and hinge) and did a handful of single joint accessory exercises to round out the workout.

I’m lifting 4x per week, and its working.

I’m keeping my physique up and feel generally less achy.

Moral of the story, it’s hard to change what you’ve always done, especially if what you have done in the past worked. The thought often is “if I spend less TIME lifting, or if I change what has worked, my gains will go away, or I’ll stop improving.”

I’ve come to understand, at least for my workouts and most of the clients I’ve trained over the years, that a few QUALITY workouts with a sharper focus work almost as well as more, much longer, less focused workouts.

Think of it like this: the first 40 minutes of a workout gives you 95% of the work you need to make gains, the rest of the time gives you relatively small return.

If it takes me another 40–50 minutes to add only 5% of benefit to my workout, I’d rather spend that time on some other aspect of my life that can benefit more from that time. For me, the same applies to training days after 4 a week.

Try different. Try less.

The fitness bible is mostly unproven dogma with no real substance, anyway. What works best for you may be something you’re nervous to try because “that’s not the way its always been done.”

Give that something else a try.

It may give you equal or even better results, possibly save you some time, and can reinvigorate your workout motivation.

Matt Pirtle MA CSCS