recovery

Getting More Out Of Exercising Less

getting more out of less.png

“Instead of trying to find how much exercise we can tolerate, we should try to find out how little exercise we actually require” ~ Arthur Jones, creator of Nautilus and MedX exercise equipment.

Jones further stated that any exercise beyond what is required is at best a waste of time and at worst dangerous.  It is dangerous because too much exercise can result in injuries and a waste of a time because exercise beyond what is required eventually leads to overtraining.  Overtraining occurs when your body cannot sufficiently recover and make gains.  This is particularly the case with strength training, as it takes longer time to recover and rebuild from your last training session.

If you start from the premise of finding out how little exercise you actually require you won’t overtrain, your likelihood of injury will drop considerably, and you will be far less likely to quit as it will require a smaller time commitment.  You will find the weekly improvement motivating as well. With more rest and recovery (and less time in the gym) you will get more benefits by exercising less.

The type of exercise that, by far, has the biggest positive impact on your bio-markers of aging is strength training. In addition to increasing strength the exercise program at our Austin Personal Training facility is designed to produce improvements in:

·         Energy

·         Flexibility

·         Resistance to injury and sickness

·         Bone density

·         Resting metabolism

·         Cardiovascular function

Workouts are 30 minutes – no time is wasted – and are generally once a week. People of any age and level of fitness can do this. Trainers have years of experience determining:

1)    The required amount of exercise to safely stimulate change.

2)    Sufficient time to recover and improve each week.

3)    The proper design of workouts suited to clients’ limits and needs. 

You can avoid injuries and the trial-and-error of finding what works.  You will improve each week. As your fitness improves you will be more inclined to be active, and you will have more time to enjoy life outside the gym.  It is an exercise program people can stick to.

Study finds maintaining aerobic capacity requires persistent training while maintaining muscle anaerobic potential does not

How long does it take to get back up to peak performance after a long break from exercise? According to one study, that depends on whether the exercise is primarily aerobic or anaerobic.

From the study Enzyme adaptations of human skeletal muscle during bicycle short-sprint training and detraining:

“A long interruption in training has negligible effects on short-sprint ability and muscle anaerobic potential. On the other hand, a persistent training stimulus is required to maintain high aerobic capacity and muscle oxidative potential. This may contribute to a rapid return to competitive fitness for sprinters and power athletes.”

In the study bike sprinters trained for nine weeks followed by seven weeks of detraining (no training). Researchers found that the sprinters’ aerobic enzyme levels fell, while their anaerobic enzyme levels remained high for the seven weeks of detraining.  There were negligible effects on muscle anaerobic potential means the subjects remained strong.

The body need not be constantly submitted to anaerobic exercise to maintain strength gains or improve upon them. Another study bears this out: weight lifters who took two three-week breaks from training over an 18 week period showed more improvement than those who trained the entire 18 weeks without a break.

Seeing how much strength training you can endure is at best a waste of time and at worst detrimental. It is prescription for injury, drudgery, and eventually quitting.  At Austin Personal Training and New Orleans Fitness trainers  our approach is to find the least amount of strength training that will produce the most results. With such an approach you will improve each week without long hours in the gym. You’ll more likely stick with it, and over time, your quality of life will be profoundly changed.

Study shows how people waste time exercising

In a study, one group lifted weights for nine weeks (Continuous resistance training – CRT), while another group lifted for six weeks followed by a three weeks rest (Periodic resistance training - PTR). After the first nine week cycle the groups’ results were similar. The cycle was repeated for nine more weeks, and PTR group’s results were significantly higher.

A quote from the study, Comparison of muscle hypertrophy following 6-month of continuous and periodic strength training: “Increase in muscle cross-sectional area [of muscle] and strength during the second 3-week detraining/6-week retraining cycle were significantly higher in the PTR group than in the CTR group.” Consider that CTR group trained six weeks more and achieved inferior results - wasted time and effort.  

At the end of 27 weeks, both groups’ results were similar, but continuous training group trained six extra weeks to get that same result. If you start from the premise of finding out how little exercise you actually require your marginal return for your time in the gym will be higher and you will be less likely to over-train. When rest is inadequate over-training results and improvement stops. At Austin Personal Trainers and New Orleans Personal Trainers we take great care in measuring exercise performance to be sure that the client is fully recovered. With full recovery you will continue to improve.

Study compares once- versus twice-a-week strength training

In a study, 65-79 year old subjects were split into two groups; one strength trained once a week, the other twice a week. The results of this study,Comparison of once‐weekly and twice‐weekly strength training in older adults:

“One set of exercises performed once weekly to muscle fatigue improved strength as well as twice a week in the older adult.”

Exercise serves as stimulus to force your body to make a self-protective adaptation. That adaptation will only occur if your body is allowed to recover and compensate for stress placed on it.

As we age are capacity to withstand and recovered from stress diminishes. Exercise too often and you’ll ruin two workouts. If you’re not recovered from the first you won’t improve on the second. It’s a waste of time and effort.  

A lot of time is spent in the gym doing the same thing - the same weights, the same reps, the same times - with little to show for it. It shouldn’t be that way; if you are fully recovered you should improve each time.

Through trial and error you can eventually figure it; some never do. At Austin TX Strength Trainers and New Orleans Strength Trainers we pay attention to recovery.  We take the guess work out of it to ensure that the improvements are ongoing.

Should Friedrich Nietzsche be your personal trainer?

The Friedrich Nietzsche training method: “That which does not kill us makes us stronger”.

Thirty years ago as an experiment, I tried that method on my arms; I over-trained them. My arms were sore for more than a week. During subsequent exercise my arms were significantly weaker for several weeks.

About that time I attended a seminar. The speaker was Arthur Jones, the founder and inventor of Nautilus. I asked him, “If given enough time for recovery would my arms come back stronger”. His answer: “You damaged yourself and wasted your time”.

 A study bears this out. From this study Acute muscle damage as a stimulus for training-induced gains in strength:

“A single bout of damaging eccentric work did not enhance the response to conventional strength training and significantly compromised strength gains for several weeks.”

Over-training is damage; damage has a cummulative effect. If you don't think so ask someone older than you.

The proper dose of exercise is the amount that produces the best possible result.  Anything beyond that is, at best, a waste of time and at worst, detrimental. Don't waste time and effort when exercising. At New Orleans Fitness Training and Austin Fitness Training we can help you improve with the proper dose of exercise.

What happens after an extended layoff - an observation

In the aftermath of hurricane Katrina our clients began trickling back into town, and there was a return to normalcy. They began scheduling appointments again. Most had not exercised in anywhere from 6 to 8 weeks.

I expected them to be weaker. I decided to conduct an experiment. I put them through their previous workout, and I did not lighten the weights. I did not offer them any added encouragement, I did not give them a target to reach, and I told them to stop at whatever point they wanted to.  It was a very interesting result.

Most all of the clients got all of their reps. Some were off a repetition, but that's about it. We were doing slow reps, so one repetition can take about 20 seconds. So in total they were off at most 20 seconds on a 90 to 120 second exercise. Within a workout or two they were totally back up to speed.

These observations comport with a study that showed a similar result. Elite bicyclists were detrained (they stopped riding their bikes) for nine weeks. Their blood was drawn each week. Their aerobic enzyme level diminished each and every week. There anaerobic enzyme level did not diminish. The body still stood ready to do the demanding anaerobic work. This is the same result I saw in my clients.  It is also the same result you will get when comparing sprinters and long distance runners.  If a sprinter and a long distance runner have an extended layoff it will take the sprinter far less time to get back up top speed compared to the long-distance runner.

With aerobic conditioning there is primarily a biochemical change – the body up-regulates its ability to burn sugar over an extended time.  With anaerobic conditioning there is a biochemical change and there's restructuring – the muscles become stronger. Adding muscle is metabolically expensive, and the body does not undo those gains readily.

Taking off a week from strength training now and then can be a good thing.  You’ll come back refreshed mentally and physically and you will not take any steps backward.  It is hard to get a handle on recovery and how often to train.  At Austin Personal Training and at New Orleans Fitness Trainers wecan help you with that.

Overtraining Part Two

Frankie was a fanatical exerciser. He exercised with a trainer four times a week for an hour before going to work. On the weekends he went for hours-long bike rides. He decided to give our training program a try, and I put him through a workout. He worked out hard. The last exercise was the chest press and he was spent. During the last couple of reps he made agonizing sounds like the Mel Gibson character in Braveheart – really unnecessary but it got him through to the end. It was a little bit scary.

I suspected that he was over-trained, so for the next few weeks I convinced him to train just once a week, and I put him through moderately intense sessions. Six week later I put him through the workout we did in our initial session. On the last exercise the chest press he completed the exercise without the dramatic Braveheart sounds of cry Freedom.

I showed him the weights he had lifted. The weights were heavier by a considerable amount. I informed him that the weight on the chest press was 20 pounds heavier, and he did the exercise a full 60 seconds longer sans Braveheart sounds. He was surprised; I was even surprised. It dawned on me that he was profoundly over-trained when he started. He had cut his training time by 87.5% and showed considerable improvement

He left and a little while later his buddy Dick Dale came in and asked what I did to Frankie. I said, “Why do you ask?” He told me that Frankie was talking to anyone in the coffee shop who would listen about the workout he had just completed.

Frankie, Annette, and Dick are pseudonyms of course but the events did happen. The astounding progress in the short time had nothing to do with effort but everything to do with adequate rest.

If you are not making consistent real improvement you are prolly not getting adequate rest. You can ruin two workouts if the second workout follows too soon after the first. Most people never get a handle on whether or not they are over-trained because their form is not consistently the same. They are not comparing apples to apples. Another reason is that the workout is constantly changing. Variety is good, but it can hide lack of improvement if there is not two identical workouts to compare.

You don't need to workout that hard. You just need to do a little more than your body is used to handling, and if given enough rest, your body will, as a form of self-protection, will make a positive adaptation. We can help you with the right dosage.

Through trial and error you can eventually find out what works. I spent years figuring it out. At Austin TX Personal Trainers and New Orleans Personal Trainers our personal trainers have developed a high intensity training program (HIT) with special attention paid to recovery to insure that the improvements are ongoing – our business depends on it. We cannot afford to have clients come in and ruin two workouts in a row by not being adequately recovered.

Overtraining Part One

Overtraining occurs when one trains too often, too long, too hard or any combination of these. Plenty of other factors in life can contribute as well such as lack of sleep, poor nutrition, and stress. Overtraining appears to build up slowly and can go unnoticed. When I first began training I was hell-bent on increasing the weights I lifted. I thought I was improving, but I was fooling myself. I’d change the cadence a bit, take an extra second rest between reps, ever so slightly decrease the range of motion, subtly cheat your way through the sticking point a ¼ second in order to complete the rep and voila I improved. On paper I continued to improve but I was gradually becoming increasingly over-trained. The end result is usually burn-out, injury or sickness. I had my share of that.

From what I have observed it take weeks to build up overtraining and weeks for it to dissipate. Example One:

Annette trained very hard once a week and never missed a workout. On the other days she swam at least a couple of times a week. She progressed regularly. After a while she started to struggle, the workouts became brutal but still she improved. One day she came in and did the first exercise, the leg press. She strained mightily but her time was 60 seconds less than last time. I had only increased the weight by two pounds. It is motivation crushing to train that hard and actually go backward.

I had her take a couple of weeks off, and she did a couple of moderate workouts without doing the leg press. After a five week period of recovery she returned to the leg press. Her time was a minute longer than the last outing. She could have done another rep and the set appeared easy. Brutally difficult exercise and regression or taking a break and improving without a Herculean effort? We decided on the latter.

Had we continued on the same path her weight would not have progressed past the 228 pounds she was doing. We lessened the frequency of the leg press and her improvement continued to the point that she was doing 300 pounds on the leg press.

Through trial and error you can eventually find out what constitutes sufficient recovery for your body. I spent years figuring it out. At Austin TX Personal Trainers and New Orleans Personal Trainers our personal trainers have developed a high intensity training program (HIT) with special attention paid to recovery to insure that the improvements are ongoing – our business depends on it.

More articles on recovery and overtraining HERE

To be continued with Example Two…

Less frequent exercise can be better - a personal experience

When I first began lifting weights I worked out every other day - Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, Monday, Wednesday, Friday - repeat - and I never missed for five straight months.  The sessions were with a personal trainer, and accurate records were kept.

Soon my progress stopped. I was particularly stuck with bicep curls just barely achieving eight reps each time for five months. Twice during that time I got nine reps on that one exercise; I likened it to a religious experience – achieving beyond the realm of normal.  The workouts during this time were grueling, as I was hell bent on breaking through a plateau.

I went home for Christmas.  It had been more than a week since my last workout when I found a health club with the very same line of equipment I had been using. I thought surely I would be weaker. I was shocked to find that I was stronger. On the bicep curls I got eleven reps, not the usual eight. I had no explanation for it. I concluded that it must be that the equipment was better oiled. I was not ready to accept that less can be better.

The positive adaptation resulting from strength training involves a structural change - the rebuilding of muscle. For most that involves several days to be fully recovered. Think how long it takes an injury to totally heal. Some go back to the gym before being fully recovered and as a result make minimal progress. Some repeat this mistake for years. I was one of them. 

On the other hand, the positive adaptation as a result of aerobic activity is primarily a bio-chemical change - the body up-regulates its ability to burn sugar for an extended time. The recovery period is short - hence running can be done with greater frequency.

After much trial and error I eventually figured it out. There are those for whom two or three times a week might be appropriate; I was not one of them. I came to realize that we all improve in the beginning at two or three times a week because we are learning a skill, and that must account for some of the improvement.  Also, in the beginning we are not yet taxing our bodies as much as when we work up to higher intensities, and as such require less recovery time. When I cut back my workouts improvement was almost easy. Had I not figured it out I would have quit never to return to the weight room again. I think this is the experience of many in the weight room.

People have different tolerance for exposure to sunlight before getting burnt. The same applies for exercise; everyone has a different capacity for exercise and ability to recover from that exercise. As trainers at first we don’t know what the individual’s rate of recovery from a workout is, but we quickly infer it by seeing the progress or sometimes the lack of it. From those inferences an experienced personal trainer can gage the frequency, intensity, and duration of the training sessions to keep progressing.

When I finally did cut back and started to improve again I had more enthusiasm, focus, and I actually did work even harder. That will happen when you are seeing improvement for your efforts, and you will be more likely to stick to it.

You can get more out of exercising less with High Intensity Interval Training. We use HIIT at both our locations - New Orleans Fitness Training and Austin Fitness Training.

Related posts:
High intensity exercise and recovery - how much is enough?
Strength Training: 67 Percent Improvement in 28 days

How To Ruin Two Workouts

Five months with no improvement - lesson learned eventually

When I first started strength training improvement came quickly, but soon it trickled to a halt. I figured I was a slow gainer stuck on a plateau that I just had to push through. For five straight months I worked  every other day with a trainer to make sure that I did not cheat on my form.  I never missed one training session, and pretty soon I stopped improving no matter how hard I tried.  My reps stayed the same every workout.  Twice during that period I managed to get nine reps instead of my usual eight on the bicep curls.  I likened that ninth rep to a religious experience – beyond the realm of normal.

My perfect attendance was broken when I went to visit family at the fifth month.  I managed to find a gym with the very same line of equipment, so I did the very same workout.  The only difference was that I had over a week’s rest.  Miraculously I improved on more than a couple exercises.  On the bicep curls I managed to get eleven reps.  I thought to myself if nine reps were a religious experience what is eleven reps?

I could not explain my improvement.  I came to the conclusion that the machines were better oiled and possibly it was my mother’s cooking.  It never occurred to me that the simple act of resting allowed me to get stronger.  I eventually figured it out but many don’t.  They go into a gym improve for a while and then stop improving.  At that point they often get injured or quit in frustration.

By training too often you ruin two workouts. The first workout that stimulated change is worthless if you do not give your body a chance to recover.  The second workout is worthless as well, as you cannot give your best effort if you are not 100 percent.  

How often you need to exercise will depend on a number of factors; most important are duration of exercise, level of intensity, recovery ability, and frequency of certain exercises. It took me years of trial and error to figure out the right formula. That formula will be different for different people. An experienced trainer will know how to manipulate the variables safely to produce continuous improvement for her clients.

Strength increases occur exercising as little as once or twice a week, If it's the right exercise program. The personal trainers at Austin Fitness Trainingand at New Orleans Fitness Trainers can guide you through a personal training program that will enable you to get more out of less time exercisingand keep improving.

In 28 days a 67 Percent Improvement in Strength

It is rare for a woman to do a single chin-up. It is rarer still for a tall woman to do a chin-up. Years ago I began working out a 5'9" woman who could do three chin-ups. Her routine had been to do three chin-ups followed by several demanding negative reps every Friday at 5:00 for more than a year. She worked hard but she never improved. She was not remotely close to conpleting a fourth repetition.

This woman would do a whole body strength training workout once or twice week and use the aerobic equipment other days.

Her trainer resigned and I began training her. On the first Friday she insisted on doing chin-ups. It told her she had nothing to lose by taking a week off from that one exercise. She reluctantly acquiesced. She came in the next Friday with a negative mindset, fully expecting to be weaker. She did four chin-ups. She was amazed. When I asked her to forgo chin-ups the week after that she complied. Week four she did five chin-ups - a 67 percent improvement in the number of completed repetitions in 28 days by doing less. She was ecstatic; it was like magic.

There was no magic. Chin-ups followed by negative chin-ups are demanding and require time to recover. This woman was chronically over-trained, and a couple of weeks off allowed her to recover.

I told this story to another gym member. He reply, “You know women are liars. I bet she was doing chin-ups every night at home during those four weeks”. I guess I would have trouble believing it too. I took me years to understand that training less often can produce more improvement. At first I refused to believe the improvement could come from doing less, but it kept happening to me and those I trained – often in dramatic fashion.

By training too often you ruin two workouts. The first workout that stimulated change is worthless if you do not give your body a chance to recover. The second workout is worthless as well as you cannot give your best effort if you are not 100 percent.

How often you need to workout will depend on a number of factors; most important are recovery ability, duration of exercise, level of intensity, and frequency of certain exercises. It took me years of trial and error to figure out the right formula. That formula will be different for different people. An experienced trainer will know how to manipulate the variables safely to produce continuous improvement for her clients.

Strength increases occur exercising as little as once or twice a week, If it's the right exercise program. The personal trainers at New Orleans Personal Trainers and at Austin Personal Trainingcan guide you through a personal training program that will enable you to get more out of less time exercisingand keep improving.

High intensity training - how long should each exercise be?

Take two people who can just barely lift 100 for one repetition. Now lighten the weight to 80 pounds and see how many reps each person gets. You might find that there will be a wide range of variability. One person might get eight reps, while the other will get 12. Why is that?

Those who have primarily fast-twitch muscle fiber will be able to lift a greater weight for their size. Those who are more effective at recruitment of muscle fibers will be able will lift more weight as well. Someone who is primarily fast-twitch and very effective at recruiting a lot of muscle fiber for the task at hand will be very strong and very fast. Dara Torres is an example.

The flip side of that is those who are primarily fast-twitch and very effective muscle fiber recruiters will fatigue much quicker. Those that fatigue quicker will be better suited to exercises of shorter duration to avoid over-training. A slow twitch person who is less effective at muscle fiber recruitment will require a longer duration of an exercise to reach a level of fatigue that is necessary to stimulate a change in the body. Some will do well with an exercise duration of less than one minute on a particular muscle group, while others might benefit more with times over two minutes for the same muscle group.

The composition of fast- and slow-twitch muscle fibers varies among individuals, and it varies for the various muscle groups within each individual. As trainers we do not know the muscle fiber composition of each client. We cannot do biopsies to determine that composition. Noticing the different rates of fatigue among individuals we can infer that a client might possibly be more fast-twitch than slow twitch and make necessary changes in the duration of certain exercises.

That can be problematic though. Sticking to a scheme of tailor-made set times may work well at first, but eventually the improvement will stop as the body adapts to the same stimulus week after week. At Austin Personal Trainers and New Orleans Fitness Training we might determine that a set time is better for a certain individual on a certain exercise and perform that protocol more often, but we feel variety in the length of times is important as well. We take our clients through a variety of different exercises, changing sequences, differing amount of sets for each muscle group, and exercises of different durations, so that they are constantly presented with a new challenge to keep the positive adaptations ongoing.

If a client stalls at certain time for a given weight we'll make changes by avoiding that particular exercise for awhile and substituting different exercises addressing the same muscle group. Those exercises will have different durations. When we go back to that exercise that the person had stalled on we very often find they outperform their previous best time by a surprising margin.

High intensity training - how often should one train?"

dog jumping.jpg

When the body is exposed to more of a stimulus that it is equipped to handle the body will makes a positive adaptation as a form of self-protection. That change will occur if the body has the capacity to change plus the needed time and resources to recover. Too much of the stimulus and too little time to recovery can produce a negative result – tanning versus burning or an increase in strength versus over-training and resulting weakness. Just like everyone has a different tolerance to exposure of the sun, each person has a different tolerance for high intensity strength training frequency.

With high intensity training there are those for whom twice a week will produce ongoing results while others would suffer under such a regime. For those who need more recovery time working out twice a week results in ruining two workouts, If you will not have fully recovered from your first workout, the second workout will be sub-par as you are not at full capacity. You will not improve, and you will have wasted valuable time and effort.

Working all the major muscle groups in a high intensity fashion once a week works best for most people. One of our clients trains every nine to ten days. You say surely that person can’t achieve peak strength training that infrequently. While it might not be optimal for others, it really works for him. He does 1000 pounds on the leg press, and he uses the stack on several other machines. A person that strong can put greater stress on the body that may require a longer recovery time.

Through trial and error you can eventually find out what works. I spent years figuring it out. At Austin TX Personal Trainers and New Orleans Personal Trainers our personal trainers have developed a high intensity training program (HIT) with special attention paid to recovery to insure that the improvements are ongoing – our business depends on it. We cannot afford to have clients come in and ruin two workouts in a row by not being adequately recovered.