How Much You Need To Exercise for The Best Results

Woman squatting with a heavy bar

Use your time effectively without overextending yourself to get results

I fell into the ‘more exercise is better’ category for several years.
The result was burnout, inability to lose weight and general exhaustion daily.
I often wondered how I got through the day doing so much exercise.
Perhaps being younger helped, and having my mum’s assistance looking after my daughter added to the benefit.
But, if I was exercising a lot more now, I’m unsure how my body would cope.

Time is a hindrance and virtue

Finding the time to exercise is hard — and we make it worse by overextending ourselves.
Usually, it comes from eating more than we should — or eating the wrong things. But, I must admit — I can sometimes fall into that guilt trap of trying to exercise away my overeating!
Although it can sometimes be challenging to exercise — it is vital for good health and longevity.
Carving out a small portion of your day to be active a few times a week is achievable for almost anyone.
We may need to be a little more specific for those who are a bit serious about building muscle and strength.
The good news is that we don’t need to go all out with exercise.

Why you don’t need a lot of time

Researchers at Edith Cowan Uni in Perth found that small amounts of exercise, five days per week, improved muscle more than a single extended weekly exercise session.
Going to the gym once weekly isn’t effective as doing something every day — even in the comfort of your home.
Training in the gym is great — but you can still train indoors or outdoors if it is more convenient.
Sometimes, that’s very handy when you have early morning meetings, a sick child or any other time-zapping commitments.
If you want to put on some muscle and get much stronger, then a single set of six eccentric resistance exercises performed each weekday is best.
For those relatively new to strength training, exercises usually fall into these three categories — concentric, isometric and eccentric phases.
A concentric movement refers to shortening target muscles and reaching peak contraction to overcome gravity or a particular heavy loading.
Isometric is the transition point of an exercise on a stationary muscle.
Eccentric follows after the concentric phase. Your muscle lengthens under load to return to the starting position.
That’s a technical version of lifting the weight up and then down again.
To prove just how much effort (or little effort) is needed to grow muscle and strength, this study divided 36 participants into three groups who all exercised for four weeks.
  • Six contraction’s for a day, five days per week.
  • Thirty contractions during a single weekly session
  • Six contractions once a week
The most successful of those three groups performed six contractions five days per week.
The thirty-contraction group built muscle thickness but not strength
And the six contractions per week built nothing.

One Caveat here

Don’t get too excited by the little so-called ‘Little effort needed’ because all is not what it seems.
Those in the six-contraction group had to perform all exercises with maximal effort, forcing the muscle to work extremely hard.
Exercising in this fashion also produces a lot of muscle soreness, which might put many people off doing it long term.
So, researchers have to go back to the drawing board to develop something without the need for maximal effort.
While this is happening on the sidelines, why not adapt to a proper, long-term strength training program that not only helps to build muscle & strength it also assists in weight loss?

Here’s what you should do

Whilst research is still required to see how much effort is needed to build muscle and strength — you should look no further than what’s already proven research.
High-frequency training (three sets on three occasions per week) & low-frequency training sessions (nine sets on one occasion per week) improved lean mass and strength in a study conducted on 19 active men and women following an eight-week training program.
Using both training frequencies above in a periodised training program is recommended.
Why are researchers overcomplicating things? If the wheel isn’t broken — why break it?

Last thoughts

Don’t forget that muscle adaptations occur when resting — so it’s important to rest frequently, regardless of how intense you train.

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