More is better, right?
I used to lift with ferocity daily for hours at a time. As I learned the value of appropriate rest and recovery, as well as having different obligations and priorities (like wanting to spend time with my sons), I was spending about 90 minutes 3 days a week. From jasonferruggia.com:
When it comes to workout duration less is more.
To build muscle and get stronger you want to get to the gym hit it hard, stimulate size and strength gains, then get out.
That means no more than sixty minutes total, excluding warm up time.
That seems about right, given that my 90 minutes was including a series of dynamic warm-ups. So in order to optimize for strength, power and fat burning, that 60 minute mark may be ideal. I can imagine the wheels spinning in your mind right now. “Fat burning? But longer workouts mean more calories burned!” Yes, that’s an undisputable fact, assuming that you keep the intensity the same. But there’s a piece of the puzzle missing in that equation – hormones.
When you start training your body will naturally boost testosterone levels significantly higher than normal. This increased output peaks somewhere around a half hour into your workout.
By taking blood samples of their athletes, Eastern Bloc researchers determined that at the 45-minute mark your testosterone levels are coming back down to baseline.
And after sixty minutes your body will start to produce less testosterone and more cortisol, which is a hormone that eats muscle tissue and increases body fat storage.
Lately though, I’m noticing the time of my workouts has been creeping up. I’m pushing nearly double that time in a session. I’m not adding volume to my training. Instead, it’s a question of focus. Before I actually get under the bar, I’m stacking jump boxes.
No, not to create a more challenging platform to leap to. I’m building a stand up desk for my laptop. My phone is plugged in via a USB cord (can’t run out of batteries while at the fitness center). My routine consists of hitting a set under the bar, then making a beeline for my computer and answering three emails. I avoid eye-contact with other humans in the gym at all costs; I wouldn’t want to get stuck in an actual face-to-face interaction.
It seems efficient – after all, I’m multitasking and getting work done while working out – but because my workouts are taking much longer, I may not be maximizing their effects. Even if I’m strong on an individual set, if my end results are diminished, I’m compromising my overall gains.
In today’s world it’s hard to turn off outside distractions and cell phones for too long. I get that. But you can certainly leave business in the car for 45 minutes.
Whoa, whoa, whoa. That’s taking things a step too far. I’ll just have to exercise some willpower and move faster. From a study published in Sports Medicine:
In terms of acute responses, a key finding was that when training with loads between 50% and 90% of one repetition maximum, 3-5 minutes’ rest between sets allowed for greater repetitions over multiple sets. Furthermore, in terms of chronic adaptations, resting 3-5 minutes between sets produced greater increases in absolute strength, due to higher intensities and volumes of training. Similarly, higher levels of muscular power were demonstrated over multiple sets with 3 or 5 minutes versus 1 minute of rest between sets.
Fine, I’ll leave my laptop and bring my phone. Texts only, no emails. Baby steps.