How to be More Efficient in Your Training
I always joke that I’m the laziest “fitnesser” you’ll ever meet. Which is ironic considering I own a gym and encourage people “to fitness” every day. The way I think about it is simple; if I’m going to work my ass off at something I better be getting the maximum possible return from it. Think of how you go about purchasing a car. If you have a $20,000 budget, you want to be getting the MOST value possible for your money, right? Fitness works the same way. If you have 30 minutes to give to exercise today (that’s 30 minutes of precious time for most people) wouldn’t you want to be getting the highest possible return for your time? I know I would.
When I say I’m “lazy” what I really mean is that I do the ‘least’, for the highest possible return. To clarify (because I don’t want you walking away from this blog going “Mel said I should be lazy”) this does not mean you don’t work hard. What this means is that you should be choosing exercises that are most efficient at helping you to reach your goals.
Which means that, if you’re like 90% of people and your goal is fat loss, you should be incorporating some strength/resistance work into your program. Allow me to explain…
Strength or “resistance” training, does NOT mean you only lift heavy barbells. I don’t care if it’s 5kg Dumbbells, a kettlebell, sandbag, sled or medicine ball. If your training program doesn’t include some sort of resistance, you aren’t training efficiently.
What do I mean by “efficient”?
We can’t just look at exercise as ” all is created equal”. An air squat (bodyweight squat) does not have the same effect/stimulus on your body as a weighted squat. Twenty light reps of a movement does not have the same effect / stimulus as 3-5 heavy reps. Thirty minutes of running has a different effect/stimulus on the body as a 30 second max effort sprint. Different movements target different metabolic and musculature responses. Depending on what you hope to achieve from your fitness regimen, understanding these differences will help you to choose the most efficient and effective exercises as they relate to your goals.
Why aren’t body weight exercises getting the job done?
Most people want to lose body fat. To lose body fat (not just body “weight”) you need your metabolism to burn fat. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Which it can be if you understand how to get your body to do that. Remember; not all exercise has the same effect on the body. If you’re doing exercises that promote muscle growth (using weights in your training) for example, your body will rev up its metabolism to help feed your new muscle mass and start going to fat storages for that additional energy requirement. If you are doing body weight exercises like circuits, for example, you’re promoting muscular endurance. Muscular endurance does not “grow” your muscles, it improves your muscles ability to uptake oxygen and recycle glycogen. Essentially, the better your muscular endurance is, the longer and faster you can repeat the same movement (running or box jumps, for example) over and over again before getting fatigued and having to stop.
The difference with endurance training and strength training is that endurance training does not promote the growth of muscle tissue, but it does require additional energy from the body. Because muscle is “expensive” and fat is “cheap” for the body to upkeep, your body will go to muscle storages for the additional energy requirement, not fat. You don’t need large quantities of muscle to have good muscular endurance (search images of marathon runners). If the muscle isn’t being used or maintained through strength training, the body will rid of it. The less muscle you have in the body, the slower your metabolism & the more likely your body is to store fat and chew away at muscle. Creating the “skinny- fat” phenom that is sweeping our first world nations.
Now don’t get me wrong, muscular endurance is a crucial part to fitness. You can squat alllll the weight in the world, but if you can’t get on a rower and smash out 5km you’re not “fit”. You’re just strong. Fitness is the mastery of all physical domains. SO if you only ever exercise in ONE of these domains (ie Bodyweight circuits/barbells/running), you’re not getting the most bang for your buck.
So what about all these AMAZING before and after photos we see?
These are interesting. They tap into that need for instant gratification with their “12 week progress” captions and absolutely remarkable weight loss results. Naturally, if you limit your calories and increase your energy output doing ANYTHING you will see results like this. The bit I want you to focus on is “weight loss” vs “fat loss”. Much like exercises aren’t created equal, neither is weight loss. You can lose fat, muscle or a combination of the two. What you want to avoid, in order to keep your body and metabolism as healthy as possible, is muscle loss. As I mentioned above, muscle loss is what happens when you’re exercises are comprised of solely endurance style movements (and your calorie consumption is low). The majority of the time, if someone has seen significant results in a short period of time, its their muscle that has gone and not body fat. Remember that old wise saying “if it’s too good to be true, it probably is” ? This applies. Short-term results, like the ones you see in these photos, only cause longer-term issues. Why this happens and what those issues are is a whole other blog post, so I’ll save that for another day, but just remember – the slower, more progressive the change … the longer the results will last. Changing your body and its composition needs to happen gradually. We are creatures of habit and our bodies don’t like fast change. You need to give it time to adapt to the new environment and make this it’s new state of “normal”. Otherwise, as people experience with quick change, your body will do everything in its power to go back to where it feels comfortable. And punish you with an additional 5kg’s (average additional weight-gain, after a drastic weight loss) just for putting it through that torture.
So think about your goals and then consider how your current training styles are working to help you achieve these goals. Are you getting the most bang for your buck? Do you need to make some changes?
Learn new things, step outside the comfort zone … get lazy!.