Why do you push yourself to workout for an hour or more? Many men like to work their muscles to the limit and be empowered by the sweat, soreness, and sense of strength that emanate from their training. Others are more practical, expanding their session between 60 to 90 minutes to limit its weekly recurrences. No matter what forces you to commit to a lengthy workout, it turns out that steering clear of short workouts (ie. exercising longer than 30 minutes) may not be as effective as you think.
A recent study conducted by ECU Perth University explored the difference in fitness results between multiple short workouts and one longer training session. Over four weeks, experts observed two groups perform 30 contractions – such as bicep curls – per week. One group was instructed to do 6 contractions per day, 5 days a week, while the others had to cram 30 contractions in a single day. When the study concluded, experts found a 10% increase in muscle strength in the group who performed shorter reps daily versus those who trained longer once a week. And while both groups recorded a similar increase in muscle mass, this suggests that shorter workouts might just give you better results.
As the founder of fitness ecommerce LOBOCKI and industry expert, I too, once favoured a long and sweaty workout. At the early stages of my training, I used to aim for the “magic” 60 minutes too, adding exercises and sets to meet my “time” goal. However, I found that I wasn’t actually focusing on my physical and strength goals. When I switched gear towards shorter, more efficient workouts, I noticed the difference. Not only was it easier to find the motivation to train – especially on those lazy days – but I also realised that a concentrated, high-intensity session led to more consistent and visible progress.
But why should you care about strength if your muscle mass remains the same? Well, muscle mass doesn’t always correlate with strength and a lean muscle can be stronger. A workout that is short and designed with your goals in mind will ultimately be more effective on your muscle strength than a long and scattered session. And if you think you now need to change your whole training regime, don’t sweat it. Building a training session according to your schedule, needs, and strength goal is easier than you think.
Step 1: Set simple goals
Before you dive into a new training regime, take the time to narrow down your strength goals. What do you want to achieve? What exercise do you need to focus on? When do you expect to see progress? How can you fit it into your schedule? Having a clear picture of what achieving your strength goals looks like will make your training more achievable.
Step 2: Create your short training routine
As you’re reducing your workout from 60 to 30 minutes, it is important to not just narrow down your rep count but also not fall in the trap of focusing on one body part. When picking out the right exercises, focus on implementing compounds and supersets. Compound exercises work multiple muscle groups at the same time – E.g. The Squat works the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and calves – but can also be done with an arm exercise. Pairing a compound exercise with a superset will give you a shorter, yet more well rounded routine.
Step 3: Watch the time and limit distractions
I would highly recommend watching the time between sets to make sure you’re not resting for too long. I’ve found 60 seconds to be ideal for most strength training routines. It’s easy to lose focus, not moving onto the next set, or be distracted by notifications on our phones. Avoid wasting time by limiting your rest, keeping your phone in your gym bag, and if you’re training with a partner, rest when they workout and vice versa.
Step 4: Make it work for your schedule
Since the workouts are shorter, you might find it easier to make 30 minutes work into your schedule – whether that’s before work or during lunchtime if you have a gym nearby. If you were going to the gym once or twice a week, try to break down your workout to 3 to 4 sessions a week instead and stick with it. You might find it’s easier to reallocate 30 minutes if your schedule or motivation gets in the way, especially when you keep an eye on the clock while training.
Step 5: Focus on intensity, technique, and consistency
Yes, keep your workout short, but make sure to focus on intensity, technique, and consistency. Consistency will come down to following through with your newly improved workout plan. The rest will require focus and commitment. Working out with the right technique and alignment will not only reduce your risks of injury, but also engage your muscles more effectively. And by adding an extra layer of intensity to your routine – both through thoughtfully-designed compound exercises and the support of fitness accessories – each set will be as optimised to build strength as it can be.