Many People’s Workouts Are Way Too Long—and Their Intensity Plummets
Many bodybuilders mistakenly believe that working out longer and doing more exercises and sets makes them better than the average person. They misguidedly see themselves as some type of training warrior who is going above and beyond the call of duty in order to achieve their ambitious goals. They incorrectly see themselves as working much harder than the average person because they are willing to put more time in the gym.
More isn’t better—not when it comes to bodybuilding and training. Don’t fool yourself and confuse time spent in the gym or volume of work with progress. This is one of the toughest things for many people training in the gym to understand.
You’ll move from exercise to exercise smoothly and efficiently when you establish a time frame that you are committed to work within. It will be easier to focus on the matter-at-hand when you only have so much time to do so. Make a game out of meeting the time goal that you’ve established. This is just one more simple way to set the stage for a more productive training session.
Your weight training sessions should last no longer than one hour. And you know what? I’m being extremely liberal with that amount of time. I really believe you can be extremely effective in far less time. But, because I know it’s such a challenge for most of us to shorten our workouts and still feel confident that we are doing enough to meet our bodybuilding goals, I’ll make the cutoff point one hour.
Regardless of how you try to rationalize it, longer training sessions are NOT more productive. You must force yourself to become just as effective in a shorter period of time by becoming more efficient.
To borrow a phrase I learned from former Mr. Olympia Lee Haney, you want to “stimulate” the muscles when you are in the gym and not “annihilate” them. Stimulating the muscles can be done quite effectively in one hour or less. It’s a fact that the more time you spend in the gym, the more your concentration and focus will wane. The more your mental focus and concentration diminish the less effective you will become physically.
Let me explain why doing four sets of every exercise is not an efficient way to train. Let’s just say you plan on doing four sets of a particular exercise. During each set of that exercise, your goal is to get at least eight repetitions.
On the first set, you get eight reps—exactly as you had planned. While performing the second set, you will usually get all eight reps again. During the third set, you tend to squeak out all eight reps as well. Getting all of those reps during the third set may have been a bit more challenging than the first two sets. But, despite the difficulty, you were mentally tough and managed to meet your rep range goal. If you do happen to get any more than eight reps during any of those first three sets, you more than likely won’t get many more than one or two in addition to the eight.
This is how I would describe my training performance in the past. No matter what exercise I was doing or which body part I was training, it always seemed to work out that way. Hasn’t this been true in your case as well?
But isn’t it strange that, when you know you only have one set remaining of a particular exercise, your mindset changes? You can mysteriously muster up incredible strength and produce three, four, or even five more reps for an amazing total of 13! All of a sudden, you really became a training warrior. You’ve instantly transformed into a determined, machine-like madman who would make Dorian Yates (my role model for training intensity) envious!
If you think about it, don’t you believe your performance should have turned out just the opposite? Let me explain what I mean:
If you were really giving your all like you thought you were during the first three sets, there shouldn’t be nearly as much energy and power left to meet—much less exceed—that goal of eight reps during the last set. There simply shouldn’t be that much physical strength left inside of you by that time.
If you were truly training with the utmost intensity you probably should have gotten about 12 repetitions during the first set; somewhere around 10 reps during the second one; eight or nine during the third one; and maybe only about six during the fourth one.
Take Action and Do This NOW!
I urge you to eliminate less-than-intense sets—and start training like a training warrior would during every set—during the entire workout!
You must ignite a sense of urgency in order to train with the highest level of intensity. Planning to do only one, two, and sometimes three sets creates that sense of urgency you need.
Using fewer sets, aiming for fewer reps during those sets, training only one body part per training session, and training each body part less frequently will make you spend less time in the gym. It will be much easier to keep your focus, concentration, and intensity level high when you are required to do so for shorter periods of time. When you adopt these “less is more” strategies, your workouts should take no longer than 60 minutes.
The cornerstone to any effective training strategy is the amount of intensity that’s put into it. Whatever training routine or philosophy you decide to use, you must train with intensity. Without enough intensity, your training efforts will produce results that are mediocre at best.
Intensity in training can be described as giving 100 percent of your mind, body, and soul to every repetition, every set, every exercise, and every workout. Intensity means pounding the weights so hard that every set throughout your entire workout ends in absolute failure. In other words, you have absolutely nothing left in reserve when the set is completed. Intensity is just as much a mental feat as it is a physical one.
When you train with this type of passion, zeal, and enthusiasm, constant improvement in your physique is inevitable. If you train with intensity, there’s no question that you’ll be more productive in your bodybuilding efforts than those people who do not. The higher your training intensity level becomes, the better you’ll be at initiating the muscle-building process.