Browse Tag: muscle growth

HOW TO WORKOUT WHEN YOU DON’T HAVE TIME

extremely fast home workouts

“You may delay, but time will not.”
― Benjamin Franklin

I learned long ago that if I could shorten and condense my workouts, results would come that much faster (with a sweet bonus of having more time for other things).  And well, like you, I only have so much time to begin with. Forget spending 20 minutes driving to the gym, this workout needs to happen NOW!

This post is about the 3 insanely fast home workouts that have allowed me to abandon the gym entirely.

Each workout has a different focus and the great thing about them is that when you do have a surplus of time and energy, you can then combine them to create a super workout.

Consume it quickly, let it digest, than use it to fuel your action.

We’re busy, remember?

exhausted athlete How to Workout When You Dont Have Time

CONDITIONING / FAT LOSS  

{ 4 MINUTES }

Protocol: Tabata

I said it once, I said it twice, and I’ll say it once more: We do not need to run to be in shape. We just need to do things that make breathing tough. Tabata is the most efficient way we can do this.

The basics:

  1. Exercise for 20 seconds, rest for 10 seconds.
  2. Do this 8 times.
  3. Try to accomplish between 8 – 14 reps per round.
  4. To achieve this number, pick an exercise and/or weight that allows you to max out around 20 – 30 reps.

In between rounds, write down your reps (at the end, you’ll have a number like “108″. Your goal for next workout is to beat this).

Tabata is best used to target slow twitch muscles like the legs. Squats, lunges, step ups, hip thrusts, and their variations all work equally well here as do many core exercises like planks. Upper body movements such as chinups and pushups, however, will be tough. If you go this route, make sure to pick 2 exercises and alternate them.

Rather then be distracted by a hand timer or even counting the time for this protocol, listen to special tabata music. I am so passionate about this that I made my own track here.

Modification: Don’t think you need to confine to the rules in order for this to be effective. If you are just starting out, try a half tabata (2 minutes). If you are more advanced, try a super tabata (30 seconds on / 10 seconds off). If you have flat gone off your rocker, try just doing something for 4 minutes total (flutter kicks from hell).

gymnast body How to Workout When You Dont Have Time

MUSCLE BUILDING

{ 10 – 20 MINUTES }

Protocol: EDT

Resistance training, by itself, doesn’t build muscle. No, we thank Progressive Overload for this. Coming back week-after-week and trying to do more volume (reps x sets x weight) is what sends the signal to our body to continually “tear down and build up“. Escalating Density Training, or EDT for short, is a program designed just for that. Termed “escalating” because each week you attempt to increase the amount of work you can do.

The basics:

  1. Pick 2 exercises (preferably antagonistic).
  2. Do them back-to-back (i.e. a superset).
  3. Do 5 reps per set of both (of your 10 – 15  rep max).
  4. Do as many sets as you can in the designated time (either 10, 15, or 20 minutes).

So I set my time variable (15 minutes) and I have my exercises (chinups and pushups) of which I must do 5 reps each. I go back and forth, resting just enough so that I am able to complete the reps. When I start pooping out (and getting weaker), I’ll drop the reps to 4. Then 3.  Or I’ll modify them to be made a little easier. At the end of 15 minutes, I’ll have a number (like 24 total sets). When I do this workout next week, I must beat this if I want to progress. Pretty simple, right?

The best exercises for this tend to be isolated upper body movements. If you have a kettlebell lieing around or heck, even a milk jug, try using this to do curls, tricep extensions, straight arm pullovers, overhead press, rows, and a whole bunch of different pushes and pulls.

It should be said that this doesn’t have to be used for a muscle building program. In the end, it comes down to calories. If you are not eating enough (or purposely dieting), than there just won’t be enough materials left to build the house back up again.

Modification: No one said the rep numbers had to be uniform. Many times, for my push-pull workout, I’ll do 5 reps for chinup and 15 for pushup. It’s just how it works out (aka I am too lazy to make my pushup harder).

china lifter How to Workout When You Dont Have Time

STRENGTH

{ 10 – 20 MINUTES }

Protocol: Singles

Becoming stronger without a gym is tough. Unless you are a bonafide gymnast or have access to some tonnage at home like I do, it can be almost impossible to find enough resistance to get your Milo on.

  • So stop #1: Realize that you need some weight at home (ez bars and weights, kettelbells, and weighted vests all work well here and are easy to store).
  • Stop #2: Realize that strength is a skill. And skills, like juggling or the ability to moonwalk, are largely based on how well our brain neurons talk to each other. The faster they communicate, the faster (or skillful) we will be.

Doing singles (that’s 1 rep), this is the best way we work on this skill of strength. There is a misconception, however, that this 1 rep has to be a “bawlz out” effort. Not only can this be dangerous (at least to your kitchen floor), but it only has to be heavy enough…

The basics:

  1. Pick one big [hard] exercise.
  2. Use anywhere from 70 – 85% of your 1rm for weight.
  3. Complete 1 rep on the minute for 10 – 20 minutes.

So I have 165 lb on the bar for overhead press (max is 190+). I do one rep and I’ll rest about 45 seconds before I approach the bar again. Once I do, I’ll make sure I have the proper set up and I prepare myself to do another press (FYI: The aim here is “perfect practice” ). Boom! I set it back down and I either do a full rest or I choose to do a little mobility work in-between. 10, 15, or 20 reps later and I am done.

This is a deceptively easy way to get strong. Through this method, I can credit most of my strength gains. Overhead pressing, for certain, has benefitted the most (youtube clip).

Best exercises for this include full body movements: Overhead or bench press, front squat, deadlift, ab rollout (srsly), chinups, pushups, and variations.

Women wanting to do a real pushup and pullup for the first time will want to try this out (don’t worry, the volume is so low that “getting bulky” is not an issue) as will men wishing to take these exercises to the next level (muscles ups and handstand pushups).

Modification: I don’t really have one here. Find something that is hard and do it.

super workout3 How to Workout When You Dont Have Time

THE SUPER WORKOUT

Putting this all together

First, the principles:

  • Always start with stimulating activities (in our case, the strength workout).
  • Always end with draining activities (conditioning).
  • If you have more time and energy, throw some volume in the middle (the muscle building workout).

Next, putting them into practice for a home workout:

  1. A) Ab Rollout 15 x 1 reps
    >> rest 2 -3 minutes
    B1) Pushup x 10 (EDT)
    B2) Chinup x 5
    >> rest 2 – 3 minutes
    C) Squats ( Tabata)

Note: Based off the protocols I listed above, this workout should not take longer than 50 minutes (including warmup and coffee consumption).

Now, this is when I often hear: “Hey, I can’t do that stuff!”.  Sure you can. If you do not have a ab roller, do hand walk-outs like this. If the regular pushup is too hard, try this. And if you do not have a chinup bar, go to the park and do them like this.

When there is a will, there is a WAG.

FAT LOSS, MUSCLE GROWTH, AND THE ARCHER’S PARADOX

arrow2

FOCUS LESS

There is power in the ability to see the trees and the forest at the same time.

Archers, for example, aim slightly off the target to hit the middle (that’s the paradox).

They do this not only because the arrow bends (and throws the trajectory off slightly), but because over-focusing causes less accuracy.

When aiming for our targets, fat loss or mass gain, it’s no different. Overfocus here causes us to zoom in on only a couple of variables (be that calories or some certain “rule”) while neglecting the rest. Often, it is our health that pays the biggest price. Like I talked about in Why Chasing 6 Pack Abs May Make You Fatter, once our health goes, so does our results.

WE DON’T HAVE TO AIM AT THE CENTER

I’ve had clients lose twenty-to-thirty pounds without giving them a diet just like I, myself, have gained muscle without focusing on muscle growth.

The key is to aim slightly off to the side.

  • Instead of dieting and counting calories, eat more foods (greens, fiber) that cause you to naturally eat less.
  • Instead of adding more arm and chest exercises to build your upper body, do hormone-stimulating exercises like squats and deadlifts.
  • Instead of logging 5 hours a week on the treadmill, sleep more.

The point is that THIS is all related.

If you focus on changing one variable, you risk changing them all. If you do not know which variables these are, then failure is likely.

DEATH OF THE OVER EXERCISER

So you want to know how often you should be hitting the gym if you want to reach your fat loss goal?

The answer is way less than you think.

We live in a society, however, that thinks that more is better. We think if we can just get to the gym 6 times a week, then we will automatically win. If we can just log more miles or cut more calories, the prize will be ours.

This type of thinking will only take us down a road of frustration.

The reality (and slighty less revelatory) is that only better is better. Quality is of the highest quality so to speak. This is true for our 3 big goals: fat loss, mass gain, and performance enhancement.

Can we talk about this?

THE RULES

If you read me for a while now, you know I don’t like putting people in boxes and I certainly don’t like stating what we can and can’t do (because there are just too many crazy, talented people out there who will be the exceptions to my advice).

So I am not going tell you how often you should workout.

Instead, I am going to give you 2 rules.

#1 BE ABLE TO SEND THE SIGNAL

This is the quality I was speaking of. We are not just showing up to show up, but showing up to perform BETTER. Now better can mean many things so we first have to figure out the signal that we are trying to send and then work on making that signal better.

In general –

  • If our goal is fat loss, we want to mix low intensity exercise (like walking) with high metabolic work (like lifting weights).
  • If it is muscle growth, we need to do more volume consistently.
  • If it is performance, we need to get better at what we want to get better (sometimes not so obvious for people).

When our body adapts (ie when we see progress), so does the signal. So that means we have to constantly keep going back to the drawing board to make that signal stronger and clearer. The people you see coming back to the gym year after year who seemingly don’t progress? They failed to change their signals.

If we are unable to send the signal, than our recovery is probably lacking.

#2 BE ABLE TO RECOVER

You can train all you want, but if you are not allowing the time and the materials for the proper adaption (discussed here and here), then you will not see squat for an adaptation.

The thing is, most exercise is stressful. If you  are already living a stressful live (from lack of sleep, bad food, allergies, emotional bullshit, etc.) than adding MORE STRESS will not be in your favor. Stress on top of stress without a means to recover and become stronger equals becoming fat(ter). For real. We can thank cortisol for that.

In my experience, people add way too much unnecessary stress through the way they exercise.

They don’t go hard but they don’t do light exercise either (which can be restorative). Instead, they dance right in the middle in a place I call “No Man’s Land”.

Most of the exercise people do requires only moderate (mediocre?) intensity. This is things like distance running, spin class, and other aerobics. When they do lift, they tend to leave a lot of effort on the table.

Now this is great for beginners and people just getting into this, but after a while the signal will just not be strong enough.
At the far left of the graph will be a load of low-intensity exercises. This includes walking, skating, yoga, mobility, hiking, and other things that we can do while keeping a conversation.

We skip the middle (because the signal sucks) and go straight for the goodies at the far right. The goodies is lifting weight (either external or body) and doing things in a faster, heavier, tensor manner.

The far right? This is hard. This is stuff that invites our mind to tell us why we shouldn’t or can’t do it (AND this is exactly why we must). This is the signal we need.

 

SO…

“How often should I workout?!”

Start with twice a week and go from there. Most people will only be able to handle two hard workouts a week. Very few will be able to do 3. Even fewer 4.

Now the light stuff you can do everyday. In fact, I urge you to do this everyday. Walk to work or to the grocery store. As far as keeping fat off or improving wellness, this habit will make the biggest difference.

Now to tie up some loose ends:

  • Everyone should exercise at least once a week. There are no exceptions to this. If you are in pain and/or think you’re too old, give machines a try
  • Dudes should work out more than dudettes. Testosterone exists for a reason. If you do not use it, you’ll lose it.
  • Runners will think they need to spend a lot of time in “No Mans land ”. While this may be true of professionals, it is not so for amateurs. You can get better by doing light and intense sessions only (will speak on this soon).
  • If your goal is strictly health and longevity, the max you probably want to train will be twice a week. The reasoning being, the less training, the less “wear and tear“ we accrue.

Okay.

I feel good about this.

Thanks for reading.

BASICS OF BUILDING MUSCLE

Question you must ask yourself before attempting my following advice:

Are you comfortable with your current leanness?

No?  Go back to the fat loss drawing board and read the first part of this series.

Yes? Get ready for fun.

SENDING THE MUSCLE GROWTH SIGNAL

With muscle (and unlike fat),  there is a limit to how fast and how much we can create. Once we evolve past the “noobie gains” stage where putting on 10 – 15 lbs of muscle in a year is feasible, muscle growth can slow to 1-2 pounds a year (if we do everything right) or maintenance and even muscle loss (if we don’t).

And as far as the whole “I don’t want to get bulky” debate goes, it is fat that makes us bulky. If you are afraid of getting too big spend time getting lean first.

Now, when it comes to muscle growth, we have less variables to play with.

Sleep is super important for muscle growth, but by itself, it is not enough to tell your body “to grow“. Eating will do this but without a proper stimulus, the excess calories will just be stored as fat (and not help make muscle). And if we train “bawlz out” but neglect sleep and nutrition, we won’t be going anywhere either.

So, as you can see, muscle growth can be hard.

THE ONLY OPTION: PROGRESSIVE OVERLOAD

Muscle Growth for Dummies:

When we lift something heavy (could be a barbell or a fridge), the muscles that we used tear” and become damaged. This is the stimulus. It is telling your body “Hey bro, we need bigger muscles“. So with enough sleep, calories, and time, your body will allow for that to happen. For those same muscles to grow again, however, the resistance has to become greater. Our body needs a new reason / signal. So we either have to lift a heavier weight or lift that weight more times (sets and reps) to accrue the proper amount of damage (ie another stimulus).

It really doesn’t have to be harder than that.

  1. Progressively overload (continually add weight to the bar or your body and attempt to do more sets or reps) to give your body reasons to change.
  2. Sleep (8-9 hrs for intense trainees).
  3. Eat slightly above your caloric maintenance.

For this last one, you cannot grow muscle if the building blocks are not there. Or to put it another way, a construction site can have all the workers in the world, but no building will be built if the bricks are not present.

Now what is slightly above? In terms of calories, 250 – 400 more a day should be enough. In terms of feelings, don’t go to bed hungry.

Also something worthy to mention is the fact that people tend to chase feelings/physiological states in the gym such as making sure they get a pump or making sure they are completely pooped after their workout.

This type of training is only reserved for those that have the ability/capacity to recover. A key question to ask yourself is, “Are my numbers going up?”. If the answer is no, scale back the stimulus.

Stimulate, Don’t Annihilate.

Confucious

That’s it.

That’s all I have.

Hopefully these 2 posts will have left you pondering the signals you are currently sending with your own training and lifestyle. And if you can probably imagine, it just doesn’t end with fat loss and muscle growth.