It happens to everyone at some point or another. You fall into the ‘more is better’ trap. This seems to be somewhat a reflection of our general culture that if some is good then more is always better.
But that isn’t always the case when you are talking about training your body.
In fact, after a certain point you are really just wasting your time and affecting your results negatively by putting in too much time.
Misconceptions about Volume
A lot of people think it takes hours upon hours in the gym to create an athletic and toned body. But in actuality if you look at the entire scope of everything your gym time ends up being about 25% of the battle.
Many people, myself included, have found that workouts can be incredible effective while still being very short. At the very most my weight sessions last 45 minutes. Typically they are about 30 minutes. By the same token, my cardio sessions last anywhere from 20 minutes to 60 minutes. Also I am not at the gym every day. Spending more than 6 hours a week at the gym is more than you should.
How is this possible?
The time spent at the gym is very focused and high energy. For cardio I push myself for the entire session. I walk in the doors with a number in mind for calories I want to burn (500 for example) and then my goal is to get into the fat burning zone and achieve that goal as quickly as possible.
No wasted motions!
With weights the story is the same. I want to work my muscles to exhaustion and beyond then leave the gym and start on the road to recovery. Endless numbers of sets seem wasteful when you can accomplish the same goal with less. While I do not employ a ‘high-intensity’ Mike Mentzer style workout there is much to be said for a brief workout.
A sample chest workout might look like this:
- Incline Dumbbell Press – 4 sets for 8 to 12 reps
- Machine Chest Flyes – 2 sets for 8 to 12 reps
- Dips – 2 sets for 8 to 12 reps
- Dumbbell Pullovers – 1 set for 8 to 12 reps
The need for warm-ups and excessive sets drops as the workouts progress. Stretching between sets combined with using lesser weights as the workout proceeds gives less of a need for slow weight warm-up progressions.
Diet & Recovery
After you get that workout done you move onto the important part of your program; diet and rest. If the workout is 25% then proper diet and recovery is easily 60-70% of the whole picture. Not only do you need to follow the proper diet day in and day out, but you also need to have plenty of time for rest. Spending an extra hour in the gym in a day because you are slow and working at less than optimum rate means you get 1 less hour of sleep or rest for your body. That means less time to recover and grow. Also the better your diet is, the less time you need to spend doing cardio.
The last 5% (or 10%) of any program is always the mental game. You have to be consistent and stick to the plan. Part of the mental game is actually knowing when not to go to the gym. Some people feel that you have to be there no matter what. But if your body gives you signs that it needs a rest then you rest. Recharge those batteries so you can go at 110% the next session.