Heavy resistance training is one of the most effective ways to improve your health, vitality, appearance and overall fitness. Any man who isn’t doing it might as well just admit that he doesn’t care about improving his lot in life.
One of the most common, and baseless excuses made by those who don’t work out is that they don’t have enough time. That’s bullshit on its face – unless you’re both a fortune 500 CEO and single parent, I guarantee you can find between ten and forty extra hours in your week by streamlining and eliminating unnecessary tasks.
But fine, let’s give you the benefit of the doubt. I’m a busy guy too. I also hate going to the gym. It’s boring, most of the people suck, and there’s usually an aerobics class going on in the background, so I have to listen to shitty music and watch pathetic middle-aged orca whales perform their own Special Olympics version of So You Think you Can Dance.
None of that matters to me though, because I rarely spend more than half an hour in the gym in a given week. Yet I look and feel better than most of the asshats lollygagging their way through two-hour workouts every day after work. The truth, often obscured by personal trainers wanting to maximize their hours, is that resistance training exhibits rapidly diminishing returns to scale. If you focus and lift heavy, half an hour in the gym will provide 90% of the benefits of two hours, and 150% the benefits of ten.
Here’s my standard weekly lifting schedule:
Day 1: Upper Body
Dumbbell or Bench Press: 5 sets of 5-10 reps
Pull-ups: 5 sets of 5-20 reps
Overhead Barbell Press: 5 sets of 5-15 reps
Do one set of each exercise in succession, then go back to the first, aka a super-set. Each set is to failure, with the same weight all the way through. Obviously I get more reps in the first sets (current pull-up record: 18) and fewer in round five. There is no rest between sets.
Day 2: Legs
Unweighted Jump Squats: 5 sets of ~20
Leg Press: 5 sets of ~20 Lunges: 5 sets of a 20 metre unweighted lunge walk
Deadlifts: 5 sets of ~10
Again, very little rest throughout the workout. I take an occasional 10-30 second break if it’s absolutely necessary, but I’m pretty much working the entire time. Only the leg press is done to failure from the start. The rest start out relatively easy, and by the third set I am gasping for air and fighting the urge to pass out.
And that’s it. Half an hour a week. Fifteen minutes per workout. By the end of either split, I am completely exhausted. My muscles ache the next day. I need to spend a few minutes in a cold shower before I get dressed or else I just keep sweating into my work clothes. I challenge anyone who claims that building muscle requires long, grueling hours in the gym to try this program. Over the past few months, I’ve been gradually working out harder, heavier and less than I ever have, and my fitness, BF percentage and energy levels have been improving. Some people genuinely enjoy the gym as a social gathering place, and look forward to their sweat-free two-hour workouts with three chit-chatty minutes of rest between each sets. Sad. But if you have better things to do with your hours, get in to the gym and get out.
A few other notes:
– I do the workouts at lunch, after fasting for 12-18 hours.
– If my knees were in better shape, I would definitely incorporate squats into this, probably in place of the leg press.
– Resistance training is only a small part of my exercise regimen. I play hockey, ultimate, volleyball and basketball. I practice yoga and meditation. I hike with my father and dog through forests. I walk to work. I drink too much, wear a tie around my head and dance the night away. I’m always on top during sex. But these are all things I would do even if they offered no health benefits.
– I eat Paleo. I live Primal. You should too. But lifting is good for you regardless.
Bottom line, it’s possible to get 90% of the possible benefits of a resistance training program in half an hour a week. Lack of time is not an excuse. Whatever your goals in life, take a step towards achieving them by starting a serious training program today.