7 Controversial Yet Easy Steps to Get You in the Best Shape of Your Life in Less Time

 

Only crazy people like to spend more time exercising than they actually need to.

There are far too many things in life to experience and explore.

So wanting to know how to get in shape fast is a natural, and indeed, good question.

I have personally witnessed new trainees make a 100% increase in strength and fitness in as little as 6 weeks. Click To Tweet

Just to clarify.

I know they made this huge jump in improvement.

Because I tracked every single workout meticulously.

This was with a total training time of only 6 hours in 6 weeks.

2 x 30-minute sessions per week.

Far less time if you just count the TUL (time under load) on exercises.

Actually, I will count, and tell you at the end of this article.

Note: The required time to improve an individual's fitness markers varies on the individual of course. Click To Tweet

So if you want to begin learning how to spend less time exercising.

Yet generate better results then you were previously?

Here are my top 7 tips for getting into shape as fast as possible with the least amount of time investment.

Step 1 – Don’t Do Cardio

stencil painting showing fat man running and muscly man running after

All the cardiovascular health benefits. You need and want. Can and will come from.

A properly planned and executed. High-intensity resistance workout.

The type of high-intensity exercise at this point is irrelevant.

The metabolic events that the body experiences during and after a high-intensity workout.

Surpass what you can attain from cardio in the same amount time.

Cardio for Fat Loss

Look I’ve been there before. Plodding on the treadmill for 3-4 hours per week on top of my weights workout.

Under the delusion that I was being productive when there were far more important things that required my attention going ignored.

If you believe that cardio is an efficient way to burn fat.

Think again. Most cardio equipment overestimates calories burned.

Even then a single pound of fat is equivalent to 3500 Kcal

That means you would need to run a marathon to burn a single pound of fat.

Creating a calorie deficit via exercise is the 4 lane highway to overtraining. Click To Tweet

Remember.

The body’s cardiovascular system up-regulates post intense workout.

An elevation in your metabolism will follow a high-intensity workout.

This is due to the need to repay the oxygen debt created and rid the body of toxic waste products.

Mechanical Work is Mechanical Work

Whether you are running, swimming or performing a full-body resistance workout.

Your body is performing mechanical work.

Your muscles and cardiovascular system.

Have no way of differentiating between the different forms of exercise.

All your body knows is relative intensity, in other words:

 

“How hard am I working right now?”

intensity vs duration continuum.

Cardio is a lower body workout performed predominantly by your legs.

Through a partial range of movement.

With great impact on the joints.

Against gravity which is a unidirectional form of resistance.

That cannot be adjusted or varied for efficiency.

You would be better served. Performing some kind of a resistance exercise such as barbell squats or leg presses.

Carried out for no longer than 3 minutes.

With a slow and smooth cadence taken to the point of momentary muscular failure.

This type of workout would provide all the benefits of cardio and more.

With none of the downsides. Such as impact on joints.

Excessive wear & tear, and a repetitive partial range of movement.

Taking a fraction of the time to complete.

But don’t just take my word for it.

Since 2005 When Gibala et al published their groundbreaking study entitled:

 

“Six sessions of sprint interval training increases muscle oxidative potential and cycle endurance capacity in humans’.

 

2005! Yet people are still re-affirming what seems like an ancient dogma.

That cardio is necessary to strengthen your cardiovascular system.

Even after this study was published the ‘cardio crowd’ came out and protested.

Arguing that the study was comparing sprint interval training benefits.

Against a control group that did not exercise using the conventional steady-state methods.

Ok fair enough, I guess they had a point. So, another study was done!

This time using steady state ‘cardio’ as the control group.

HIIT vs Cardio?

women doing battle ropes side by side with same woman running on a treadmill. Bold white writing saying: HIIT vs Cardio?

Gibala and associates went back in the lab and done their study comparing a Sprint Interval Training (SIT) group.

Versus an Endurance Group (ET).

Despite the ET group (cardio folk) performing 97.5% more time engaged in ‘Exercise’ (cough). Both groups improved to the same degree. Click To Tweet

WHAT! Yep, guys, I’m serious look it up yourself, here and here.

In case you’re wondering what effect cardio has on fat loss.

That will be discovered in step 3.

CAVEAT: If you want to run a marathon then, of course, you need to do cardio as you must practice the skill element of running and accustom the body to running for long periods of time.

Why you would want to run a marathon and place your body through such a stressful and harmful event escapes me. Especially considering there are more sensible options like tough mudder etc. 

 

Step 2: Don’t Mix Up Your Routine

image of DJ mixing with text saying: "stop mixing it up. Leave it alone. Measure progress and see if it's working stupid".

Mixing up your routine may make for entertaining and refreshing workouts.

But that’s all it will do in the grand scheme of things.

In order to effectively train your whole body.

You require only a few different exercises that can challenge the major muscle actions of the body.

Think:

Upper Body Push (extension).

The below to movements (and variations) make up Upper Body Push.

 

Upper Body Pull (Flexion).

The below to movements (and variations) make up Upper Body Pull.

 

Torso Rotation.

Lower Body Push (extension) and Pull (flexion).

The below two movements (and variations e.g with knee flexing/extending) makeup Lower Body Push and Pull. 

 

 

These are the major movements that will provide at least 80% off the needed stimulus.

For only 20% of the time investment possible.

Just to clarify, I am not saying that you never need to switch up your routine and do different exercises.

You will need to so you can target important areas of the body.

Such as the spine, neck muscles and hip muscles.

With various abduction, adduction, flexion and extension movements.

I am saying that changing your routine every workout is counterproductive.

There are two main reasons for this:

 

1. Skill Acquisition Stage.

When you first perform an exercise or even re-practice an exercise you haven’t done in some time.

Your CNS (central nervous system).

Will be responsible for the increase in strength and performance.

There will be no real gains in the way of muscle tissue and metabolic efficiency.

Once you have performed that exercise numerous times.

Your CNS will have maxed out its adaptive potential.

Then your body will start to make long term physiological adaptations.

Which is exactly what you are looking for.

You will start to build muscle and ‘fitness’ (metabolic adaptations).

This process of seeing your strength go up and being more confident.

But seeing no physical changes is known as the

“Skill Acquisition stage”.

 

2. Accurate Record Keeping.

I won’t talk about the necessity of record keeping here.

I will go into further detail about this crucial element in step 7.

Suffice to say. That if you want to continuously progress.

You must have accurate records on your workout performance, every workout.

If you are constantly chopping and changing your workouts.

It will be impossible to accurately record your performance.

 

Step 3: Don’t Do Exercise to Burn Fat.

The primary role of exercise in a fat loss programme is to prevent the loss of muscle tissue.

In some cases, individuals may even build muscle.

The goal should not be to accrue a calorie deficit through exercise.

Calorie manipulation in the diet phase will be responsible for fat loss.

Everyone knows that in order to lose fat effectively.

You must impose restrictions on both what you eat and how much you eat.

The end goal.

Is to create a calorie deficit.

That will encourage your body to start taking energy from stored fat and not from FFM (fat-free mass).

Resistance exercise will be your aid in the crusade against losing FFM.

Most people are unaware that there exists a limit on the total amount of fat your body can use in one day.

The Fat Burning Limit

 

image of doctors treating patients in the us army Minnesota starvation experiment

Few people are aware of the US Army’s Minnesota: “Starvation Experiment”.

In this study the researchers found.

There exists a limit to the fat which can be made available. For energy usage to be roughly 31.4 kcals per pound of fat per day.

The Fat Burning Limit

Let’s take a middle-aged male who currently weighs 170 lb with 20% BF (body fat).

20% BF x 170 lb = 34lb BF

34 lb x 31.4 kcals limit = 1,067 Kcals.

1,067 Kcals equals the maximum possible deficit you could create before your body would start to eat from FFM (fat-free mass) on day 1.

Many people inadvertently create deficits over this through diet and exercise.

Not necessarily every day. But at the end of a week, many people can go over this limit and start depleting FFM.

Attempting to track your energy expenditure through exercise is a perilous task.

The technology available to us, the average trainee.

Leaves a lot to be desired and the numbers you get are often times overestimated.

Add to this that creating a large calorie deficit through cardio.

Creates a stress to the body that the body must then recover from.

This will negatively impact our limited recovery ability.

Which needs to be diverted towards recovering from our resistance training sessions.

It is far more effective to create a calorie deficit via the diet and leave cardio out of the equation.

It will also save you a whole bunch of time to do more important things like meal prep or read this blog 🙂

Step 4: Don’t Train Every day.

Who actually has the time to do this anyway?

I mean even if you have the time, isn’t there better things to be doing?

Not training every day will represent the single greatest saving in time and also make the greatest contribution towards your fitness goal. Click To Tweet

Confused? I would like to quote Drew Baye:

“The three biggest mistakes people make is doing too much, too often and not nearly hard enough”.

After nearly 6 years of training clients in various gyms.

I can tell you this is exactly the case.

People make up for a lack of intense training, by doing more training.

Unfortunately, there is no substitute for outright hard work.

The body absolutely needs a high signal stress to adapt to.

However, high-intensity stress is completely relative.

What is hard for one person may be easy for another.

This is where a lot of the confusion lies.

Finding your limits is key to making long strides.

Towards achieving your fitness/strength goals.

If you do train with a high intensity of effort and push your body, safely and effectively, to its limits.

You will have sent a signal to the body which it will then be forced to adapt to.

This adaptation process takes time to complete.

Before it begins you must 1st complete the recovery stage.

Here’s how it works:

image of the thre phases of exercise. stress, recovery and adaptation

The above image shows us the process of a productive workout.

The 1st stage labeled ‘S’ is the workout or the stress. The 2nd phase ‘R’ is the recovery stage. The ‘A’ is the final adaptation stage.

Where your body adapts to the previous stress by super-compensating (growing stronger/fitter).

Now, the important thing to remember here.

Is that the recovery stage can take anywhere from 1 day up to 2 weeks.

It really depends on many factors that I will go into in separate articles.

Understand that training every day.

Will lead you down the path of overtraining.

If you are applying any meaningful effort during these workouts.

If these workouts are not very hard at all, then you are wasting your time.

Training Once Per Week?

There are various studies quoting differing numbers.

But from experience, the average person should take at the very minimum 2-3 days of rest in between workouts.

You should then increase this number as you begin to master form and how to push yourself to your limits.

Through the process of accurately recording your individual workout performance.

You will be able to identify what the ideal time frame for recovery is.

Based on your lifestyle and current health.

You may find that you will require 5 days and above to fully rest and adapt.

The only way to tell for sure is to meticulously and accurately record your workouts.

I will touch on this in step 7.

Step 5: Don’t Do Plyometrics

There are a lot of individuals recommending plyometrics.

They believe plyometrics are advantageous or even necessary for generating high-intensity workouts.

There are also a lot of people getting injured and scratching their heads after.

 

 

 

Plyometric exercises will elevate your heart rate very fast indeed. But at what expense? Click To Tweet

Why should you risk injury and excessive wear and tear?

When there is a far safer and more effective way of training available.

Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of plyometrics.

Pros:

 

  1. Elevate heart rate very fast through sporadic, fast bursts of muscular activity.

 

  1. Easy to perform in any environment, minimal to no equipment needed.

 

  1. Can be fun, in a challenging, frustrating, scary kind of way.

 

Cons:

Dangerous! The chances of injury are far greater than compared with a resistance workout done in a smart manner.

Ineffective muscular loading pattern. This means that the exercise does not load the muscle with a constant, uniform tension.

By design, plyometrics reduce the effective range of motion. Meaning that fewer muscles fibers are stimulated.

Unsuitable for large segments of the population.

Obese people, arthritic people, osteoarthritic people.

People with existing injuries, people with half a brain etc etc etc.

Maximal impact on joints, the only way to negatively impact the joints further would be to take a hammer and pound them. Or, add weight, which people recommend as a progression model. Yep. I’m serious.

Just take a look at these idiots.

 

Supposed benefits that didn’t make the pro’s list above.

Because, well, they are not Pro’s.

They are either myths or achieved in a safer more effective manner.

Myth 1: Makes you more powerful (by preferentially stimulating type 2 muscle fibers and their motor units.)

This isn’t a full-blown myth, but it might as well be.

Plyometrics do actually preferentially stimulate the higher order more powerful type 2 fibers.

If plyometrics were the only way of tapping into these massively important muscle fibers.

Then there could be some debate.

However, you can still stimulate your type 2 muscle fibers and create power in a far safer more efficient manner.

If you do a set of leg presses to complete MMF (momentary muscular fatigue)

You will recruit and fatigue all the various muscle fiber types by default.

You will maximally stimulate the CNS (central nervous system).

No brainer, you would think.

Myth 2: Increases coordination, skill, and Reaction thus improving athletic performance.

Bulls*it, I’m sorry but please.

Coordination – Is specific to the skill your practicing.

So if you want to become a more coordinated burpee jumper.

Then that is what you will become through practice.

If you want to become a better high jumper then burpees will not help you any more then squats will help you.

The best coordination practice would be high jumps themselves.

Leave the plyometrics for crossfitters. Click To Tweet

Skill – Exactly the same as above.

Skill is specific to the skill.

Practicing a movement similar, with the intent of ‘exercising’.

Is not the way to go about it. By any stretch.

Reaction

Is a genetic trait or at least a trait that is developed over a lifetime.

Not something that can be acquired through jumping up and down.

Increases Athletic Performance

The best training for athletic performance is to practice the event.

Break down the elements of the sport in question.

Then practice as close to the sport as humanly possible.

Do not bring in outside influences alien to the sport.

Such as sandbags, boxes, bands etc.

Practice the sport as it is played or as close as possible.

In the above chart. Representing plyometric exercises.

The graph depicts a series of very steep inclines and declines.

Through the intensity spectrum.

It is creating a high amount of intensity, which is good.

But if you compare it to the smarter resistance exercise.

You can immediately see the less aggressive intensity spikes.

Notice a more constant, steady time spent at both higher and lower intensities.

Step 6: Are Multiple Sets Really Necessary?

Performing multiple sets becomes less important.

As you master how to manipulate the intensity of effort.

The most popular set scheme is 3 sets of 10 reps.

This was the method used in earlier studies to measure the effectiveness of resistance exercise.

The intention of these studies was to demonstrate the effects of resistance exercise.

They successfully demonstrated that resistance exercise.

Has many benefits, and the set scheme used yielded the results.

This does not mean that there is not another, better, way of yielding the same results.

Or possibly even greater results.

Over recent years more research has been carried out.

The objective was to find the minimum effective dose of exercise.

Many studies have been carried out.

That successfully demonstrate.

One set can be as effective at generating results than multiple sets.

But there is caveat involved.

You must first master how to generate a high enough degree of intensity to justify such an abbreviated workout.

Crossing the threshold and turning on the adaptive process in a single set is harder to get right.

But in the long term, it is a more effective model to follow.

So if you value your time and are willing to invest a few hours into the theory of efficient exercise.

You can end up saving a LOT of time, and minimize overtraining in the process.

This topic is an article in itself. Just know that there exists an alternative, more effective method, and is backed in the scientific literature.

Step 7: Always Collect Data from your Workouts.

I can’t begin to tell you.

How frustrated I used to get witnessing other personal training colleagues around me.

Telling me how much they wish they could get better results for their clients.

Or motivate their clients better.

The problem was.

They couldn’t even muster the motivation for themselves.

To do a proper job and collect data from their client’s workouts.

Collecting data from your workouts such as:

 

  • Exercise Order

 

  • Time Under Load (TUL) or Repetitions Per Set

 

  • Time Transitioning Between Exercises.

 

  • Weight

 

  • Machine Settings

 

  • ROM (Range of Motion)

 

  • Heart Rate Average

 

Will not only allow you to monitor your progress.

But also highlight when your body needs more recovery.

If your progress stalls and you are training correctly.

It means that your body is not being allowed sufficient time to recover and adapt.

If you are not meticulously recording your data.

Then you have no solid method.

For incorporating the most fundamental training principle “progression”.

You may think you are progressing by adding 5 kg onto the weight you lifted last time.

Is your range of motion the same?

Are you resting a fraction of a second longer towards the lockout phase?

These may seem like small details.

But a 1 repetition increase from last times 6 rep max set.

May seem like a small detail. But it’s not.

It’s a 16.67% increase.

Doesn’t seem so small a detail now ey?

Especially for a seasoned lifter who has been training for years.

If for example, you had no method of consistently determining your range of motion.

You may score yourself as gaining 1 repetition.

But if your ROM wasn’t as deep as normal.

Then that 1 rep increase you think you got, in actual fact is incorrect.

And if this was the 3rd workout in a row that you have not increased in strength.

You may need to add in an extra rest day.

To allow your body to fully super-compensate.

I hope you can see now how important record keeping is.

As you begin to get stronger.

Your load increases will also proportionally decrease.

Making it even more important to accurately record your workouts.

There will be instances where adding a single pound to your weights.

Will allow your numbers to continue increasing.

When working with such small numbers the only way to be sure you are getting stronger, and avoid errors.

Is to ensure all your variables are being meticulously tracked.

Piecing it All Together

If you’re just starting out or getting back into training.

Then you shouldn’t worry about piecing together the perfect exercise regime.

Just take on board what I have said here, and practice it at home or at the gym.

You do not need to worry about recording your first 6 – 10 workouts.

Just start training.

Perfection can be the enemy of action. Click To Tweet

You may, however, feel more comfortable and confident.

Having a system to follow and being organized.

Everybody is different in this sense, do what you think will work for you.

Just remember.

The next time someone tells you how many hours a week they spend training.

Do them a favor, be a friend, send them over to this article.

Together we can update the current training wisdom and bring it into the 21st century.

P.S: I made a promise at the beginning of this article.

I would tell you how long the total TUL was.

In a typical workout, a client would experience.

Over a 6 week period to achieve a strength increase of 100%.

Each one of my client’s workouts consisted of 5 exercises.

1 working set taken to MMF was performed.

Each exercise was performed for no longer than 180 seconds.

i.e Weight selected allowed for complete MMF within that time.

So that is:

180 x 5 = 900 seconds. Let’s tidy it up.

900 / 60 = 15 minutes of time under tension in each 30-minute workout.

15 minutes per workout x 8 workouts in a month = 2 hours of TUL per month.

To get a 100% strength improvement (on average).

The other time was spent in review of the previous workout.

Prepping for the current workout.

And maneuvering around meatheads and half-naked girls in a busy gym.

Until next time.

Your Exercise Guru

David Klein