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BRIEF BUT INTENSE WORKOUTS

THIS WORKS BETTER FOR ME BECAUSE…….

  • Intensity cannot be maintained for long periods of time. An elongated workout, with lots of rest time and “cooling-off” is better than no workout at all, but is not the best use of one’s time.
  • I would rather do one set of 20 reps than 2 sets of 10, with rest time between those sets. More intensity! This assumes the same weight or other resistance.
  • Working “to failure” means continuing until another repetition is not physically possible. This is the ultimate level of intensity and should be used sparingly and carefully, “Almost to failure” can be a reasonable alternative.
  • So…limited sets, extending the repetitions as far as possible (or reasonable) and keeping challenging resistance makes sense to me.
  • My practice is to work out at home every morning before breakfast, alternating upper body with lower body each day
  • My workouts take 20-30 minutes. Then I have the rest of the day for other pursuits.
  • A brief workout without intensity is not at all productive
  • Intensity must be built carefully over time. What is an intense weight or duration of time will differ from one person to the next
  • I have found it helpful to finish my workouts early and without expending unnecessary amounts of time or energy
  • To do that, I must monitor my levels of intensity and expend energy only when it is most productive

AND OTHERS AGREE

Fitness.com likens short and intense workout time to an investment with an excellent ROI (return on investment). But there is a caveat. We should never conflate short, intense exercise with easy exercise. But we also shouldn’t train explosively until we are in shape to do so. As we age, we lose the capacity to generate force, but brief, intense workouts can preserve this capacity. “If you don’t use it, you lose it”.

12 Minute Athlete suggests that brief intense workouts will suppress our appetites and that those who spend hours in a gym are like hamsters in a wheel.

Fit People tells us that short, intense exercise burns more calories. A distinction is drawn – lengthy cardiovascular exercise may burn calories, but will also create muscle loss, whereas short and intense exercise will help us maintain and even increase muscle mass.

AARP highly recommends High Intensity Interval Training, which is a short burst of intense cardio training, followed by a period of lower intensity – and the pattern is repeated. See my prior post on high intensity interval training.

Healthline reveals that about 30% of people worldwide don’t get enough exercise, though we all generally recognize the health benefits of such activity. Brief but intense exercise is the best solution. This enables us to boost our metabolic rate for hours thereafter. This means more calories are burned after the exercise routine is finished.

BBC News agrees that short bursts of exercise are best for weight loss.

MY BRIEF UPPER BODY WORKOUT

This routine is for 8 sets only. Reps are high and my goal is to keep the sets low and to cut back on rest time – thus greater intensity. Body parts being worked are in a sequence from large to smaller.

  1. Resistance tube rows or pull-downs. This is a back exercise as well as a general warm-up. The resistance tubes (or bands) are attached at the top of a door. The rowing or pulling graduates from waist level to shoulders. 50 reps. The image below shows this exercise, though I do mine at home.

2 and 3. Bullworker “Archer” movement. This is a great latissimus dorsi stretch exercise, to widen the back. 20 reps with a long isometric hold at the end. Both sides are worked, without rest between the two sets. See below.

4. 25 push-ups with wide hand spacing. This is my first chest exercise. The push-ups are done slowly for greater intensity.

5. Bullworker chest compression. Chest muscles are squeezed together by this movement. 12 reps with a lengthy hold at the end. Challenging spring is used within my Bullworker Steel Bow. See below.

6 and 7. Dumbbell curls. These are slow biceps curls for 15 reps, each arm. Curls are done slowly and the negative aspect especially slowly.

8. 25 push-ups with narrow hand spacing. This targets the triceps muscles. This completes my upper body routine.

These sets are grouped for the best “pump” of the body parts being worked. There are also compound exercise effects, since push-ups work the chest, triceps, shoulders and even back. The hand spacing provides for targeting of a particular body part.

My goal is to keep reducing the rest time between sets, while keeping or raising the resistances. To summarize, I want minimal but effective sets, slow and lengthy reps and a lessening of rest time between sets.

NECK, CALVES AND ABDOMINALS

This is my workout on alternate days. I don’t do squats or other thigh exercises since I have arthritic knees and my upper legs are big enough anyway. The main goal on this day is to “blast” my core area. I do 9 sets.

  1. Neck stretching, 80 stretches. I raise my chin and look upward. Then I simulate swallowing and move my neck up and down and side to side. This prevents “turkey neck” and generally strengthens neck muscles.
  2. Heel raises for calves, 100 reps. I put my hands on a wall and step back about 4 feet. Then I raise and lower my heels, while changing foot positions – feet straight ahead, then pointing to the left, then to the right. This flushes the gastrocnemius muscles of the calves.
  3. Side bends, 30 reps. Standing and bending slightly to the right with a small dumbbell in my right hand This works the external oblique muscles, sometimes called the “love handles”.
  4. Side bends, 30 reps, other side. Same as above, working the opposite side
  5. Seated twists,100 reps. Sitting down and facing forward, I twist my waist from side to side, but try not to move my shoulders.
  6. Leg raises. 50 reps. This is done as a floor exercise. See this video for the best description of how this is done. Very effective!
  7. Crunches, 100 reps. Raise shoulders above the floor repeatedly, without allowing shoulders to touch the surface. See image below.

8. Planks. One minute, at least. Supported by forearms and toes, maintain straight position of entire body. This works the entire core and back. Great for improving posture! See below.

9. V-ups. 50 reps. This is a very intense abdominal exercise and my finishing piece of this workout. See below.

This workout focuses on the core, as you can see. The abdominal region is “attacked” from all sides. With good nutrition and cardio, this will give anyone an improved core area and quite.possibly a 6-pack of abdominal muscles.

Because of the brevity of both of my workouts and the separation of the general areas worked, I do one or the other every morning before breakfast. I don’t believe that this is overtraining, because only 20-30 minutes is used for either. Yet, there is definite intensity.

RELEVANT RESOURCES

Here are a few suggestions from Amazon. (As an Amazon affiliate, I may earn from qualifying purchases).

A few non-Amazon items to consider:

  • Bullworker products – high quality home workout items (note my upper body workout. I have the Steel Bow and Bow Classic)
  • Dick’s Sporting Goods – the best source for all sporting goods. Check back-to-school discounts
  • FitTrack – featuring the Dara scale, with feedback on 17 internal body metrics
  • GOLI – apple cider vinegar gummies for appetite suppression

CONCLUDING

In my opinion, the most important value of brief, intense workouts is the elimination of excuses that we may have regarding time for fitness. 20-30 minutes! Not a long commitment. 30 minutes per day leaves us 97.2% of the rest of the day for whatever else we choose to do.

Also, the greater effectiveness of brief, but intense exercise is now recognized universally. It certainly produces better results for me. I must admit that I enjoy gym visits and the socializing that becomes part of that, but I have found that my time investment was usually at least 2 hours. This was including sauna, shower and travel time back and forth. Was this really worth 2 hours? Adding to total time was my inevitable waiting for someone to finish up on a machine before it was available to me.

Without doubt, any workout is better than none. This has only been an opinion piece, since I have done many workouts of differing durations, venues, sets, reps and equipment choices. Brief and intense works for me!

Please choose a lifestyle of health and fitness. One that fits your needs and capabilities. You will never regret that choice!

Be sure to leave me any comments or questions in the “Comments” section below. Or email me, richard@myworkoutathome.com.

Be well and stay fit!

Richard

4 Comments

  1. This is an interesting article as it has given me a few things to think about. For instance, I always wondered if I could do 16 reps at once instead of breaking it up into two sets of 8 with a rest in between. If I understand correctly, you are saying this is ok.

    Another thing I wonder about – when you say intense, are you referring to speed. For instance, when I do exercises on a bar, my husband insists I should do each one slowly for the number of reps rather than doing them very fast as I see some people do. Which is best?

    Lastly, I incorporate many of the exercises/stretches that you mention you do on alternate days. I too do these on alternate days and will add a couple that I have not been doing.

    • Thanks for your interest, Mary Ann! I view intensity as a measurement of force used in a movement. So one set of 16 reps is much more intense than 2 sets of 8 if the same weight is used. More challenging, but also more effective. Be sure that you are ready for more intensity, however. Your husband is right. Slow reps recruit more muscle fiber than fast ones. You can FEEL this working. So, speed does not produce intensity with workout reps, though speed may be an asset for intensity in cardio routines. Good questions! And understandable, since I am promoting fewer sets, more reps, slower reps and less time. It may seem to suggest contradictions, but it’s not really….Richard

  2. Hi Richard, I’m pleased to meet you.

    Wow, this is amazing. I am very happy to have read about brief but intense workouts you outlined. I had always engaged some workouts, but it seems I did not have enough knowledge of which ones are suitable for various parts or target points. I have really learned a lot here. Thank you very much for sharing.

    Best wishes!

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