Want More Success? Train Less:

15 February 2013
Functional Fitness
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It Doesn’t Help a Workoholic; It Won’t Help Your Training

Countless research has suggested that workoholics face diminishing returns. Overwork, typically, occurs when people believe that they are falling behind. They think if they are not working, they are losing the sale, forfeiting customers to competitors, or relinquishing previous gains.

We find the same principles in competitive sport. Athletes often reason that one less hour of training results in diminished competitive advantage. This assumption is often depicted in the media; we see commercials where athletes train long after everyone else has packed it in, through rain, cold temperatures, and darkness.

But is it this simple? Should we expect the returns of our training to mirror the amount of time, force, and repetition we have placed in our work?

Many studies seem to think otherwise.

Strength and the Weight Room

For example, evidence suggests that the amount of strength gained in the weight room is not equal to the amount of time spent lifting weights.

Multiple studies have sought to measure the difference in developed strength between individuals who lift weights once, twice, and three times a week. They found no loss of strength in individuals with diminished weight lifting regimens. In other words, the amount of time spent lifting weights does not correlate with increased strength. Obviously, you need to lift weights to gain strength, but you don’t need to constantly do so to reap the rewards of developed strength.

Endurance Cardio, Quick Sprints, and Fluid Movement

Likewise, endurance running is a general truism for health and fitness. But studies suggest that shorter and more aggressive workouts are linked to more oxygen intake and greater health benefits. Perhaps instead of an hour long run, your body might reap more rewards from a more focused and intense workout.

Even more, the notion of less is more applies to movement, whether exercising or stretching. A short and fluid movement will be of greater benefit than a quick, jerky, or over-extended movement. Too much can mean decreased performance or even injury.

In weightlifting, cardio-based exercise, and movement in general, these studies are not meant to become exclusive recommendations for how to train. Each person exercises and reacts differently and a balanced regimen is always recommended. But the mindset of “more equals better” or “bigger equals better” is wrong.

Less Is Truly More

Just like the workaholic, less is more in some instances. Increasing work levels to 80 hours a week won’t necessarily increase efficiency and profits in business.

The same applies to training, you can achieve better success from stressing your body to the correct amount rather than beating it up through prolonged weight training or prolonged cardio exercise.

How about you? Do you find yourself constantly trying to overextend yourself? What steps could you take to balance your training and reap the rewards of less is more?

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