Could Less Be Better Than More?

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Admit it Spark friends, when we were kids, more always meant better.....hell even today how many of us secretly believe that more is better than less....

.....come on raise your hand and admit it!

Many of us are here because more food was always better than less food, more dessert was better than less dessert, more lazing around was better than less lazing around, etc, etc, etc.

Maybe the only thing that contradicted this thought was......


Less exercise was always better than more exercise.....hell, no exercise was just damn fine (at least it was by me, your story may be different.....but was it really?)

Well many years ago, at the tender age of 47, I decided to reverse my body's decline. I stopped smoking and started running. At first I could barely do a 1/4 mile at the track. I huffed and I puffed and slowly began to extend the distance.

Being a lifelong Type A kind of guy, it wasn't long before I got the running bug and decided that if a 3-mile run was good, then 5 miles was better.....but really, I should shoot for 10 miles. But if I was going to do that, why not a half-marathon? Half-marathon? Why the hell not just go for the Full Monty and train for a full marathon.

More is always better than Less

A few years ago I started lifting weights and shifted from Running to Strength Training. I started barely able to squat, press or deadlift 50-100 lbs, then slowly got the hang of it (with the help of a sadistic trainer who had some ties with various former Soviet Block interrogation agencies!). All of that was good, but late last year I decided to take it up a notch and began competing in some Amateur Powerlifting Competitions. The Gold Standard there is to be able to lift over 1000 lbs between squat, bench press, and deadlift.....and I finally achieved that last month (see blog ).

More is always better than Less

But a strange thing happened as I trained for my last powerlifting competition......I trained less

I trained for shorter amounts of time and with less weight......but I trained more frequently

Instead of spending 90 minutes in the gym, doing 5 sets of 10 repetitions with various leg exercises, then the next day spending 90 minutes in the gym, doing 5 sets of 10 repetitions with various back exercises, and the next day, get the picture

Instead, 3-4 days a week for about 45 minutes, each day I focused doing the exercises that worked the most muscles, but I did only 2 sets of 5 repetitions, and I did them with between 60-80% of my max limits. At the end of each rep, I asked myself, "OK, can you do that again tomorrow?" If the answer was yes, I continued. If the answer was no, I stopped.

Doing it this way, I ended up working out my whole body more frequently during the week, but to keep myself from burning out, I actually dialed the volume down a few notches.

Less heavy, but more frequent workouts......Hmmmm. Could Less be better than More?

Well the results speak for themselves.....In June I lifted 50 more lbs than my previous competition in February and finally crossed the 1000 lb barrier.

So what's my takeaway from all of this? Well I'm an avid reader and researcher, and have been finding plenty of good discussions and experienced people that advocate working out in a sustainable manner, getting away from no pain, no gain, and constant soreness to working out in a manner where you always have some gas left in the tank at the end of a workout, enough so that you can do the exact same workout the next day and the next. Workout just a little less hard, but workout more frequently

Bodybuilders and Olympic Lifters keep pushing the limits because they live in a totally different realm of training and experience.....I am not one of them. I just want to keep getting better and better, and to stay injury free while doing so.

So I'm trying something new....micro-workouts.

Before I get into that, let me say that I fully intend to keep working out in the gym. I've recently fallen in love with Kettlebells (see blog ) and so will continue training with them. I'm also going to start back up with the Strength Training in August (I took a 1 month break after June's Powerlifting Competition).

What I'm going to do (I actually started doing this Monday) is to incorporate some micro-workouts into my day.

Here's the deal. I don't know about you all, but I have a job that keeps me seated most of the day. During my morning & afternoon commute, I walk about 15-20 minutes each way. I get up and stretch my legs some during the day, but aside from gym time, I'm pretty sedentary most of the day.

So Monday, I brought my kettlebell and ab wheel to work

For the last 3 days, every hour on the hour (almost), I close the door to my office (yeah, I'm lucky to have an office....this might be tough to do in a cubicle farm) and do 20 one-handed kettlebell swings (10 left and 10 right) and 10 ab roll-outs

These go real fast, less than a minute. They're somewhat intense (explosive is more like it). At the end, my heart rate is up some and I'm breathing a little heavy, but nothing major.

So far so good. I feel good and balanced. My thinking is that 90 minutes of activity in a day, followed by 22.5 hours of sedentary living isn't a good balance. Maybe a little more constant activity spread out through the day is a better way to use our bodies.

We'll see!

Let me know what you think Spark buds, can less can be better than more?

Have a great night!
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    I say a switch in the routine is refreshing every now and then! Keep us updated on how the micro-workouts are going.
    My trainer pushed me to actually be able to do deadlifts. I went from 'f-this! I am NOT bending forward or being unbalanced with weights lest I hurt my back again!' 0 lbs on deadlifts because my back was so weak, then to the bar, and then to doing over 100 lbs on deadlifts. We took it in little steps utilizing different movements to strengthen my back. Little by little, progress is made.
    I do need to train more frequently at the gym lifting though.

    However, less food than I am eating now would be better. Less in this case is better than the more I've been indulging in.
    2556 days ago
  • no profile photo CD4876431
    You're lucky to have the space to do this type of workout:) I will sneak pushups in on a counter at school or dips lots of times right in front of the kids because they are driving me nuts:) A co teacher and I squat out all our problems or walking lunges around the kids' desks.

    I did a workout similar to this on one of the days I was snowed in and couldn't get to the gym. Every hour on the hour I did some sort of physical activity so I got a whole body workout.

    I think you need to do what works for you. Ask yourself what the end results is. If you're not training for a specific competition then go for it. Think about it the best way to run a marathon is to run. The best way to participate in a weightlifting competition is to lift weights. The best way to participate in life is to have fun:)
    2566 days ago
    Breaking up your extra time over the course of the day is far more beneficial to your performance. You are getting the benefit of the workload without going to max effort in that short period of time. You are recovered between each "session". Also, it has a bonus effect to increase fat utilization for fuel. Keep it up as long as you continue to have the results you want.
    2567 days ago
    I think you're on to something. From an evolutionary perspective, less probably is better than more. That's gotta be why things like HIIT are so effective. Compressed time, intense effort, rest and repair.

    My cubicle challenge this month has been to designate a couple of tasks as "standing only" and to add a couple of intense stair runs to the day. It's taking me a lot longer to master those stairs than I would have thought, but, hey, progress is progress.

    Good going, boss!
    2567 days ago
  • JUNEAU2010
    The biggest thing you said for me is asking that question about whether or not you could repeat the intensity of activity the next day. What a great measurement that is. I'm telling you right now I am going to adopt that!
    2568 days ago
    Is it really less...or just more in a different way? That is the question lol. Sounds like interval training an a longer cycle, you're just on the "easier" part for awhile right now. Which can be a good thing. Constant training at ever creasing levels, without those "less" periods really just sets you up for burn out and injury.

    I'd love to see someone try kettle bell swings, ab roll outs and the like in a cube challenge each day is navigating all the chairs people leave pushed out from their desks, kind of like a mini obstacle course.
    2569 days ago
    I would call it - Exercise smarter to get better!
    I am very interested to see where it will lead you for personal reasons. I keep telling BF to get up from the laptop a few times a day and just do 10 squats and some push ups so that the chair won't kill him. I thought that I would get him to move a little that way without him having the feeling to commit a lot of time to exercise, time he thinks he doesn't have. I will read your blog to him (lol) maybe it will have an effect.
    Just keep moving!
    2569 days ago
    I don't know....sounds to me like you are still in the more is better mindset. It's just that instead of more intensity, you're getting more time with the weights and with fitness by slipping them into your office and adding them to your workday. Don't get me wrong...I think it's awesome that you're slipping some fitness into an otherwise sedentary day, But it is MORE fitness than you would have otherwise gotten, not less. LOL
    2569 days ago
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