I rarely talk about myself in these articles or in my books but I’m amused about something in my family that ultimately relates to SCT. I never met my maternal grandfather because he was more than 100 years older than I. He remarried after losing his first wife and was over 60 when my mother was born. My mother had me when she was almost 40. When you add in my 50+ years it means my grandfather could have shaken hands with Abraham Lincoln in the US, or James Clerk Maxwell in Scotland or Ned Kelly in Australia. I’ve always enjoyed knowing that.
But just recently I learned what my grandfather did for a living in the late 1800’s. He was one of those guys who went into factories and offices and observed how people worked and then found ways to improve their efficiency. Ha! I was floored when I heard that because that is the aptitude that has nagged me all my life. I can’t wait in line at the post office because watching how inefficient the clerk is just drives me nuts. My wife has to ask me to wait in the car because I keep pointing out how to change the order of operations or the proximity of supplies and I drive her crazy griping about it. To me it’s immediately obvious but the workers will do it the same way for 30 years and never question it.
But here is the Big Deal about efficiency. In our universe improved efficiency is the closest we ever get to ‘something for nothing’. A guy can go to work for 8 hours a day and do $100 of production. But by simply being more efficient he can create $200 of production and double his income. Same 8 hours put in – double the income. Something for nothing. Make an engine more efficient and it produces more horsepower with the same fuel consumption. Make a light bulb more efficient and it produces more light on the same wattage. Something for nothing.
If we make strength training more efficient we:
– Get stronger in less time
– Still get the many health benefits of weightlifting*
– Reduce the number of exercises
– Reduce the number of workouts
– Reduce the number of injuries
– Reduce overall wear and tear on the body
That’s Why Training Efficiency is Ten Times More Important Than You Think It Is
Have you ever seen the guy in the gym who pumps iron for two or three hours every day? You see him every time you go to the gym and no matter how long you stay, he stays longer.
You might be impressed by this guy – but you shouldn’t be. I want you to think of him as a low-tech Neanderthal. He’s a guy who uses the lowest possible technology and creativity to solve a simple problem. He does twenty hours of work when fifteen minutes would do the job better.
Getting More Bang for the Buck
The purpose of lifting weights is to trigger an adaptive response in the body. That response is to build more muscle tissue. This happens when muscles are forced to operate at a higher intensity of output than normal. Intensity is measured in work per unit of time.
So all you have to do is get each muscle group to hoist more weight per minute than you did the last time. And even if that maximum stimulus lasts only five seconds, it will trigger the desired growth. In fact, those five seconds will trigger more growth than grinding out the same twenty reps using the same weights as your last workout.
It’s like getting a suntan. Five minutes in full July sunlight will stimulate more tan than two hours sitting in the shade.
Here are four ways to be more efficient:
1. Use the one exercise that allows you to hoist the most weight for that muscle group. For example, to work the quadriceps you could do squats or hack squats or leg extensions or the leg press. But if you experiment you’ll discover that you can use the most weight on a leg press. Do that. Perform one all-out set on the leg press then move to the next muscle group.
2. If you can’t increase the weight on a particular exercise, use a power rack or a Smith machine to reduce the range of motion and lift the weight in only your strongest range. The muscle-building stimulus works whether you move a weight one inch or two feet. After all, it’s still your muscle that is forced to hoist that weight, the distance is not the most important factor – the weight is.
3. Divide your workouts into an A and B routine that each involves half of the muscle groups. This allows you to work harder each time you visit the gym because you do fewer exercises.
4. Write down what weight you use on each exercise so you can be certain to add a bit more each time. Four hours in the gym is meaningless if the intensity of overload (weight per minute) does not increase.
Less Wear and Tear
Exercise is stress. Every time you do a workout your body must fully recover before any growth will take place. It’s obvious that recovering from many hours in the gym will take longer than recovering from five or six exercises that each as little as five seconds. (Using SCT.) This point is completely missed on the Neanderthal who never fully recovers and – because he insists on working out every day – has to literally decrease the intensity of his workouts in order to complete them. Where is the sense in that?
If you think of exercise as medicine this issue becomes crystal clear. Suppose you had high blood pressure and needed to take a medication for it. You’d want the lowest possible dose that would place your blood pressure within the acceptable range. You would never subject your body to five or ten times the dose necessary to achieve that goal because it places unnecessary stress on your body. But the Neanderthal does that. He just uses the ‘more is better’ philosophy and in doing so he exposes himself to more wear and tear on his body and greater risk of injury.
When you walk into the gym, ask yourself what is the minimum dose of exercise that will trigger a strength increase in your quads, chest, biceps or whatever muscle groups you are working that day. Take the minimum dose and leave the gym. That’s what ultra-efficient Static Contraction Training is all about.
More Time Outside the Gym
Which brings me to the most important point. Use your new strength and health to enjoy life outside the gym. If you build muscle for martial arts, go practice your techniques. If you build strength for rock climbing, get out of the gym and go enjoy climbing in the great outdoors!
The Neanderthal spends too much of his life in the gym because he doesn’t know any better. He uses a low technology and limited intellect and he suffers greatly for it. The greatest things in life pass him by while he needlessly sweats in a gym.
I want you to use a higher technology that lets you get out of the gym with all the health benefits of strength and fitness and the maximum time to go squeeze the juice out of life! That’s a big ‘something’ to get for nothing. Training efficiency pays.