Are You Frequenting the Gym Too Much? by Australian strength coach Gary Matthews

Many studies at universities, conducted around the world have shown clearly that recuperation from strength training requires far more rest time than previously thought.

The latest studies have indicated that high intensity strength trained muscles need more time than previously thought to recover and become stronger some studies show that muscles are still overcompensating and getting stronger for up to 21 days after the previous workout.

Researchers have found that fitness enthusiasts can reduce the time they spend working out by two-thirds and still achieve the same results. A study involving male weightlifters has suggested it is counter-productive to spend hours exercising.

Those who exercised less saw significant decrease in body fat. The study focused on 16 students aged 19 to 23, who already worked out regularly. They were split into two groups. Both carried out upper-body training three times a week for eight weeks. One group did one set of eight repetition: the other did three sets of the same exercise.

At the end of the study both groups had improved “significantly” in terms of muscular strength, said researchers from the health and exercise science unit at the University of Glamorgan in Pontypridd, Wales.

Report author Dr Julien Baker said “This study indicates that it is counter-productive to spend hours at the gym, and that a shorter work-out can achieve exactly the same results.

Muscles take between 4-7 days to fully recover from a workout and another 2-3 days for over-compensation to take place. It can also take up to 7-14 days for the neuro muscular system to fully recover from a high intensity strength training session.

I’ve observed in 20 years working in gyms, the same people continuing to train week in and week out, three to four and even more times a week even though they haven’t made progress in months or even years of training.

I have found through experience that any strength training program that has you in the gym three or more times a week will have you plateau within four to five weeks and nothing you do will shift you from this plateau short of cutting back on training which will re-start the gaining processes again.

The only exception to this rule is the beginner whose strength will increase through neurological adaptations for up to three months after starting strength training.

Also perfect technique must be maintained and followed to maximize the training stimulus on the muscle and to minimize the risk of injury during this period. Studies have also concluded that split strength training programs have been shown to be no more beneficial than full body training programs.

The training frequency that you, and everybody else, should use is variable, not fixed.

I repeat not fixed, when you strength train, as a way to develop more muscle the intensity of your workouts has to progress upward. If they remain at the same intensity there is no reason for new muscle to grow.

If you want to train effectively you have to understand the relationship between the increasing intensity of your workouts and the decreasing frequency of those workouts.

The two main components of strength training are the intensity of the exercise and the recovery after the exercise. Infrequent, short, high intensity weight training sessions, followed by the required amount of time to recover and become stronger is what is needed to increase functional muscle size.

Your rest days are just as important as your training days. By giving your muscles more time to recover between strength training sessions you will be on the road to major gains in strength, muscle size and fat loss.

So there you have it, it’s not the training volume but the intensity and recuperation that’s important when it comes to Gains in Strength and Muscle.”

Gary’s professional career began in the Royal Australian Air Force where he was employed as a Fitness Instructor. He has over 20 years of experience. His duties consisted of training recruits in various disciplines including strength training and conditioning techniques. He was soon posted to Penang, Malaysia where he was primarily responsible for creating and maintaining a commercial gymnasium used by service personal and civilians alike. During this time, Gary is also fluent in the Malaysian language, and was an essential player in re-leasing negotiations with the Malaysian and Australian governments. Gary continued to utilize these skills when he returned to Australia and began his tenure with the ANA and Sheraton hotel chains where he lead a cultural staff exchange between the ANA hotel Gold Coast and Manza Beach Resort in Okinawa, Japan. Gary used his expertise to develop their leisure and sports club and also gained fluency in the Japanese language.

Gary has continued to build upon his gym instruction and personal training experience throughout his entire career. By developing client routines and noting their frustrations with time intensive training regimes, it became apparent that the more people train, the slower their respond to the training. Gary steered away from volume training and developed a fitness technique that requires people to be in the gym for only 20 minutes a week. When Gary introduced this element into his clients’ fitness routines, they began to make rapid progress while increasing functional muscle and dramatically decreased body fat levels. When Gary further combined this technique with a more nutritional diet, total transformations were achieved in as few as ten weeks. Gary currently directs a very successful personal training business on the Gold Coast of Australia and promotes abbreviated training as the preferred fitness method. He also continues to run a fitness consultancy for off and on-line businesses.

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