By The FIRM Master Instructor Amanda Gantt
This is a popular question, especially for those of us who have hit the inevitable plateau with our personal fitness goals. Is it possible to achieve your goals with intense workouts three days a week, instead of less-intense workouts five days a week? I believe the answer is YES! However, you’re going to have to exercise smarter (and harder) in order to see results.
Our schedules are hectic and our personal time is limited. If you are currently struggling to maintain a five-day-a-week fitness regimen, you may want to consider dropping back to working out only three days a week, as this can provide you with the time and results you need, provided that you commit to intense, total-body workouts — and that you give 100-percent effort.
To get the most out of every minute of exercise time, plan to do combined total-body strength-training and cardio workouts on three non-consecutive days each week. Allow at least one day of rest in between each workout to allow your muscles to recover. Yes, I said rest! After an intense training session, you owe it to your body to take a break for adequate muscle recovery. You will find that you are stronger and more energetic if you get adequate rest, which will ultimately lead to big changes in your body. Keep in mind, however, that “rest” days are not “sedentary” days; you should still be as active as possible in your daily life every day (take the stairs instead of the elevator; go for a walk on your lunch break, etc.).
During each of your three weekly workouts, up the intensity of the resistance-training sets by using the heaviest weights or most advanced variation you can handle while still maintaining proper form. Incorporate full-body exercises to train more muscle groups at one time. Be sure to increase intensity during cardio exercises as well, perhaps incorporating short bursts of even-higher-intensity cardio to increase calorie burn even more in a short amount of time.
As always, it’s important to remember that “intense” is a relative term; your workouts should be challenging, but they should also be appropriate for your fitness level. Make a point to constantly assess your body and identify “good” pain versus “bad” pain. Muscle fatigue and the resulting soreness that we feel after an intense resistance-training session is considered “good” pain. No “good” pain, no gain! However, if you feel “bad” pain, such as straining, popping or pain that does not go away, please discontinue exercising until you recover, and see a physician if necessary. To help prevent “bad” pain, remember that in the end, form is always more important than intensity. If you have to use incorrect form to increase intensity, you will greatly increase your chance of injury and will not reap the benefits of all your hard work.
In conclusion, if you’re currently struggling to fit five or six workouts per week into your busy schedule, try reducing the quantity of them and go for quality instead. I bet you will be happy with the results you get!