It’s not uncommon for people to dedicate only a few days to exercise. After all, not everyone has the time and energy to go to the gym every single day. Some people choose a workout twice or three times a week, trying to go all out to make up for the days they’re not present. It’s even more probable that you only work out one group of muscles daily to give yourself rest time!
Of course, different things work for different people, and you’re completely welcome to do workouts in this manner. But if you’re pushing yourself to go to the gym for results, the truth is that you may not need to do this. Instead, you may be better off doing simple, short exercises at home every day instead of forcing yourself to do something you find too tedious and unsustainable.
This isn’t to say that discipline isn’t necessary or to discourage other exercise methods. It’s merely an alternative for those who aren’t fond of typical gym routines or spend time working out excessively once or twice a week. As it turns out, you’re most likely to benefit from daily, simple, small exercises.
But how does that work? Is that possible? The answer is yes, and it’s all backed by research! Here’s how a recent study explains how often you exercise and, most importantly, not how hard or intensely that workout is.
1. The Study
The study we’ll be discussing is entitled “Greater effects by performing a small number of eccentric contractions daily than a larger number of them once a week.” It was published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports, a peer-reviewed journal, in July 2022.
This study sought to discover whether brief, short exercise periods five times weekly may provide superior results to one single prolonged exercise session each week. This was done with arm-resistance exercises performed at maximum strength. Participants were divided into three groups:
- A 6 x 5 group. This group performed six arm resistance contractions for five days weekly.
- A 30 x 1 group. This group performed one arm resistance contraction for one day weekly.
- A 6 x 1 group. This group performed six arm resistance contractions for one day weekly.
The results were simple and clear. The 6 x 5 group gained muscle thickness and strength by the end of the study’s duration. The 30 x 1 group only built muscle thickness by comparison and did not build strength. The 6 x 1 group, as likely expected, did not show any signs of improvement.
While this study is specific to high-intensity strength training, it’s somewhat accurate. Consistency is most important when it comes to exercise, and even doing a little bit every day is better than having several-day stretches of nonactivity. However, the best exercise to apply this principle is strength training performed with maximum effort.
2. Can These Findings Be Applied?
This study focused on precise parameters, which can raise questions about its real-world and practical feasibility. The truth is that while it can and should be applied to exercise principles, the study’s findings should be taken with a critical eye and balanced with other rationales. Here are some factors to keep in mind:
· True Maximal Effort
Maximal effort means your muscles must work as intensely and hard as possible. Six contractions at this powerful extent are sufficient to apply the aforementioned study’s findings. Still, you must be sure you’re forcing the muscle to do its absolute best.
· Lack Of Ways To Measure Effort
Unfortunately, for the study’s purposes, using an isokinetic dynamometer was central to the assurance of maximal strength. Unfortunately, this is quite unfeasible for most people, as that’s an expensive and specialized piece of equipment!
Such extreme pushes of muscles can cause significant soreness and may be a deterrent for those who want to do this regularly. It can also pose a risk of injury for those with disabilities or prior sprains and breakages.
The good news is that it’s highly likely that the principle of frequent, intense exercise as a better option than inconsistent workouts is still sound. You can apply these findings to various resistance and strength exercises. The critical part is the finishing contractions of these exercises or their eccentric portions.
But what do we mean by “eccentric”? To better understand this, here’s an explanation of the format of a strength training exercise. There are three primary phases in each exercise of this variety, namely:
This first phase is about shortening the muscle you’re targeting and contracting it as far as necessary to overcome resistance or gravity.
This second phase is the transition phase, where your muscle remains stationary after entering a concentric position.
This final third phase is when you lengthen the muscle while bearing the load from the concentric phase, and you bring that load back to the starting position to repeat.
Eccentric phases are the point where you lengthen your muscles to their peak. To achieve maximal effort here, you should slow down the return of your muscles to their initial positions. This increases the intensity of the exercise and provides significant benefits to muscle and strength gain, even when done for only short periods of time, five times a week.
3. How To Maximise The Benefits Of Frequent, Short Exercise Sessions
If you’re aiming to focus on frequent and consistent but ultimately brief periods of exercise, you’ll have to ensure you’re getting the most out of the effort. Doing this incorrectly may prevent you from gaining the muscle strength and thickness that you’re hoping for. As such, you must ensure that your exercise allows you to reach your goals. Here are some tips for this purpose:
· Choose The Correct Difficulty
At all times when performing strength training, you need to be choosing a challenging weight. Even when not aiming for maximal effort, the weight has to be sufficiently heavy that you can’t perform over twenty reps with the weight. Opt for something even more challenging for these short, frequent exercises. Ensure you’re careful – excessively heavy weight can cause injury, even when you have a spotter. Regularly check your difficulty as the weeks progress, as you’ll likely need to increase weight often.
· Choose Good Exercises
According to studies, isolation and compound muscle-building exercises focus on a specific range of muscles, respectively. Each is practical for building muscle quickly. You’ll probably want to get a good mix of both types of exercises into your routine for good long-term results. Simple things like bicep curls and isolated movements are excellent for specific work, but pull-ups and back squats for compound muscle workouts are also fantastic. Try a few options and see what works best for you!
· Take Rest Days
There’s a reason that, even during the study, the maximum amount of times the exercise was done was five days a week. This is because the human body benefits tremendously from various forms of rest for all functions, and exercise is no exception. Proper muscle repair, which builds muscles to new thickness and strength, requires multiple processes, such as protein synthesis. Most of these take a good amount of time to be kicked into gear, with studies showing that the minimum is twelve hours for some. This is why you should take a rest day after every three or four days of consecutive, back-to-back exercise. This will ensure that you’re not overtraining and that your body can build itself well.
· Eat Well
When exercising, it’s tempting to apply the rules that diet culture has imposed on us. But eating well is quite essential for ensuring effective results. So, whether you’re looking to build muscle or get fitter in general, you should make sure that you consume enough protein for muscle repair, enough carbohydrates for energy, and enough healthy fats for health and satiety.
If you’re focusing on muscle growth, you should eat about 1.6 grams of protein per pound of your body weight. You’ll also likely want to seek out healthy cutting and bulking processes if long-term, serious muscle gain is your goal. However, you may have trouble reaching huge goals with only short sessions, even when they’re done frequently.
Final Thoughts On The Importance Of Exercising Often
Effective exercise doesn’t have to be complicated. For example, you can gain benefits from simple daily training with minimal reps. However, suppose you can dedicate your total effort and maximum energy to just ten minutes of certain workouts. In that case, you’ll be impressed by how much strength you can gain consistently, feasible, and sustainably.
You are, of course, always welcome to up the ante and do bigger, more intense workouts. After all, it’s not necessarily the intensity of the exercise that proves most effective, but their frequency. Of course, this doesn’t mean that this will be an easy process, but it will be one that you can feasibly fit into your everyday routine without suffering and losing motivation.
How fast might it take you to gain muscle in this manner? Serious weight training can take months or even years, with healthy eating on the side and intelligent, consistent routines. However, you can expect to gain around 0.5 pounds of muscle growth per month by doing short, intense exercises five times a week. If you take training to the next level, you may gain up to two pounds of muscle growth each month instead.
It’s essential to be patient when working toward a fitness goal. Opting for quick results over consistent, steady, slow progress is usually how you create unsustainable workout practices. Instead, work on consistency, self-discipline, and regularity before going for anything big. Even just two pounds of muscle per month can net you a whopping 24 pounds of growth per year, which is quite impressive!