Monday, February 15, 2010

Do Shorter Sessions Mean Less Effectiveness?

Question: There seems to be alot of trainers that are shortening the length of their training sessions from one hour to only 30 minutes. I have tried that with my clients and I can't seem to fit all my exercises in my client's program. My trainer friend says that he has had a ton of success with the 30 minute sessions, but I cannot believe that his clients are getting a great workout in just a half hour. Am I doing something wrong?


-Victoria, AL

Answer: The trend nowadays has moved from the traditional hour long session that made personal training so popular, to a more condensed workout that features shorter rest periods, tons of compound movements, and conditioning. Why? Simple....our society is changing and we are getting more and more involved with family, work, and responsibilities. Therefor, time is of the essence. We all crave more time in the day to accomplish so many tasks that we tend to leave behind. One of those tasks is exercise. The fitness industry has realized this a long time ago and in order to meet the needs of our customers, we need to change the model. In today's economy, we have to find ways to not only keep our business afloat and thriving, but keep getting our client's the results that they expect from us.

Many fitness professionals are conducting boot-camps, group training, and shorter sessions to accommodate financial and time-sensitive concerns for today's nine to fiver. Think about it: the less time you spend with one person, the more time you have to spend with more. More customers equals more money,  more business, and more accolades for you. But how can the workouts be effective if they are shorter? The LENGTH of the workout is not even a factor. The CONTENT of the workout is all that matters. What did I say above? Condensed sessions need to meet 3 basic criteria:

1.) Shorter rest periods
2.) More compound movements
3.) Conditioning

Forget cardio. The old adage of performing 30 minutes of cardio vascualr work is not the ONLY way to burn excess fat. There are other ways that are more effective, but they demand more effort and intensity. Luckily,  they may be performed in shorter bursts AND yield better results. So conditioning is a factor. Place a conditioning drill anywhere in a circuit and it makes the program much more effective and demanding. Drills such as jumping jacks, burpees, jogging in place, skips, jumps, etc. These exercises can be put alot of demand on the body and therefore, burn more calories and increase stamina. Adding more compound movements is a classic example of "killing two birds with one stone". Most general population clients simply need resistance training to get them off their rear-ends and build some muscle. I am not talking about NFL combine athletes here...I am talking about increasing lean mass with some basic tried and true exercises combined together. An exercise like this:




With a combination of 3 exercises rolled into one movement, you can shave almost 2 minutes from a traditional set. Lastly, shorter rest periods are negotiable. Depending on the condition of the client or clients, you can gauge how much time they need to recover in between sets or drills. I haven't had a healthy client rest for longer than 40 seconds in about 4 years. Again, that depends on fitness level, age, and medical history--but all the same, rest periods should feel like rest and not socializing pauses. If you cut back on the socializing DURING the workout, it makes the workout more effective and allows you to have a happy client that is willing to bring her friends over for tons of socializing!

Remember to create programs that fit the fitness level of your client. But do not be afraid to challenge them and ask them to get up and start a second set even while they are still breathing hard. Consistency and culmination are the key to success with any workout program. Lastly, of the three criteria I mentioned above, I should include a fourth that is VERY important. Make your shorter sessions fun and enjoyable. Sessions that contain compound movements, shorter rest periods, and conditioning don't have to be pain-staking. They can be fun and game-like. In a group setting--like bootcamps--fun always cultivates camaraderie. 

Need ideas on how to incorporate more exercsies into your workout with less time? Check out my video Moving More Muscles. It is jam packed with ideas for your program design! Best of luck! 
-John

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