Training Efficiency

Updated: Jun 6, 2020

Time is a commodity we all seem to be short of.

Although I don’t buy into the excuse that people ‘don’t have time’ to train, I do appreciate that people are busy.

I believe giving people value for their time is one of the most important things that you can do, in any field. Once you give someone your time, you cannot get it back.

Enter: Training Efficiency.

When writing a program for someone, I do my best to respect their time. It starts with an initial question of how much time (realistically) can you dedicate to your weekly training. What I believe needs to be done in a week will often differ from the time a person has available to train and this is where we must compromise. I always tell a client that anything (1-2x per week) is better than nothing, but also that more (4-6x per week) is going to yield greater results. The client’s level of commitment will ultimately dictate where we go with the program.

So what is the program going to look like?

  • We are going to squat things

  • We are going to pick things up

  • We are going to do things on one leg

  • We are going to push things

  • We are going to pull things

  • We are going to explode

  • We are going to work at high intensity

That’s it. It’s simple. But please don’t confuse ‘simple’ with ‘easy’.

We teach people how to do the simple things like jump, run, squat, hinge, lunge, push up, pull up, press overhead, row and carry. We get good at these simple things. And then we get better at them. And then we consistently chase progression across these movements. No need to get fancy if you’re after efficiency in your training (or any time for that matter!!).

I prioritise full body training over split routines for people that claim they are time poor. If we can recruit more of our muscle tissue more often, we are going to see better results.

The movement patterns above give us ‘bang for our buck’ in a training efficiency sense. They are big, compound movements meaning they recruit multiple muscle groups, across multiple joints giving us a greater training effect (regardless if our goal is muscle development, strength or body composition). In addition, these movements have great carry over to athletic performance as well as daily living tasks due to the way they train the body to function as a unit. Let’s explore the squat as a detailed example.

The squat is an excellent lower body pushing exercise that will train not only the quads, but also the posterior chain (glutes, hamstrings & lower back musculature) and depending on the loading (e.g. front squat, back squat, goblet squat, air squat etc.), will also place significant demand on the midline of the body. In one exercise you have basically trained your entire body, that’s efficiency. That’s an exercise you want in your program if you are time poor.

Compare this to an alternative exercise that trains the quads in an inefficient way; the leg extension. This exercise trains the quads in isolation to all other muscle groups, its performed on a machine requiring no stabilising muscles and it, in no way, has functional carry over to athletic performance or day to day life (no force application through the floor). Now the leg extension may have its place in a rehabilitation program or a body builder program which involves two sessions per day, seven days a week. But if you’re after bang for your buck efficiency, stick to the squat.

The same can be said for push up and bench press variations over pec-dec machines and chest flys; chin up variations over lat pull downs; and trap bar deadlifts over leg presses.

With all that being said, let’s take a look at a typical program I’d write for someone who is looking for general health and fitness (little bit stronger, little bit leaner and a little more aerobic) and is very time poor – can only commit 2 x 1 hour sessions per week.

Day 1 –

  • Squat variation

  • Upper body pulling variation

  • Midline work (planks/bracing/carrying)

  • High intensity conditioning

Day 2 –

  • Hinging variation

  • Upper body pushing variation

  • Midline work (planks/bracing/carrying)

  • High intensity conditioning

Stay tuned for a follow up article on Training Efficiency where I get into the nitty gritty of putting in quality, time efficient work!

Man doing an overhead squat the pinnacle of training efficiency and how to get the most bang for your buck

#efficiency #compound #functional #movement


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