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Long Workouts or Short Workouts: Which is Most Effective?

Posted by nikh

Long Workouts or Short Workouts: Which is Most Effective?

How long should I work out? Are short workouts more effective than long workouts for losing weight, building muscle, and/or getting really fit?
workoutWe fitness writers have ourselves to blame for this confusion, and there is a reason for this. Many of us, in trying to coach individuals who are resistant to exercise, will recommend short workouts. Why? We do this because short workouts put less demand on personal time; an most of our clients are really busy people. The question we are really asking is, does it matter how long our workout take? The answer is, no.

What We Should Focus on During Workouts

We want benefit from exercise we do. Nobody exercises for nothing. When we hit the gym, or the living room, or the road, we want to maximize the gains for our efforts. To do this we must understand what we are exercising for.  To summarize it, the only good reason to exercise is to get fit. If you to simply lose weight, it is better to work on getting your diet right. Exercise is for getting fit, and together with good diet, exercise will give you the added benefit of anti-aging. What does it mean to get fit? Read this article: What is fitness?  To get fit is to gain the physical attributes of added:

  • Mobility: the ability to move your body easily on different planes.
  • Flexibility: the ability to bend and stretch and reach.
  • Balance: the ability to keep stable and prevent falls
  • Strength: the power to lift, pull, push and hold
  • Endurance: the ability to keep going

If you lack in any of this five attributes, you are not fit. Exercise is a means to get your body fitted out to carry out life’s physical challenges.  A body that is fit, is functional. A functional body can do almost anything — including stay youthful, and get lean.

How do We Exercise for Fitness?

Ah. That is a good question, and one that has an easy answer. Work on mobility, flexibility, balance, strength and endurance. Mobility exercises include, for example, burpees, running, skipping and interesting stuff like “Animal Walks”. Flexibility exercises include, yoga, slow squats, stretching and some lifting exercises. Balance exercises include single-leg squats, lunges, and deadlifts, yoga, and some exercises that use the BOSU ball,  gym ball or Suspension Trainer.  Read also: Bosu Ball Workout Routines – Best Exercises for HIIT, Balance and Strength. Strength exercises include weight lifting, cable machine exercises, burpees, bodyweight exercises. Endurance exercises include any of the above exercises done in many reps and for longer duration.

How Long Should I Work Out?

It really depends on your workout routine for that day. What your workout routine will be like will in turn depend on your fitness profile.  I can make a rough classification of the fitness situation in my clients: 1. Physically fit, regular exerciser: If you are already exercising and are all-round fit already, you should vary your workouts. Switch between challenging strength workouts (may take about 45 – 90 minutes), HIIT or high intensity interval training (may take 4 – 25 minutes), and slow cardio or yoga (about 90 mins) . When you are fit you have the option to do different workouts effectively. Varying the duration will prevent ‘plateau effect’ and keep things interesting. Make each session count by really challenging yourself! 2. Moderately fit / weekend warrior / with parts of body weaker than another / un-fit in one attribute: Work on building muscle, and that include strength training with weights and/or bodyweight (may take 1 hr). Once you have a certain level of endurance, do some HIIT once a week. Make it challenging. 3. Unfit and new to exercise: Focus mainly on strength training. This will take about 1 hr. Really unfit individuals will benefit much from muscle building first. Stronger muscles will allow you to do other exercises with good form. Once you have reached better muscle strength and tone, you can try to do HIIT training.Always challenge yourself to do better. It is a myth that one type of training is better than the other. All training is good. Notice that I use the word “training’ and not “workout”. Workouts are exercise sessions, and training describes the big picture — a series of workouts. Rule of the thumb is that we should do something different everytime to create challenge for your muscles. Check out some good exercise books listed here to get started.

What Short Duration Exercises are Good For

Exercises that are short in duration lasts 4 – 20 minutes. We call them HIIT or interval training. These are great because they are simply quick to complete. The limitation of HIIT training is that it has to be intense to be effective. You need to push very hard till your muscles burn and you are gasping for breadth. Due to its intensity, this type of workouts aren’t suitable for people who are completely unfit, have injuries or are obese.

The Advantage of Taking Time for Longer Workouts

When you take your time, you get to do your exercises mindfully. You learn good form. Strength building exercises need more time to complete. (This is the same with some yoga and pilates style exercises.) These kind of workouts may take 60-90 minutes to complete, but they are ideal for the beginner. Many beginners think that they should start their training with slow cardio such as walking, jogging on a treadmill, eliptical or stationary bike. This is wrong, because what the beginner truly lacks is muscle tone — and cardio exercises alone do not build muscle properly. Start with building strength first, because gaining use of muscles will help with being better able to do other types of exercise, like HIIT. Only when you are already fit and want to lose that last bit of fat, should you do cardio.

You can Follow any Workout Video at Your Own Pace

While writing this I am thinking of a workout to do myself  after  hit the “publish” button…  so this is it, a workout by Jeff Cavaliere. The workout starts at 1:00, and it is a exercises to do with hill. If you are advanced, do a couple more rounds of this. If you are a beginner, do this on flat ground or at slower pace.  I am using a road (with cars zooming by), not a grass hill, so I’ll be doing everything except the crab walk which I’ll do on the deck instead. This is an example of a type of workout that anyone can do anywhere, without equipment. Time is not the essence. If you have challenged yourself silly, 4 minutes of this is enough to knock you off for days. So many free workout videos online, and we wonder if we should follow them. Why not? Take any workout video and just follow. If you are a fitness junkie, you may find it fun and maybe get a kick out of out-doing the instructor in the show. If you are a beginner, just do it your own pace. To me the most effective training happens when one learns to work out regularly, challenging himself or herself at every session.