Quick knowledge blast! Answered a pm on Facebook on this a few mins ago but let’s share since I’m in the mood and just got the WordPress app on my phone. I’ve just finished off a nice rack of lamb and I’m sitting listening to Jeff Buckley with a glass of milk while tapping away on my phone so do excuse grammar errors and such.
So lots of people are exclusively using “conditioning blocks” of 10 or 15 minutes for fat loss or sports conditioning, often as many as 5 per session. This is not a bad approach for general gpp style conditioning but diminishing returns are reached fairly quickly in terms of both timing and length of sessions. For general fat loss I say “in and out in under 45mins” (this is also my advice for the boudoir). For sports particularly power and field sports I say likewise, for endurance it depends I might go longer. Reasons being:
1) “blocks” are essentially either high density or high intensity. The latter, it stands to reason, should be high intensity in nature with a suitable work:rest ratio. Chugging along for 15 mins doesn’t do this, neither does going balls out for 8 with very little work in the final 7mins.
2) high intensity work for over an hour is an oxymoron. Consciously or subconsciously you will pace yourself to last the hour/90mins you’re going to be in the gym. You will not and cannot achieve the same level of intensity that you would over a shorter period of time. This has detrimental effects on conditioning AND fat loss. The longer you go, the more you’re ruining the effect you set out to achieve. If it worked like that all we’d ever have to do is train hard for one whole day a week to burn the necessary body fat for the next 6 days.
3) The specific case that inspired this post had 3x15minute blocks and 2x10minute blocks in the one session. I’ve been through sessions like this and they left me tired and broken for sure, and many of them were fun to do, but I’m not sure they left me leaner or fitter. I’ve had far more success with the same format cut 2 blocks shorter. In fact in one specific example cutting 2 blocks off someone’s conditioning session produced a 4kg fat loss in 3 weeks with no change in diet in a serious trainee. That’s not hyperbole. I know some people post bullshit stats on their sites to gain kudos. I couldn’t care less personally, but that’s what happened.
4) Final word in every training session? Recovery. A session’s effect on the nervous and end endocrine systems is something I don’t think any trainer can claim to fully understand. If theu so claim to, then I call bullshit. There are too many variables to accurately judge what level of stress you’re putting either under and if the effects will be positive or negative. However it’s safe to say that we know that stressing the body intensely for periods of over an hour on a regular basis takes its toll on the CNS and may elicit a negative response from the endocrine system. Why not play it safer and cut it off at a stage when through observation we know we’re going to recover better? There’s always tomorrow’s session after all.
One other factor that doesn’t really warrant a number is boredom. You might be the world’s most interesting coach but there’s a good chance your guy doesn’t want to see you for any longer than they have to. Likewise no matter how much you love being in the gym, you’ll have days where you’re sick of it, and if on those days you know you’re going to be there a long time, you might decide to say “sod that” and choose the couch.
So that’s that. My first ever iPhone update. I feel almost proud.