Have you heard people recommending a workout based purely on how difficult it is?
For example, one of those 5-minute videos on YouTube with a super sweaty woman huffing and puffing as she goes through a circuit?
When receiving all the different messages from the fitness industry, it’s natural to think “Ah yes! Working out HARD is the solution! I need to get out of breath and sweat a lot if I’m going to reach my goals.”
While it’s definitely true that effort is required if you want your workouts to turn into tangible results, putting too much of an emphasis on how challenging a workout feels can actually be something that sets you back. Two main ways…
1) Just because it *feels* difficult doesn’t mean that it’s burning a lot of calories. A 5-minute workout where you’re moving non-stop and jumping around your living room is going to feel harder than moving at a moderate pace on a treadmill for 30 minutes, but it will burn fewer calories.
Likewise, holding a 10 lb medicine ball over your head as you do 10 squats on a rubber ball will require a lot of focus and lots of little muscles will have to engage to keep you stable, but in reality, you just burned far fewer calories compared to putting your feet on the floor and performing those 10 squats holding a 35 lb weight.
2) It’s possible to put too much focus on how many calories each workout burns. There’s no way around the fact that if you want to lose body fat, you need to burn more calories than you take in from food. But that doesn’t mean that EVERY workout needs to be 100% focused on burning a ton of calories (besides, the biggest change to the calorie equation comes from your nutrition habits).
Your resistance training workouts should first and foremost use enough of your muscles so that your body gets the message “Muscle is important. Burn fat instead as I lose weight”. And related to this, your workouts should result in getting stronger.
With a poorly structured workout program, it’s easy to burn a significant number of calories without getting stronger. As a result, you’re leaving some of the most important benefits that you could get on the table.
I personally always want to make sure that the energy I’m expending gives me the biggest long-term benefits that it can. I am gonna guess you feel the same way.
When in doubt, make sure you ask yourself this question: “Am I getting stronger every week?”.
If yes, your workout program is moving you in the right direction (at least for now). If not (or you’re not sure), you won’t be rewarded for your hard work as much you should be.
Here are two of the biggest benefits from a properly executed strength training program (far bigger than calories burned per workout):
- Improved blood sugar control leading to fewer cravings.
Having more energy and moving more (and due to moving more, burning more calories outside of your workouts).
- And a quick note on that last one… when you focus on grueling workouts, you not only do not get the benefit of increasing your energy and burning more calories, the opposite actually occurs. You create fatigue that naturally leads to less motivation to move, potentially causing you to burn fewer calories for the rest of the day compared to if you didn’t workout at all.
To read more on this, you can check out this article: Are High Intensity Workouts Stalling Your Fat Loss?
What makes more sense to you… ?
- Challenging yourself to the level of 8 out of 10 and getting the best results you can get,
Or 2) Challenging yourself to the level of 10 out of 10 and getting “meh, okay” results?