How do you cut the time you spend in the gym and still get good results

How do you cut the time you spend in the gym and still get good results

How do you cut the time you spend in the gym and still get good results

Many people divide their muscle-strengthening exercises into separate days or rest between exercises, meaning they spend a lot of time in the gym or - cutting corners. It turns out that there is a training method, "strengthening in pairs", which will save you a lot of time and cause your results to improve.

Resistance training (weights, devices, or body weight), which aims to strengthen us and cause an increase in muscle mass, is gaining great popularity among a variety of populations, from athletes who want to improve their sports performance to young people who want a toned appearance to older people who train to improve their daily functioning.

To achieve the maximum results from training, it is recommended to practice against a high weight. Such training causes an acceleration of the physiological effects of strength training. Thus, for example, they cause the secretion of growth hormones, which increase the process of building muscle fibres, and also create an improvement in the functioning of the nervous system, which leads to an increase in the ability to recruit muscle units during exertion.

The main disadvantage of high-intensity training: it takes a long time to rest between exercises to let the muscles recover. To avoid a situation where the muscles are tired and unable to contract maximally, they should be given a long recovery time between sets, two to three minutes. When performing several exercises, the workout may take a long time. This is the reason why most of the trainees divide the training program into two: in one training session they train several muscle groups, while in the second training session they train other muscle groups. The problem is that optimally you should train each muscle group twice a week. This means that you have to perform four strength training sessions per week, in addition to aerobic training, and not everyone can devote so much time to fitness matters.

It turns out that there is an excellent solution for anyone who wants to save time in training: a training method called agonist/antagonist, also known as the "pairs training" method. The method was first published in the early 2000s and has received wide scientific support in recent years. It is based on the fact that in every movement you make, the joint is moved by two main muscles, each of which performs an opposite action. For example: in the elbow, during bending, the front biceps muscle contracts and acts, in this case, it is the "agonist", while the back muscle, the triceps, performs the opposite action, the attack, straightening the elbow, and is the "antagonist". Thus, in fact, in the elbow straightening movement, the roles of the muscles change compared to the bending movement.

Between the two muscles, there is a reciprocal relationship throughout the exercise. The one who controls the activity and makes sure that at any given moment each muscle does its task is the nervous system. It ensures that when the agonist muscle contracts, the antagonist will be completely relaxed to allow the movement to be performed. The task is more complicated when performing complex movements. Still, the nervous system knows how to regulate the contraction strengths of the two muscles in a way that seems automatic to us, without us thinking about it at all.

It turns out that strength training can be optimized using this mechanism. how? In a study published in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, a method based on this idea was tested for performing two very popular exercises in the gym. One group of trainees performed a traditional bench press workout, three sets of it, with two minutes of rest between sets, followed by a rowing exercise for the shoulder muscles, three sets, with two minutes of rest between each exercise. In contrast, the other group performed an exercise for the chest muscle (the agonist), and immediately, without rest, performed the rowing exercise (the antagonist). This is a reverse mechanical action: in the chest exercise, you push forward, in the rowing exercise you pull back.

The immediate result is a saving of about six minutes in performing the two exercises, or more precisely in the time of rest. And despite this shortening, it turned out that the group that performed the continuous training, using the second method, was able to perform approximately 20% more muscular work compared to the group that performed the traditional training. This means that the muscles were less tired during the last repetitions, so it was possible to increase the load in training or increase the number of repetitions, thereby improving the quality of the training. Studies that tested the effectiveness of the method over several weeks of training also concluded that it brings better results, along with saving time of course.

But why does this happen? Over the years, several studies have been conducted that examined why the method causes the muscles to contract more during a shorter period of rest. The studies included an examination of the hormonal response to training - which metabolic products are formed in the muscles. All these showed that the method does not affect the metabolism of the muscle at the local level. It all stems from the action of the nervous system. Several recent studies have found that contraction of the agonist, such as that produced by high-resistance strength training, causes muscle fatigue. The same fatigue causes nerve excitation of the antagonist’s muscle. Thus, if you contract it immediately, the nervous system can mobilize more muscle units into action. Therefore, a situation is created where an increased contraction of one muscle causes an increase in the ability to contract the opposite muscle if the action is continuous.

So first of all, the method changed the definition of the "set": if before it consisted of one exercise, now it consists of two in a row. Other studies have looked at the optimal rest time for metabolic recovery of the muscles after such a combined set. It turned out to be about two minutes, just like when you do each exercise separately. Therefore, we save half of the total rest time.

It is important to note that this method is especially effective for those who perform training with a high level of difficulty. It is mainly suitable for performing isolated exercises on the fitness equipment, and is not suitable for functional exercises such as squats or push-ups, since these activate the agonist and the antagonist at the same time.

So how do you do it right?

Arrange the exercise sequence in pairs according to the role of the muscles: agonist followed by the antagonist. For example, the anterior thigh muscle performs knee extension, followed by the posterior thigh muscle, which performs knee flexion. Perform about ten repetitions of the knee extension on the fitness machine, with high resistance. At the end of the exercise, move as quickly as possible to perform knee bends, using a dedicated device, and perform ten repetitions. After performing the pair of exercises, rest for about two minutes, and perform another set, until you reach three sets.


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