Monday, March 1, 2021

Don't Workout Like Batman — Use Biology to Make Your Exercise Smarter, Not Longer!

Batman trains by beating a tire with a sledge hammer because it looks
cool in a movie — not because it's an effective exercise method!

We all know exercise is healthy, but at Efficient Fitness, we know there are a lot of programs and routines masquerading as exercise. 

While these highly-marketed methods can indeed work, the ingredients that actually produce results are often mixed in a stew with lots of other ingredients that at best are a waste of time, and at worst can lead to short or long-term injuries.

Take sun tanning for example. (Disclaimer: I'm not endorsing tanning beds, just using it as analogy!) We know you can get a tan by laying out in the sun, but you would have to lay out in the sun for hours to stimulate a meaningful tan. This is because sunlight is made up of the full spectrum of light, and the ingredient that actually produces a tan is ultraviolet light.

Now take tanning salons — they understand the biology at work behind a sun tan. By concentrating the intensity of the main ingredient that produces a tan (UV light), customers only need to spend 15 minutes a week in a tanning bed and stimulate the desired response. 

Now back to exercise — what if we got rid of all the extraneous elements of flashy fitness industry nonsense, and focused precisely on what produces the best results? That’s what we do at Efficient Fitness.

Instead of swinging battle ropes or beating a tire with a sledge hammer, we contract muscles with purpose along their intended range of motion, only using the ingredients of exercise that actually work, and throwing out the rest.

Stimulus -> Organism -> Response

Humans are an adaptive organism, meaning biologically, we have evolved to adapt when faced with threatening stimuli. If we receive too much ultraviolet radiation, we respond with darker skin. If our muscles are fatigued beyond the ability to further contract, they will grow bigger and stronger.

Now remember, the stimulus is just one part of the equation. Once you perform proper resistance training (the stimulus), you have to give the organism (your body) time to produce the response (bigger and stronger muscles).

Much like a tanning bed, by concentrating the stimulus intensity of exercise in a safe and controlled fashion, we are able to achieve the desired result in only 20 minutes, once or twice a week. If you exercise again too soon, you won’t allow the organism to produce the response and will end up damaging it. In our sun tanning analogy, this would be a sunburn. In exercise, this would be expressed as an injury.

If you want to learn more about how to use a biology-backed exercise method for the most meaningful results in the least amount of time, book your complimentary session at Efficient Fitness today by calling 425-214-2251 or emailing

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

The Three Pillars of Training: What an Efficient Fitness Workout Looks Like

Exercise pioneer Arthur Jones once said, “A workout can be hard, or a workout can be long. There is no such thing as a long, hard workout.”

In progressive resistance training, there are three important pillars: Intensity (how hard you train), Frequency (how often you train) and Volume (how much you train in a single workout). 

In the last few blogs we’ve covered intensity of effort and the need for proper recovery. Today, let’s look at volume in relation to intensity, and why it makes it possible for clients to obtain outstanding results in such little time.

Simply put, intensity necessitates brevity, so the brief workouts at Efficient Fitness aren’t just a selling point, they are a requirement.

If you are properly executing a slow-moving weight training protocol, the muscle fatigue is so great that five or six compound movements involving multiple muscles and multiple joints will honestly be about all you can withstand. After 15-20 minutes of locally-intense muscle failure, you will be begging to be finished.

When I tell people about the brief workouts we give at Efficient Fitness, most people are understandably skeptical of the short duration. The problem is, even the most experienced self-starting trainees are exercising nowhere near the intensity necessary to optimize their workouts, both for time efficiency and for the best results.

If you only view exercise through the lens of your own previous experience, of course five or six exercises won’t be enough. But if you experience a workout at Efficient Fitness, it will not only become abundantly clear that it is more than enough, you might be trying to sneak out the door before we finish the leg press!

For efficiency’s sake, we use what’s called “The Big 5.” A full-body routine composed of 

five major compound movements that covers virtually the entire skeletal musculature from head to toe. These movements include horizontal pushing and pulling, vertical pushing and pulling and a compound leg movement:

  • Compound Row (upper back, biceps)
  • Chest Press (chest, triceps)
  • Pullover (Upper Back, triceps, abdomen)
  • Overhead Press (Shoulders, triceps)
  • Leg Press (Quadriceps, hamstrings, calves)

Someone in a typical gym environment working on just one muscle group at a low intensity might spend 50-60 minutes and 10-15 exercises, barely raise their heart rate and end up with little to no results. 

Instead, focusing on recruiting and fatiguing large swaths of muscle tissue allows the trainee to generate much more fatigue more quickly, as well as get an outstanding metabolic stimulation.

If you want to learn more about why a low volume, high intensity workout can give you all the benefits of exercise in a fraction of the time of “traditional” training, call 425-214-2251 or email to book your complimentary session.

Monday, February 1, 2021

The Perils of Over Training — Why Exercising Once or Twice a Week is Enough!

Allowing your body to recover properly after exercise is crucial to reaping the benefits of working out.

More is always better — right? Well, when it comes to exercising effectively, that is simply not the case. 

One of the most misguided and potentially harmful recommendations you see all over the fitness industry is that you can’t exercise enough. If you’re working out three days a week, you should be doing four. If you’re doing four, why not five? Heck, if you aren’t dripping sweat 24/7, why even bother?

This cycle of thinking that more is better is not only preventing millions of people from achieving the benefits of exercise in the first place, it’s setting them up for guilt, self-sabotage and ultimately injury from over training.

In the past few blogs we’ve covered what effective exercise should look like in the form of progressive resistance training, why that training should be performed safely, and why the intensity of effort should remain high in order to get the most results in the most time-efficient way.

At Efficient Fitness, because we exercise in an intense but safe manner, the intensity not only necessitates brevity (workouts only lasting 20-30 minutes) but also necessitates infrequency. 

Only Once or Twice a week?

Here’s one of my favorite analogies. Imagine exercise is like digging a hole. You dig a small hole in the ground (the act of exercise), and then over the next three or four days, you scoop a little dirt back in the hole (the act of recovering). After a few days, you realize you’ve not only filled up the hole completely, but you’ve actually added a little extra dirt, making a small mound where the hole was (your strength gains). 

Every time you recover, you’re filling the hole left by exercise back in, and are rewarded with new and stronger muscle tissue. If you exercise intensely day in and day out, you just continue to dig the hole deeper, and never allow yourself to fill the hole back in (or let your body recover). This is called over training!

So in an over-trained state, you’ll not only have zero results to show for your hard work, but you’ll spend your entire week below baseline, in a continuous state of feeling weak and frail. You will not have enough energy to workout, you won’t feel good and eventually you will become frustrated and quit exercising altogether.

The Solution

So how often should we exercise? If you're performing progressive resistance training in a supervised environment with a high intensity of effort, the vast majority of people can get the most benefit from working out once or twice a week. This allows the trainee to deliver a meaningful exercise stimulus to their muscles, and recover in plenty of time for their next session.

At Efficient Fitness, we want our clients to be spending more time ABOVE baseline than BELOW it. You should feel fatigued after your workout, but after 24 hours, you should feel back to normal, and after that, you should feel even better than before you worked out!

Everyone is different and recovers at different rates, but a general suggested recovery time of 3-7 days works for the vast majority of people under a standard distribution bell curve.

If you want to learn more about how working out just once or twice a week can bring you tremendous health benefits, call 425-214-2251 or email to book your complimentary session today.

Monday, January 25, 2021

Intensity of Effort — Why Walking the Dog Won't Help You Keep Your Muscles

NOTE: In this blog series we’ve covered the definition of exercise, and why moving slowly during exercises helps keep things safe.

Today’s topic is another that is often overlooked, but is essential to an effective exercise program — intensity of effort.

When we perform progressive resistance training, our goal is to place a demand on the skeletal muscle great enough to induce positive physiological adaptations. In other words, if your muscles are fatigued to exhaustion, the tissue in and around the targeted area (muscle, tendons, ligaments, bones) will respond by becoming bigger and stronger with proper rest and recovery.

Unfortunately, your body doesn’t necessarily want to make these adaptations. It’s metabolically expensive, and if it had things its way, it would stay nice and warm and cozy, never having to adapt.

The next time you are at the grocery store, pick up a one-pound package of lean ground beef. Now imagine your body having to produce that and distribute it all around your muscle tissue. That’s a lot of tissue!

So since your body doesn’t particularly want to make these adaptations, you need to give it a very good reason to do so. This is why most people who pick up an aerobic-based or low-intensity endurance activity do not see good results when it comes to gaining or maintaining muscle mass or bone density, because that given activity is not localized or demanding enough to stimulate an adaptation.

This is where intensity of effort comes into play.

Momentary Muscular Failure

At Efficient Fitness, we take every set to Momentary Muscular Failure (MMF). This is a fancy way of saying you perform the exercises slowly, back and forth, until you cannot execute another repetition with perfect form. (That last part about perfect form is important!)

By taking the exercise to this level of intensity at the end, it leaves your muscles with no other choice than to think “Next time I encounter this stimulus, I need to be ready for it!” Then, through proper rest, recovery and nutrition, it will become stronger.

If you think about it through an evolutionary lens, performing exercises in this manner puts your muscle tissue into a state of emergency. You’ve put yourself in a position where you are asking the tissue to do something it no longer can do. 

In the context of our ancestors, this might look like running for your life from a saber-tooth tiger. The consequence of muscle failure in that scenario is probably getting eaten, but at Efficient Fitness, we use our big human brains to remind ourselves we are in a safe environment on an exercise machine. This allows us to maximally fatigue the muscle, without injuring ourselves.

Perfect form!

When it comes to the effectiveness of exercise, the intensity of effort is the single most important variable, and keeping perfect form throughout the exercise allows us to maintain that effort.

When you see the latest and greatest fitness videos on Instagram, often times what seems like intensity of effort is actually trainees grunting, grimacing and making a dramatic show of swinging, heaving or jerking the weights in order to gain an advantage. This does NOT make the exercise harder, it actually makes it easier, by using momentum to shift the load off of the targeted musculature and placing it elsewhere, usually somewhere we don’t want it, like our joints.

Remember, our goal is NOT to move the weights up and down. Our goal is to fatigue the target muscle in order to stimulate a positive physiological response!

One of the best features of exercise at Efficient Fitness is the INTENSITY necessitates BREVITY. After a handful of exercises performed to Momentary Muscular Failure, the fatigue will not only be localized at the muscle, but the fatigue will be systemic, throughout the central nervous system. A true full-body workout in only 20-30 minutes.

If you are interested in seeing how you can achieve the most benefit from exercise in the least amount of time, call 425-214-2251 or email to set up your complimentary session today.

Monday, January 18, 2021

Safety first: Why Force is the Most Dangerous Culprit in Exercise

Note: Last week we talked about the “definition of exercise,” and why that definition is so important.

“The definition of exercise is a series of specific movements that stimulate a positive physiological adaptation (i.e. improved strength, muscle growth) *without undermining health.*”

The benefit of this definition is to eliminate physical activities that do not provide a proper stimulus for positive adaptation, and also have long or short-term injury repercussions.

That leaves us with progressive resistance training performed with strict form with a high intensity of effort. Over the next few weeks, I’m going to dive into some main topics that make a proper exercise routine both extremely sustainable AND effective.

Exercise injuries often come from too much force, not the use of weights.

Today’s topic is the most important to both the sustainability and effectiveness of your exercise program — safety.

If you are putting your health at risk in anyway during your exercise program, there’s really no point in exercising to begin with! Remember, exercising is supposed to produce POSITIVE adaptations to your body, and if you are constantly battling injuries from that exercise, you’re never going to achieve any health benefits, since you’ll always be back starting from square one.

Moving slowly

So what does safety look like in progressive resistance training? Just like when we defined exercise in a deliberate way, we must exercise deliberately as well.

It’s often a misconception that heavier weights are causing injuries in the gym, while in fact, it’s a more subtle and usually ignored culprit: force.

Injuries in the gym are a result of your muscles and/or joints being exposed to forces exceeding their structural strength. Now, for my engineering and physics majors out there, remember “Force equals mass times acceleration.”

Many well-meaning doctors and physical therapists recommend reduced weight for patients wanting to participate in strength training, without realizing most injuries occur without the presence of any additional weight at all! Think about it: a runner’s knees pounding the pavement, tennis elbow, throwing out your back bending over to pick up a golf ball — as SuperSlow founder Ken Hutchins wrote:

“… even weight-training injuries sustained with ‘light weight, low reps’ often cause injury. The key to minimizing injury is minimizing force.”

These injuries occur because the body moved quicker than the tissue was ready for, not because an external load was too heavy.

No swinging allowed!

So if we can limit the speed of movement and acceleration, we significantly reduce the probability of injury. At Efficient Fitness, we follow the slow-motion protocol, moving and reversing direction in exercises slowly and smoothly, avoiding harmful fast, jerky movements.

Now, when we move slow, does that make it easier? Not at all! In fact, because we are eliminating momentum, it not only makes the exercise much safer on our joints, but because our muscles are doing 100 percent of the work, it makes it much more intense, much more quickly.

Next week, we'll explore intensity, and why it is essential for both the effectiveness and the efficiency of our workouts. If your interested in learning more now, call 425-214-2251 or email to book your complimentary session!


Monday, January 11, 2021

Defining Exercise in 2021 — Why Your Fitness Goals Fail

When tackling any goal in life, it’s good to start out with a crystal-clear definition. This helps us stay laser focused on accomplishing that goal.

When it comes to exercise, that’s an area in which the fitness industry has consistently failed the consumer.

The term “exercise” in itself conjures up a expansive host of ideas — everything from minimum effort activities like walking and stretching to much more physically demanding activities like Cross Fit and playing recreational sports like pick-up basketball.

Everything in between

But where does that leave someone looking to improve their health and fitness? At worst, it lets them off the hook — allowing them to choose the easiest route. Something not too difficult, which they think they will enjoy. This will ultimately lead them to little or no tangible results, since the demand on their body is not great enough to stimulate change.

On the other hand, a gung-ho New Years Resolutionist might dive straight into a 90-day high intensity cardio boot camp, with flashy fitness models and fake before and after pictures, tricking them into thinking they could look just like that if they don’t miss a single day. This, more often than not, leads to self-sabotaging guilt from missing a day at best, and catastrophic injury from over training at worst.

Progressive resistance training

At Efficient Fitness, we define exercise very strictly, and for good reason. We want our clients to achieve the maximum health benefit, in the safest possible way, in the least amount of time. This leads us to a fairly narrow, but revolutionary definition:

Specific movements that stimulate a positive physiological adaptation (i.e. improved strength, muscle growth) *without undermining health.*

This narrow definition leaves only progressive resistance training as exercise, and everything else as “physical activity.”

Skating an 11-foot halfpipe last fall, something I definitely
couldn't do without progressive resistance training!

Exercise vs. physical activity

Now don’t get me wrong, being physically active is important! You can and should be active on a daily basis, and you should discriminately choose activities which bring you fulfillment and happiness.

But while these activities may have exercise “side effects,” they will be inherently more dangerous, less effective and extremely time inefficient when compared to progressive resistance training. 

For instance, my favorite physical activities include skateboarding, softball and golf. In isolation, none of these activities place enough demand on my skeletal muscle to produce an adaptive response to become stronger. They also are inherently dangerous. Progressive resistance training on the other hand, will keep me strong and fit with a minimum time commitment, allowing me to pursue those physical activities and perform well as I age.

I often hear “I don’t need to perform strength training because I play tennis twice a week,” or similar sentiments. The problem is, you won’t be able to keep playing tennis twice a week in perpetuity, unless progressive resistance training is part of your lifestyle as well!

The good news is, one or two 20-minute resistance training sessions per week is all it takes to maximize life-long health and functional ability, and it’s never too late to start. Call 425-214-2251 or email to book your complimentary introductory session today!