Samara Donald is: The Gym Coach

Make the most of your workout!

The (Workout) Efficiency Paradox

treadmill runnEveryone wants to be efficient, right? More bang, less buck.

In an exercise setting, efficiency is defined as the percentage of energy expended by the body that is converted to mechanical work (another form of energy). In regards to a “work-out”, we intentionally want the body to “work” so that is is burning maximal calories. So efficiency usually means (ok, I usually mean) the most effective workout (in terms of maximal calorie burn) for the least amount of time

Right? Not always…

The above approach assumes that the goal of the “workout” is weight loss/maintenance, overall (but everyday people’s) “fitness”, and physical appearance. Though this is true for many of us, in some cases– such as in the case of endurance athletes – you want to flip this and burn the LEAST amount of calories. If you think about it: if you’re about to run 26, even 50+ miles in the case of ultra marathoners, you want to ensure you are conserving energy vs. burning it.

This view of efficiency is a good comparison of the Adaptation principle. Adaptation is the way the body ‘programs’ muscles to remember particular activities, movements or skills. When a specific skill or activity is repeated, the body adapts to the stress and the skill becomes easier to perform.  (This is why you are often sore after doing a new exercise (or lifting heavier weight), but after doing the same exercise for weeks your body is no longer sore. But this means the body is more efficient and now burning less calories. Again—great for endurance athletes, NOT good for  The Principle of Adaptation explains why a beginning exercisers

To fight this ‘efficiency’, if you constantly change exercises and your routine, the body will be forced to respond. When you mix up your routine, your muscles have a harder time adapting, which causes them to work harder and produce visible results.

Don’t forget, this has nothing to do with creating an efficient workout routine – that can still be achieved while limiting your body’s efficiency. I’ll talk more about that in my next blog..



The Journal of Physiology

One comment on “The (Workout) Efficiency Paradox

  1. Pingback: Hyper efficient workouts « TheGymCoach Blog

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This entry was posted on March 26, 2012 by in fitness.
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