“We thought the findings [regarding exercising less—smarter] were startling because it suggests the overall volume of exercise people need to do is lower than what’s recommended.” – M. Gibala, McMaster University

By Jonathan Bailor  on En*Theos

It looks like the addage of “move it or lose it” still applies when it comes to weight loss. Here are some new tips based on recent science to make your movements more effective.

Traditional fat-loss programs require five to ten hours of exercise per week. This requirement alone accounts for much of their 95% failure rate. Who has that much spare time?

Fortunately, scientists have discovered a smarter alternative: a form of high quality exercise that unclogs us in just ten to twenty minutes per week.

Let’s quickly compare traditional exercise with this higher-quality alternative. Traditional exercise is rooted in the false Calories In – Calories Out theory of fat loss. It aims to burn calories and is done frequently, for a long time, and uses a little resistance. On the other hand, high-quality exercise is rooted in the science of the set-point. It aims to clear our hormonal clog and is done infrequently, for a short period of time, and uses a lot of resistance. This unique approach to exercise has been proven not only to heal our hormones, but also to give us all the benefits of traditional exercise—and then some—320% more efficiently.

 The Top 10 Big Ideas

1. Don’t Worry About “Accidentally” Building Too Much Muscle

bodybuilder overly developedHigh-quality exercise is a smarter and more productive way to think about exercise. But before getting into the details, it is important to address a common fear: that using the amount of resistance required to increase the quality of exercise makes women look like men and men look like bulldogs. The best way to address the fear of using more resistance during exercise is to understand your body.Everyone has a gene called GDF-8, and it controls a substance called myostatin, which controls the amount of muscle we have and how much it develops naturally. The base levels of myostatin and muscle in basically all women and most men make it impossible for them to naturally build bulky muscles. It does not matter how much resistance we use. The majority of us—especially women—do not have the genes to build bulky muscles using any form of exercise.

2. Two Quick Muscle Myths: More Reps and Muscle Weighs More Than Fat

When people say, “I do more repetitions with less weight because I do not want big muscles,” they have a point…it is just the wrong point. Not only will doing all those low-quality repetitions prevent them from getting big muscles, it will prevent them from getting any substantial benefit from their exercise.One last point to help us overcome any remaining fear of resistance training. Beyond being hard to develop, muscle tissue is small. This is why trainers will tell you, “Muscle weighs more than body fat.” While muscle does not in fact weigh more than body fat, muscle does take up less space. This is why most female fitness models are about 5’6” and weigh 140 pounds. People look at them, and judging by their size, think they weigh 110 pounds. They do not. See those defined legs? That is quite a bit of muscle tissue taking up a little space, while clearing out quite a bit of clog.

3. Exercise More Muscle Fibers to Burn More Body Fat

Family of five riding the same bikeWhy do people bike to burn body fat instead of drawing pictures of bikes to burn body fat? After all, both activities exercise muscles. They bike because of the amount of muscles it exercises. Riding bikes exercises a lot of muscle (the large leg muscles) while drawing bikes works a little muscle (the small hand muscles). The more muscle exercised, the better our results. Obvious, you say.Here is what is not so obvious. Just as we get more results in less time by working more muscles within our body, we get even more results in even less time by working more of the muscle fibers which make up our muscles.

4. Exercise More Metabolically Beneficial Muscle Fibers to Burn More Body Fat

So far, this has been as simple as it gets. The physiology of our muscle fibers, and how exercising less—but smarter—works more of them, is a bit more complex, but the basic concept is easy once you understand three basic principles of how our muscles function:

  1. We have different types of muscle fibers that do different things.
  2. The “Deeper” the muscle fiber, the more force it generates and the less endurance it has.
  3. Working our “Deepest” muscle fibers works all of our other muscle fibers.

Once we dig into why this matters, everything you thought you knew about exercise will get flipped on its head.

5.  Exercise to Trigger Clog-Clearing Hormones

Traditional exercise is all about “burning calories.” Traditional exercise is all wrong. Smarter exercise ignores the quantity of calories burned by exercising. It focuses on triggering the release of the healing hormones that lower our set-point weight. Soon you will see exactly how.

Diggin’ this wisdom? You’ll *love* the class!

Join the Academy for Optimal Living and get access to all kinds of awesome Livestream classes to help you optimize your life. All for a silly affordable 8 bucks a month.

  • Get warmed up by walking briskly or riding a bike for a few minutes.
  • Pick a resistance you cannot lift with one arm or one leg—depending on the exercise—but can easily lift with both arms or both legs. Let’s say 20 pounds.
  • Lift the resistance with both arms or both legs. Each arm or leg lifts half the weight—10 pounds in this example.
  • Lower the resistance with only one arm or one leg for ten seconds. Each arm or leg lowers all the weight—20 pounds in our example—slowly.
  • Repeat until it is impossible to lower the resistance with only one arm or one leg for ten seconds. If this takes more than six repetitions, gradually add resistance until it only takes six repetitions.

9. Exercise for Less Time, but with More Resistance, to Burn More Body Fat


Treadmill cardio University of Virginia researcher B.A. Irving took two groups of women and had them do traditional cardiovascular exercise or smarter and shorter cardiovascular exercise. The two groups burned the same number of calories exercising, but the smarter and shorter cardiovascular exercise group spent significantly less time exercising, while losing significantly more belly fat.McMaster University researcher M. Gibala separated people into smarter and shorter cardiovascular exercise and traditional cardiovascular exercise groups. Over the course of the two-week study, the smarter and shorter cardiovascular group exercised for two-and-a-half hours while the traditional cardiovascular exercise group exercised for ten-and-a-half hours. At the end of the study both groups got the same results even though the smarter and shorter cardiovascular exercise group spent 320% less time exercising than the traditional cardiovascular exercise group. The researcher put it like this: “We thought there would be benefits, but we did not expect them to be this obvious. It shows how effective short intense [high-quality Brief] exercise can be.”The studies are clear, less is more when you get science on your side.

10. How To Do Shorter Smarter Cardio


  1. Hop on an upright stationary bike—the ones that look like regular bikes, not the ones that look like recliners.
  2. Pedal at a moderate pace, with moderate resistance, to get warmed up.
  3. Increase the bike’s resistance so you can pedal only by standing up on the pedals and pushing down on them as hard as you can.
  4. Pedal like that for thirty seconds. If you can pedal for longer than thirty seconds, increase the resistance until you cannot.
  5. Rest for two minutes.
  6. Repeat the steps 4 and 5 three times.
  7. Smile, because that took ten minutes and you are done with cardiovascular exercise for the week.
Jonathan Bailor

Jonathan Bailor is a nutrition and exercise researcher, author, and speaker who specializes in using high-quality food and exercise to simplify health and fitness. He is the author of The Calorie Myth: How to Eat More, Exercise Less, Lose Weight, and Live Better(2013).