By: Crag Stevenson B.P.E. (Hon), Founder and CEO | ACTIONETIX (As published in MXP Magazine)
How Long Should I Work Out?
By the time this magazine is in your hands, the majority of the MX season will be behind us. The leaves will succumb to the earth’s gravitational pull, while the familiar resurgence of yellow buses will be filled with screaming energetic students. Life is back in full swing and its time again to challenge your will in the gym in preparation for the next competitive season that in reality is only a few short months away. Thankfully many of you have incorporated fitness, training and nutrition into your season, so this transition can be fairly straightforward, however for others it may be a new venture all together. Regardless of your fitness levels, I wanted to dig into the topic of how much training is enough, and how much is too much. For this topic, we will look at strength training in particular and cardiovascular/aerobic is another story all together.
The 60-Minute Weight Training Gospel
Throughout my career, I’ve heard it over and over that the longer you train, the better results you’ll get. While there are certain times in your yearly training cycles where higher volumes of training are warranted, the majority of you will not need to devote all of your spare time to training. Your body responds to various levels and duration of exercise in many ways, which can provide different results. So let’s take a detailed look at how to optimize your results with strength training, and understand why you should not train hard for more than 60 minutes at a time.
Not unlike a motocross bike, where a number of internal systems and moving parts work together to propel you to new speeds, you body is also made up of systems and parts that control the physical exertion of your body. One of the critical systems is known as the Endocrine System, or more simply Hormonal System. The Endocrine System is a series of glands that secrete hormones that provoke more long-term adaptations to stimulus such as training. One of the most well known hormones within this system is Testosterone. Testosterone, along with Growth Hormone are two key central controllers in how you recover and adapt to training. If you can optimize Testosterone, then your workouts and recovery will become more productive, and you will simply get better results.
Now, like every hero in the movies they always have an evil villain that fights them to the bitter end. Testosterone is no different – its archenemy is a hormone known a Cortisol. While testosterone helps your body recover from training, Cortisol tries to break it down. It’s simply a tug-of-war battle between progress and regression. There have been a number of studies performed where athletes have had their Testosterone and Cortisol levels measured during various lengths of intense exercise. When reviewing this pool of data, there are a number of trends that can be seen, one of which is the elevation of Cortisol vs. Testosterone in the body particularly around the 60-minute mark.
To maximize your strength training workouts, I suggest limiting them to no more than 60 minutes at a time. This is when Testosterone and Cortisol start to have a negative effect, meaning Testosterone will decline in ratio to Cortisol. The chart shown to the right is a simplistic view of what happens in your body during intense training. You can see that Testosterone can drop and Cortisol will rise around the 60-minute mark and this is one of the key factors in how we design training programs for Motocross racers. So in conclusion, keep your strength training intense and no longer than 60 minutes in length in order to maximize results that will translate directly to better performance on your bike.
Kaye K. Brownlee, Alex W. Moore and Anthony C. Hackney. (2005) Relationship between circulating cortisol and testosterone: Influence of physical exercise. Journal of Sports Science and Medicine 4, 76-83
Nindl, B.C., Kraemer, W.J., Deaver, D.R., Peters, J.L., Marx, J.O., Heckman, J.T. and Loomis, G.A. (2001) LH secretion and testosterone concentrations are blunted after resistance exercise in men. Journal of Applied Physiology, 91, 1251-1258.