What happens when one twin does twice the workout of another (40 mins versus 20 mins/workout)?

(Bob M) #1

Not a lot, it turns out.


They each gained about a pound of muscle:

I found this article to be refreshing, because this is the way normal people gain muscle mass. 1 pound every 4 months is 4-5 pounds a year, which I think is a realistic amount for pretty much anyone. Can you gain more than that? Sure, if you’re a 15 year old Arnold Schwarzenegger working out 3 hours a day. But for most people, 5 pounds a year is a reasonable amount.

And they have interesting data like this:

To me, this is refreshing also, because in 3 months, they really only gain one pull up. It’s taken me years to get to 7 pull ups, so at least I don’t feel so bad considering they are younger and leaner than I am.

The only detriment for me is that I wish the test were longer. For instance, for deadlifts, they gained 20kg in 4 months. I’d guess that wouldn’t continue, because if it did, that’s 80kg/year, so in 5 years, that’d be 400kg + their starting 125kg = 525kg, or 1157 pounds. There are very few people deadlifting 1157 pounds.

(Edith) #2

Hugo’s gains overall seemed to be a little better than Ross’s. I guess that shows me, it might actually be better to spend less time in the gym. :slight_smile:

(Joey) #3

@ctviggen I’m struck by the improvement in push ups of Hugo (only 20 minutes of exercise) vs Ross (at 40 minutes).

If I were writing a headline for this study it would go something like this…



(Doug) #4

Reverse Hugo and Ross and run it again.

(Bob M) #5

There are quite a few people who advocate shorter, more intense workouts. Some even advocate only one lifting day per week.

But it was interesting to see that double the time did not mean that much.

Though @OldDoug is correct in that even twins have genetic or other differences that could mean a difference in the outcomes.

Personally, I went toward the “more intense” workouts a long time ago, for a variety of reasons. (One: I’d rather spend less time in the “gym”, even if it is now in my basement.) But even I expected a better result for the 40 minutes.


Quite an odd test. Hugo: 4x14=56, Ross 4x14x2= 112 This amount of reps is quite high. They both gained weight and fat mass with some strength improvements. Does not state that they were regular gym goers or beginners. In the 3 months, they did 60 workouts. One every other day. Not sure what can be learned from a study of two.

(Joey) #7

On a more serious note, I switched (several years ago) to 3-days weekly of strength training (Tues = upper, Fri = lower and Sun = core day) based on s-l-o-w b-u-r-n movements (using lighter weight)- but with considerably longer duration periods of muscular stress. I use weight loads or other settings such that I just barely reach muscle “failure” around the final 6th rep.

Each routine within each workout takes 120 seconds (= 6 continuous reps lasting 20 seconds each) such that the entire workout (5-7 different exercises) takes 20-25 minutes in total allowing 1 minute between each to set up and recover.

Since doing so, the increase in muscle mass and tone have been like nothing I’ve ever experienced before in life. Friends and family keep telling me I’ve never looked more chiseled/fit. Remarkable difference.

BTW, I’ve continued my decades long habit of a good daily cardio workout. Currently, 15 minutes of intensive rowing. Not sure what that achieves but it feels good and can’t hurt.

If I did have a twin, I’d likely be known as the evil one. :roll_eyes:

(Edith) #8

Do you have a resource you could share for your workout routine?

(Joey) #9

@VirginiaEdie Admittedly I’ve read so many books and research papers on this topic I’ve lost track… but a few that might be of particular interest:

  • Body By Science / Little & McGruff
  • Power of 10 / Zickerman
  • Bodyweight Strength Training / Contreras
  • Strength Training Anatomy / Delavier

Some are better at laying out the principles and citing actual research. Some are better at helping to pull together a series of workouts that are targeted on your objectives. Some are better at explaining various muscle groups of the human body which may be of interest.

Taken together I obtained a more complete picture of what I was trying to do and how best to do it. I found it best to curate info from a range of sources based on their relative insights and emphases… especially as I was not interested in body-building per se - or proving I’m younger than I am :wink:

Hopefully these get you aimed in a good direction. :vulcan_salute:

(Bacon enough and time) #10

What I am seeing is simply that the assumption that more is always better is being called into question. You are right that one pair of twins can’t tell us much, but if the results hold across a hundred pairs of twins, that would tell us something. And it would also tell us something if the results don’t hold across that many pairs. The usefulness of studying identical twins is that it removes a lot of genetic variation from the the problem, even if it doesn’t remove it all.


The minimum effective dose points to the 20 min workout hands down in this case. What is odd is the structure 4x14x4 and in Ross’s case 2x workouts back to back. Never seen a structure like this. It would neither optimize endurance nor strength. Yes, they both made gains but I doubt they optimized. The main stated goal was to increase endurance. Yet the results basically show strength gains and fat and weight gains. The percentage difference Hugo gained was (20mins) 99.5% whereas Ross (40mins) had an increase of only 61%. I do not take much from this study

(Doug) #12

Another thing that really gets me is that 20 minute Hugo got a 8.9% increase in VO2 sub max, while 40 minute Ross only got 4.4%. This is really puzzling, because “longer exercise” should always help with increasing how the organs and circulatory system can take air oxygen and take it to muscles, and how mitochondria can then make energy. VO2 sub max measures that.

Well, at least I thought that longer exercise would help more. :smile: Really do need to run the experiment again with Hugo working out longer.

Agreed - and for things like the HDL/triglyceride ratio, aerobic stuff in general has always been good. Lots of reasons for it, IMO, but I do have to wonder about old Hugo & Ross here.

(Joey) #13

FWIW, I notice (placebo effect?) that aerobic exercise - the kind that takes no mental energy - is often a fine way to unload stress or other strong emotions while opening a window for one’s mind to wander. I’ve stumbled upon some great solutions and insights while jogging/rowing.

For some folks, it’s gardening, playing music, or driving on an open highway. But aerobic cardio seems to do this for me as well.

That’s worth something even beyond any physical benefits.

(Joey) #14

As you appreciate, more-is-better is rarely a good assumption when it comes to biological functions.


The Sub test attempts to predict Vo2max. The results suggest that Hugo exercised at a higher intensity that stressed his anaerobic system more so than his brother. If one wants to increase their Vo2max then do very high-intensity exercise for 3-8 mins, rest for 3-8 mins, then repeat 3-4 times x1 per week. Think of Vo2max as the top of the pyramid and you want it to go higher. This is a hard workout. Most people who exercise never do this kind of workout. 90% of all joggers/runners run the same route and at the same intensity day in and day out. It has been shown that those with higher Vo2max levels live longer. Genetics can and does play a role. However, most able body people of reasonable health can increase or at least slow the decline of their Vo2max. There could also be a whole list of reasons why there was such a different outcome between the twins.

(Doug) #16

It’s a good question - the article says that Ross did the same routine that Hugo did, but twice over. So, maybe Hugo did do it with more intensity, whether intentional or not. Really should test again with Ross doing the 20 minutes.

Good post - exceedingly interesting stuff. I agree that most people don’t get into the truly intense range.


One of the problems with redoing the test again is that they are now at a different base level than when they first started and generally speaking, their gains will be smaller than in the beginning, so how do you control the gains that they previously made in order to do a fair comparison? Also, one of the charts shows that Hugo (20Min) lost about 5% muscle mass by the end of the study.

(Doug) #18

Indeed, they’d be starting at a different place. Still, I’d like to see if there were any credible “less is better” results, and/or if any peculiarities to one or the other person became apparent.

That’s just confounding to me - what sense does that make? I don’t know if any such thing operated here, but DEXA scans (for example) can be thrown off by hydration levels, ‘seeing’ more muscle tissue, or at least more nonfat mass, just due to there being more water present.


I have had many DEXA scans over the years, and while not perfect, the scan is still considered the gold standard for measuring bone density, muscle mass, and fat mass. Also, here is something I found interesting: Hugo, the 20-minute guy, added 13 push-ups, or a 43.3% increase, and yet his brother only managed a 6% increase. Yet when we look at the results of the chest press, we see that the reverse is true. Ross’s gain is greater. This does not make sense, as the moves: push-ups, and chest presses are very similar but different. As the sample size was very small, it’s hard to draw any conclusions from it.


Sure it does, different strength curves. Being similar, or sometimes exactly the same don’t mean anything, if the strength curve changes, EVERYTHING changes. Do you remember overload machines? Same exact movement in every way, except you could change where you loaded the plate in 3 different positions, most people could have as much as a 50lb different depending where the plate was, same exact movement, same exact muscle. Or compare a squat vs a front squat, most people have a serious weight different there. Again, same exact movement, all the same muscles, bar moved a couple inches.