Working out harder or longer?


Is it better to go harder, with more rest in between lifting sessions, or do lifting sessions more frequently? I should point out that my first goal is fat loss. Second goal, get stronger.

I typically lift every 2nd day. So a week would look like:

  • Chest & shoulders
  • rest
  • Back & arms
  • rest
  • Legs & abs
  • rest

Then repeat.

I noticed that on days where I miss leg day (not often but it happens), my next chest/shoulders day is fantastic. I can lift heavier and for longer. This makes me wonder if I should add in an extra day of rest after leg day to get more out of my next session.

Sure the more lifting sessions per week means more calories are burned in that week. But I figure that working out harder will damage muscle fibres more making them stronger after they repair. More muscle, more calories burned when I’m not working out.

I read that it takes 2 days to replenish glycogen stores. Dare I say longer when exercising larger muscle groups? When I can, I try and have a post-workout whey isolate protein shake (min. 2 scoops) with 1-2 tbsps of dextrose to help with glycogen replenishment. But I can’t deny how much more I can lift when I skip a day.

What do you folks find works better for you?


Higher volume. More sets and reps during those sets. Compound movements are favored as you recruit more muscles per movement.

Example for lower day:

8 - 12 sets of 20 rep squats
8 sets of 20 rep deadlifts

This is give you 300+ reps using many of your lower body and some upper muscles all at once. This is also best for overall strength training. Greater motor unit recruitment =greater overall strength and greater calories burned per rep.

There might be 20 ways to train a body part. With that being said you could list them from 1-20 from most effective to least. Don’t waste your time with anything other than the top 5, in fact try to stay in the top 3.


This practice was debunked some time ago. You’re ‘blowing you carb allowance’, my friend! If you must, try 10-20g pre-workout (dextrose isn’t the best source either but it’s not too bad).

I personally like every other day, in terms of frequency. However, I don’t like body part splits set up like that. I go for full body, low volume, with different movement plains each sessions, e.g. day 1 - horizontal push; day 2 - vertical push, etc. I also periodise the reps, e.g. day 1 - 8x10; day 2 - 7x4, etc. If you are interested in this, search on Chad Waterbury circuit training. He wrote a 3-part series for his website some years ago, where it is explained in more detail. I follow this, but tag on some HIIT for a few minutes after the weights.

(Allie) #4

More / harder isn’t always better.
Sometimes we need to back off and go easier on our bodies as rest / recovery is just as important as putting the work in.

I was on a five day split for so long, dropped down to three days full body work and am making way more progress now.


I just write my opinion and how I do it but I am still just a beginner with small weight and as a 45 years old woman with some serious laziness though motivation as well, it never will change very much. But I still can get much stronger and that should be good enough for me.

It’s easy for me as I feel in my body that I need more rest than a day. I never could do 3 workouts a week. I usually don’t even want to try but whenever I do, I am too weak and that’s very demotivating (and hints that my body couldn’t regenerate yet and it would be a bad idea to force it). I do full body, 3 sets, 6-12 reps as this seems to suit me. Usually only one exercise per muscle group. I don’t do this for fat-loss but I welcome the tiny contribution to it.

If my body will get better at regeneration if that’s a thing, I will do 3 full body workouts a week but I don’t think I would change anything else.

So… Yep, doing it “harder” (it doesn’t feel harder but I can use my proper weights and don’t feel a drop in my strength) sounds better to me. And our muscles need enough rest as we know.
If you are up to it, higher volume sounds good for fat-loss, I am just glad if I can do my full workout and it’s as low-volume as I could do it or else I would risk quitting. I rather would go cycling or hiking to burn more calories…


I second this.

Heavy days with lower volume and lighter days with higher volume? This looks like a well balanced approach that is something I would recommend for any weight training individual in general.

Specifically speaking to the OP I would just stick with higher volume lower weight. By lower weight I also don’t mean “fluffy” low. It should still be a grind to get to the 20 rep range when doing the squats and dead’s although not so much that he breaks form and increases risk for injury.

It’s clear from his “bro split” including specific arm days he’s a beginner weight trainer. For beginners I always recommend higher volume with compounds to drill proper form and full body movement efficiency and to avoid isolation movements until they are better skilled at big movements.

OP if your gym has a hack squat machine I highly recommend you spend time in it along with the leg press for 2-3 weeks before even getting into the squat rack.


For minimalist training, I am a big fan of HIT, basically one hard set to momentary muscular failure. It sounds like you are doing something like this already. Depending on your gym set up, you can be done in 10-15 mins. If you can add a 3rd session, you can even do it without going to failure. You’re right, this type of training won’t do much for burning fat, but muscle is such an asset in its own right.


I didn’t know that it was debunked. I don’t suppose that you’d have a link handy where that’s mentioned? From my own experience it seems to give me more gas in the tank but it could also be a placebo effect.

I was going by what others have said here around a TKD, and what Thomas DeLauer says in his videos. Basically lean protein + a non-fructose carb to replenish glycogen stores.


I thought that for strength training that it was better to go lower rep but higher weight rather than lower weight but more reps. I think that approach would help with hypertrophy.

From a fat loss perspective, I was under the impression that increasing strength is the better way to go. Stronger muscles = more mitochondria created that use up more energy even when not exercising.

I thought of larger muscle mass as it looking good, but doesn’t help from a fat burn perspective.

Mind you I probably know less than most of the folks that responded to this thread.

I workout at home using a Bowflex Xtreme SE 2. I can perform squats and leg raises. No leg press, but squats should be able to hit those same muscle groups and more.


A handy place to start is Menno Henselmans:

Post-workout carbs: Are you drinking tons of sugar for no reason? (


I recall Ellington Darden used to promote those for a while.


Yes you will be able to move more weight faster if you train heavy with low volume and longer rest periods between sets maximizing the weight moved per rep.

Strength has many factors. I am speaking strictly in regards to the efficiency you can use the muscle you have. The body’s ability to recruit muscle fibers symbiotically for compound movements.

Think of neuro pathways as hiking trails.

One is often used and easy to walk because of it. Now think of a hiking trail that is used by one person once a year overgrown hard to even see and walk through.

The more you repeat the movements the better the pathways, the stronger you will become due to higher efficiency. In the long run having a solid foundation in this regard pays in dividends when you begin to lift heavier and heavier.

(Allie) #13

Technically a mixture of both is what you need as both approaches work differently so when used together (alternate workouts) the results are better.

The Mindpump podcast is an awesome place to learn, or their website too.

Free stuff at…

(Traci Simpson) #14

I lift heavy, slowly. I’m in the gym 3 sometimes 4 days a week for about 30-45 minutes total. That’s all that I feel I need.

(Bob M) #15

I do two workouts, for body weight training. One where I attempt to do as many reps to failure as I can, so those are “fast” reps. The second, I try to do three reps, each with 10 seconds down and 10 seconds up. The aka “Slow Burn” type of movement.

So, I might do 12 reps for “fast” and three reps for “slow”. But this depends on the exercise (can only do 3 fast pullups and one slow right now).

As for eating, I exercise between 6 am and 7:xx am, and normally eat around 10 am. Three hours between end and meal.

I have been testing 45 g of carbs at the first meal. Not enough data so far to know whether this is good or not.

On my “slow” day, I do fewer body weight exercises and add in some “slow” aerobics too.

I have another day of HIIT-type aerobics.


Thank you and to @Jamesbrawn007 for sharing articles.

In the notes I found this one too that’s titled: The role of post-exercise nutrient administration on muscle protein synthesis and glycogen synthesis. Although it shows that consuming carbohydrates immediately after a workout is beneficial, the amount of glycogen that actually gets depleted during a workout from a non-athlete (ie: me) is much less than expected.

So I might not be working out hard enough to warrant 1-2 tablespoons of dextrose after a workout. I’m going to NOT use it for a couple of weeks and see what my results are like.


Thanks for the articles.

I’ve been doing the same routine religiously for about two years. I think it might be time for me to mix it up.

(Joey) #18

I’m going to attempt to reframe the thread a bit …

Exercise - either cardio or strength training - is an extremely inefficient and misguided way to lose weight (and/or adipose tissue, i.e., fat).

Fortunately, changing what you eat can do wonders for your adipose tissue mass. See :wink:

That doesn’t mean that exercise is not important - it keeps your hormonal system and overall metabolism in great shape. It promotes autophagy, circulatory health, and more.

There are MANY wonderful health benefits that can only be derived through thoughtful exercise. But the reality is that weight loss is simply not one of them. (It amounts to “rounding error” in terms of long-term weight management. Many “fat” people exercise religiously. Many “skinny” people don’t. Compare their diets and, genetics aside, you’re 90% there in understanding what’s going on internally.)


FWIW, I’ll second this approach noted by @Jamesbrawn007

If you spend more than 1/2 hour in strength training you’re not likely doing it efficiently.


(Joey) #20

@Iskandar Agreed. Hence one is “not likely” to be doing it efficiently. Still possible. :wink: