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Quality over Quantity: The Value (and insane benefits) of Starting with LESS Exercise than You Think

As a rule of thumb, I subtract one from the answer someone gives when asked the question “how many days a week can you commit to training for the rest of your life?”


Four times? Let’s start with three. 


Often when in consultation calls, the excitement clients feel when envisioning themselves as a person who exercises can result in an inflated estimate of how many times they’re actually committed to train a week. Usually, the people I am talking to are in a state of motivation (they wouldn’t be on a call to invest their money in a coach if they weren’t), when it’s easy to overestimate the answer to this question. 


Subtracting one from the given answer (a trick I learned from well-respected trainer and podcaster, Sal Di Stefano) puts us back in the middle range of 5-6 on the compliance scale of 1-10 (1 being impossible to implement in one’s life and 10 being the easiest thing to implement). It is far easier to commit to 60 minutes three times a week than four. Simple. 


Even if the initial number of training sessions per week is conservative, it often results in the best-case scenario: the person desires to train more because of the scarcity of sessions they have. The number of weekly sessions can be increased over time, especially if motivation to train has increased. When this is the case though, I challenge clients to stick with three sessions per week, and to train with maximal quality and intent (we’ll get into practical ways of how to do that below).


A side benefit of keeping the conservative number of sessions each week is you can really start to dial in the intent of sessions. When you know you’ve got two days until you’re training again, you’d best believe there’s a higher drive to perform as compared to aimless cardio/machine circuits you’ve done in the past when trying to get consistent in the gym. 


Some Ideas to Up the Intent (quality) of Your Sessions

  1.     Don’t go on your phone for the entire session unless taking a video of yourself performing an exercise.
  2.     Stop 2 reps short of failure so you are able to perform movements with proper form, while still working hard each set ( 2 reps “in the tank” should be hard – just not to absolute failure)
  3.     Consciously nose breathe during a 10-15-minute cardio warmup, maintaining good posture (same distance between your belly button and sternum as when standing)

This is such a hack. A lot of people neglect to actually HEAT their bodies up to a temperature above its baseline before training. The simple act of warming up makes your tissues less viscous (Think water sliding down a ramp versus honey or syrup. Far less friction and better “mobility” with the former – the same thing happens to your muscles and tissues when you break a sweat)

  1.     Decide on a rest period duration and stick to it for the entire session

For example, 2 minutes is your chosen rest period after each working set that day. With a stopwatch (or your phone), have a two-minute timer ready and actually abide by the rest period. I find I am far more mindful during sessions when doing this, as it is far too easy to screen-suck your phone and not know whether 45 seconds or 3 minutes has passed when you look up… Be conscious of your rest periods! Pick a time, and follow it.    

5.  Have one or two main areas of focus for each session 

      A. Performing a set with a higher load than last week

      B. Feeling a muscle you have difficulty connecting to during a movement

      C. Setting a personal record in volume (sets x reps x weight) on a given exercise, 

6. Slow the tempos of exercises down and work only within ranges of motion you can maintain a ribs “stacked” over pelvis position in

      A. Butt squeezed, double chin, weight on heels, maintaining toe contact are solid queues to think about to connect to your lower body prime movers like the glutes and hamstring


Prioritize Active Rest and Daily Actions

Three sessions a week, in this case when you initially answered four, is a phenomenal way to ensure quality of sessions before building onto the quantity of them. Use some of those “intent-builders” to increase the quality of sessions.


When the quality of sessions increases, so does your response to those sessions. You’re not adding mindless additional volume; rather, you’re dialing in the current number of sessions you have. Prevention of overtraining, better muscle growth, diminished pain, improved sleep, and higher energy all naturally happen as a byproduct. You feel like a higher functioning human in the rest of your life as you’re not crushing yourself in the gym; you’re providing a quality stimulus for positive adaptation.


So, with that in mind, let’s come to the training plan for you to escape the rut of inconsistency.


While I don’t necessarily agree with giving out cookie-cutter programs, in this case, providing one will actually prove my point further: Performing three simple, effective sessions a week with phenomenal intent will drive better gains for you than aimless training performed 5 times a week.


If you come into a session with the intent to attack the day’s 6 main movements, you will get a phenomenal stimulus for building muscle and burning fat. Plain and simple. 


After training hard one day, give yourself 36+ hours of active rest, during which you are:

  1.     Taking 8,000 steps a day 
  2.     Drinking a minimum of 100 fluid ounces of water each day
  3.     Eating a gram of protein per pound of your bodyweight (goal body weight if you’re overweight). 


If you are slightly (or drastically) out of shape when reading this, you will not be within 60 days of following the above three daily actions while performing the 3-day per week resistance training program outlined below:

Day 1

Warmup: 20 minutes of nose-breathing cardio – not hard, but not easy – get sweaty

1a) Heel-Elevated DB Goblet squat: 3×10 (3s Negative, or lowering)

1b) Double Arm Cable Row Machine: 3×12 (3s Negative, or extending of arms away from your body)

2a) Leg Press: 3×10 (3s Negative, or lowering)

2b) Lat Pulldown: 3×12 (3s Negative, or extending of arms away from your body)

Day 2

Warmup: 20 minutes of nose-breathing cardio – not hard, but not easy – get sweaty

1a) DB Goblet Box Squat: 3×8 (3s negative, or lowering)

1b) DB Incline Bench Press: 3×10 (3s Negative, or lowering)

2a) Double leg Hamstring Curl Machine: 3×12 (3s Neg, or straightening legs)

2b) Machine Flat Chest Press: 3×10 (3s Negative, or lowering)

Day 3

Warmup: 20 minutes of nose-breathing cardio – not hard, but not easy – get sweaty

1a) DB Split Squat: 3×8/leg (3s negative, or lowering)

1b) Assisted Pullup Machine (use assistance as needed): 3×10 (3s Negative, or lowering)

2a) Quad Extension Machine: 3×12/leg (1s Hold up top, when legs are straightened)

2b) Shoulder Press Machine: 3×12 (3s Negative, or lowering)

A Sample Training Program for Sustainable Progress

This is your training outline. You will train 3 times per week. Monday, Wednesday , Friday; Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday; I don’t care about the sequence, but this is absolutely essential if you want to change your body composition. Resistance training is the cornerstone of lowering your body fat levels. 


Your NUMBER ONE goal is to progress load used on one, or every exercise each session, so long as form is maintained. 


These are not long duration lifts. They should take 40 minutes max, given that you’re performing 2-3 warmup sets for the first exercises each day. Your intent should be extremely high for every set you perform. 


There are 12 total working sets (sets completed after warmups) in each workout. Rest 2 minutes between each superset (exercises paired together indicated by 1a and 1b)


Determine your lifting days, ideally separated by a day of recovery, and run these same training sessions for four weeks. 


At the end of four weeks, change up your exercise variations slightly while still keeping upper body pushes and pulls, squats/knee bends, and hip hinges in your program. If you are feeling good with the movements outlined above, then continue on exactly as you have been! Then, rinse and repeat the 4-week process. 


That outline provided above will take care of your cardio and lifting demands. All that remains for you to do, every day, is:

    Get 8,000 steps

   Drink 100 fluid ounces of water

–    Eat your bodyweight in grams of protein


Run this program for four weeks. If you find yourself in an awesome groove and wanting more training, I challenge you to stick with the 3-day-per-week schedule, and put that that energy and desire for more training into being a more active, dynamic human being: play outside with your kids for 30 minutes, go for a walk with a friend after a meal together, prep your meals for the week. Get to the point where 3 intentful sessions done weekly is a piece of cake and something you look forward to. Then, up your cardio and weight training sessions to four per week, maintaining the same level of consistency and intent you’ve shown with three!


This is sustainable fitness. This is quality over quantity, and this is the way to build a healthy relationship with exercise. 



Creating a sustainable fitness routine requires a thoughtful approach that prioritizes intentful training sessions over excessive quantity. By committing to three quality workouts per week and engaging in active rest, individuals can build a healthy relationship with exercise, achieve long-term success, and foster a higher functioning state in all aspects of life. Remember, it’s not about mindless volume but about providing a quality stimulus for positive adaptation. Start with intentful training, and as you progress, you can increase your sessions while maintaining consistency and intent. Embrace quality over quantity and enjoy the journey towards a healthier, fitter you.

With Strength,

Eric Weber – Performance Coach

Blog Writer – CM1 Performance

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