Limited time to lift, trying to multitask
April 7, 2011 12:43 PM   Subscribe

How much do "micro intervals" help with strength training? What can I do to maximize my limited time to lift weights?

I try to lift weights during commercial breaks on Hulu. I usually stay seated in my pompazon chair. Each break is usually 1 minute long or so, although sometimes they are longer. There are usually 8-10 or so during the whole shebang. So maybe 15 minutes of lifting total, a few times a week depending on how many shows I watch.

I've been doing overhead presses, bicep curls, lateral raises, and tricep extensions. I am using a pair of leg BodyTogs as weights, so about 4 pounds in each hand. I am a 24 year old female, about 25-30 pounds overweight.

I realize I should go to the gym and do this "for real", but I'm just looking for advice on how to *maximize* the little habit I currently have. Should I be doing different exercises? Is this doing anything at all for me strength wise? Having "toned arms" wise? Should I just do more?
posted by lettuchi to Health & Fitness (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
It's not a bad way to start, but pretty quickly it's going to get way, way too easy. You'll either need to get heavier dumbbells, add some bodyweight training (pushups, situps, air squats,) or probably both.

Also, at least stand up. That'll make you engage your core.
posted by restless_nomad at 12:49 PM on April 7, 2011


You'll get more out of these exercises if you stand up while you do them and focus on keeping your core strong (belly pulled in, glutes tightened). You should also get some varied weight sizes -- presumably your shoulders are much stronger than your triceps and so aren't getting as strong a workout as they should.
posted by gabrielsamoza at 12:49 PM on April 7, 2011


I really don't think you'll get your heart rate up high enough and long enough to be doing any real exercise in 1 minute spans. You're definitely not going to increase your muscle mass.

I really enjoy Exercise Prescription, ignore the 1997 site design, it is an amazing site run by actual doctors.

Basically you're not going to get toned arms from just lifting weights. This is along the lines of the "spot reduction" myth. Your toned arms are a function of body fat.

Also, if you're doing 8-10 reps during a minute break, that means you really need to add on the weight. I really found a good groove on doing 4 sets of 10, each set taking a couple of minutes. I would pause the television, do the 4 sets, watch, do another 4 sets on a different muscle group, etc.
posted by geoff. at 1:01 PM on April 7, 2011


Doing this will burn a few calories, but not a significant amount. It will do very little in the way of "toning," as muscle tone is best increased with heavy weights, and is also not to be confused with spot reduction, as I described in this comment. As for strength, it will build a small amount; that is, enough strength to lift 4-pound weights, which is not very much. You could build some endurance by doing it for longer amounts of time, but the routine you describe doesn't allow for that.

There are better, more challenging exercises you could be doing that would be more efficient given limited time and equipment. Pushups, chinups, unweighted squats and lunges, and all the variations of those movements, would be the obvious places to start. Doing several sets of those sorts of exercises, spread throughout the day, is a great way to get better at them very quickly. Just stop short of failure each time, do them frequently, even daily, and gradually increase the volume. You can get a doorway chinup bar very cheaply. Focusing exclusively on your upper body, as you are now, is never the best way to go. It's also a good idea to focus less on isolation movements at first in favor of those that work multiple joints and muscle groups.

Ultimately I think lifting weights allows the most flexibility in terms of scaling the difficulty of a movement to the appropriate level, combined with functional benefits and high effort to payoff ratio in terms of appearance. I think just about everyone would benefit from learning to lift properly. But you'll want to be using much more challenging weights, performing basic full-body movements, and gradually increasing the loads you're lifting. There are lots of threads on askmefi about getting started with lifting, I recommend reading through a few.

Remember that you get out of exercise what you put in. Just because something is hard doesn't mean it's going to be effective, but the things that are effective at producing physical changes tend to be hard. If you want to increase your strength or improve your appearance you'll probably need to challenge yourself more.
posted by Anatoly Pisarenko at 1:04 PM on April 7, 2011


One simple thing you can change right away is to stand up -- and then work towards standing on one foot. That's really going to help you activate your core muscles.
posted by BlahLaLa at 1:33 PM on April 7, 2011


Four pounds is pretty teeny. If it doesn't feel like really hard work then it's not doing very much. It can't be hard work if you can do it sitting in an easy chair! And even if four pounds was hard for you to curl, that would make it easy to press. I think you need a better range of weights.

FWIW I'm female and likely about your size, and at the moment I curl about 10lbs each side and press more like 30lbs each side. I can't imagine doing any of that without either standing up or sitting bolt upright, feet firmly on the floor and abs and glutes engaged. You could try using a dining chair or something like that.

The friend I lift with is a really tiny lady and even when we started, the smallest weight she used for anything was about 6lbs, and even then only on "practice sets" where we were trying to get our form exactly right before doing the real sets with heavier weights.
posted by emilyw at 3:18 PM on April 7, 2011


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