How Much Resistance Is Enough Resistance?

When it comes to SANE eating, you can do as much or as little as you’d like depending on your goals. However, smarter exercise is a bit more binary. We’re either using enough resistance to exercise our clog-clearing type 2b muscle fibers, or we’re not. Less resistance doesn’t work our type 2b muscle fiber less. It doesn’t work them at all. So when it comes to exercise, we are either using enough resistance to trigger a dramatic clog-clearing hormonal response, or we’re not. There’s no in between.

This physiological fact is why it is so important to make sure we’re not just exercising less. We must exercise less, smarter. The smarter part is key, and is all about using as much resistance as you safely can. We must push ourselves to the absolute brink. That’s why we only exercise for ten to twenty minutes per week. It’s not because we’re lazy. It’s because the type of exercise we’re doing is so challenging that it is physically impossible to do it frequently or for a long time.

To illustrate this point, the researchers who wrote Body by Science put together this helpful video that captures the level of intensity/resistance needed to experience the long-term benefits of smarter exercise (the first three minutes of the video are the most helpful).

Remember, if you are exercising smarter correctly, it will not be fun, and you will be sore. Very sore. For days afterward. But it will be worth it. Science proves it. Think of it like an immunization. You trade safe and short-term discomfort now to avoid life-threatening and long-term discomfort later.

You will know you have arrived at the right resistance and intensity levels when you stop questioning how exercising for only ten to twenty minutes per week leads to lasting fat loss and start questioning how you will walk up stairs for the rest of the week given how sore you are :)

Long-term health and fitness success is not about exercising less. It’s about exercising less, smarter. It’s about trading quantity for quality and getting dramatically better results in dramatically less time though dramatically safer and more challenging exercise.


5 replies
  1. Ian Goldsmid
    Ian Goldsmid says:

    I listened to a talk given by Doug McGruff – he mentioned that at a certain point of intensity a feeling of anxiety or panic even will arise (it has in my case several times) – essentially the fight/flight adrenalin rush. The heart is seriously pounding and I just feel kind of spooked & jittery. As a 59 year old who has trained since 20 years old, eaten sensibly/very well for years (Paleo type diet now) and as such I think pretty fit – I am unsure how much to push into / through that panic/anxiety feeling that grabs me at a certain point of exercise intensity.

    How do I know if I’m over-doing it? Will the exercised muscles fail before I have a heart attack :-) ?

    • Jonathan
      Jonathan says:

      Hi Ian – Be sure to gradually increase resistance and intensity over time. Just as I would never recommend that a sedentary person go find the steepest hill they can find, strap on a 40-pound weight vest, and sprint up it as fast as they can, I do not recommend that an individual unfamiliar with resistance training using maximal intensity on day one. If we work our way up to more and more resistance/intensity over a month or two we can be sure of our safety because no one workout will be so unusually intense that it does more harm than good. Using a 1 to 10 scale, we absolutely want to get to a 10, but not before we get to a 7, 8, and 9.
      – Jonathan Bailor

  2. Nancy McCoy
    Nancy McCoy says:

    This all makes sense to me intellectually, but I’m seeing you say work out at these super intense levels for a really short time twice a week and I’m trying to reconcile in my mind how this is going to get me in shape to hike 8 miles a day in the Himalayas to get to the Anapurna sanctuary (around 14,000 ft.). If I train for that by taking some long hikes with a weighted pack, do I mess up what I’m trying to do otherwise? If almost sounds that way…

    I also bought some whey protein–thanks for the info in the book on how to choose a good one. I would have been lost, otherwise. I ended up getting Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard. We’ll see how it tastes. I wish they had a sampler pack, but the best I could do was to buy a couple 1-lbs of different flavors that I thought I might like, base on review at (seemed to be about the best place to purchase)

    Thanks again for writing such a great book. Glad to see that it is available for Kindle now, so that will be my next purchase, as I travel quite a bit for work, it will be nice to have it with me, but not carrying around the physical book.

    • Jonathan
      Jonathan says:

      Hi Nancy – Thank you for your kind words. Keep in mind that smarter exercise is primarily designed to unclog our fat metabolism system as safely and effectively as possible. If someone has different goals such as running a marathon, improving their golf swing, etc., there are ways of training primarily designed to help with those goals. While smarter exercise will improve our health and fitness globally, activity specific exercise/training is still beneficial. Think of learning to exercise smarter like learning to read. It is foundational to our long-term goals and can be augmented with additional goal-specific training if we desire.

      – Jonathan Bailor

      PS Any facebook/twitter sharing is very much appreciated and if you’d be willing to post a quick review on amazon (link below) I’d really appreciate it. Thank you again.

  3. Nancy McCoy
    Nancy McCoy says:

    Ooops! Never mind! Just found my answer in your FAQ:

    Should I avoid traditional exercise?
    No. Traditional exercise is wonderful for health. However, it is not effective at clearing the hormonal clog that causes chronic weight gain.

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