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For Hugo and Ross Turner, aka The Turner Twins, a test into whether you can double your gains by doubling your workout time is relatively small fry. Previous challenges the duo have taken on include reaching several of the world’s Poles of Inaccessibility, scaling Europe’s highest peak, Mt Elbrus in the Caucasus, as well as more low-key studies like whether a meat of vegan diet is optimal.
Their latest study may be small in scale, but trust us, its results are no less impactful.
For the past three months the twins have put themselves through roughly 60 workouts. Every single one of them started with Hugo and Ross working their way through a 20-minute session, but when Hugo would stop, stretch and recover once the clock hit 20 past, Ross would plough on, doing the exact same workout again for another 20 minutes. The question is, at the end of three months, did Ross have double the gains to show for it?
Measuring their progress using Virgin Active’s Boditrax machines and keeping other variables, such as diet to a minimum, this is what they found. It may just change how long you spend in the gym.
Men’s Health: We’ll go into the 20 minutes versus 40 minutes challenge in a minute, but do you want to start by giving us a rundown of some of the challenges you’ve done in the past?
Ross Turner: Outside of our expeditions we are very curious to understand what works best in the gym. Because we’re twins we can directly compare one fitness regime to another or one diet versus another. In the past, we’ve tested high-fat versus high-carb diets and meat versus vegan diets, which some of your readers may have seen. That was a really, really interesting study. A lot of people were saying x when really the results were y and vice versa, so we just want to see through twin studies what’s more efficient, what’s less efficient and highlight the difference between two programmes.
MH: What were you trying to achieve by comparing 20-minute and 40-minute workouts?
Hugo Turner: Over the last three months we’ve been comparing a 40-minute gym programme versus a 20-minute gym programme, so I’ve been doing 20-minute gym sessions and Ross has been doing 40 minutes, essentially doubling what I’ve done.
Ross: We wanted to identify whether doing double 20 minutes is more efficient, would you see double the gains? Interestingly through our gym programme we found out some epically-curious results that I think will cause a lot of people to question what they’re doing in the gym.
MH: Wow, we’re intrigued, but what was the thinking behind doubling the workouts rather than just doing a deliberate 40-minute workout?
Ross: Because we’re twins we’re taking any bias out. If we did one 20-minute workout versus a totally different 40-minute workout there’s no point in us doing it as twins, so there’s loads of different areas that we had to isolate and take the bias out.
MH: Okay, so having compared 20-minute and 40-minute workouts for three months, what did you find out?
Hugo: The results show that there’s less than a 5% uplift for the 40 minutes. You’d think double the work would see more than a 5% uplift, but it didn’t. It’s just not worth it.
At the start Ross started around a kilo heavier than me and throughout the whole twelve weeks we tracked and trended exactly the same, so there was no massive difference in our weight, either an increase or decrease.
Ross: Body fat for this 12-week study was slightly better on the 20 minutes. Muscle mass stayed the same and that was probably due to us eating fairly similar diet. We weren’t eating a huge amount of calories, which is always efficient for us because the one thing we don’t want to do is go off on an expedition and drastically cut our calorie intake. For us, it’s important to stay at around two-and-a-half thousand calories per day intake, so when we’re on an expedition that reduction in calories isn’t a massive shock.
MH: Outside of your results, what do you think are the advantages and disadvantages of 20-minute and 40-minute workouts?
Hugo: For me on the 20 minutes, I always had the motivation to do it because it’s such a short period of time. I found it was very easy to go to the gym knowing that you only had 20 minutes to do.
Ross: Doing 40 minutes was tough because once he’d finished I had the whole lot to do again, and our gym programme over the 20 minutes was quite dense, so there wasn’t a huge amount of rest time.
Hugo: I always felt motivated physically, and I didn’t knacker myself out so much, but at the end of the 20 minutes I felt like I was pumped. The downside is I never felt like I actually went to the gym. I always felt like I wanted to do a bit more, so on the physical side I felt good, but on the mental side I felt bad.
Ross: The 40 minutes for me was almost the opposite. It was 40 minutes of ‘yes my mind has certainly worked out, but my body was a bit too spent.’
MH: What are your key takeaways from the study?
Hugo: The big take home for us is the consistency. 20 minutes is far easier to execute everyday if you want to find that consistency and motivation. 40 minutes you definitely found it a lot harder to motivate yourself and do that consistently.
Ross: For me, knowing that I was working twice as hard and putting in twice as much effort and yet the results weren’t there was a little deflating. I think now we’ve done the twelve-week programme and we’ve seen the results, I’m going to struggle to do 40 minutes because I know there’s no point in doing it.
The Turner Twins Workout
Wondering what workouts Hugo and Ross put themselves through? Here’s an example session. Like them, complete once for a 20-minute workout and twice for a 40-minute muscle builder.
Deadlift – 14 Reps, 4 Sets
Begin with your feet in line with your hips, grab the bar at shoulder width apart. Maintain a flat back, pull the shoulder blades back and down and engage your core. Push the floor away from you as you stand up straight holding the barbell. Hinge at the hips by sending them behind the heels with a strong flat back and reverse the movement so the barbell travels back down to the floor. Repeat.
Cable Rotations – 14 Reps, 4 Sets
Start with the cable set at hip height, pull the attachment while holding on with both hands a few steps away so that you are standing side on to the machine. Brace your core and swing the hands across the body as if you are ‘swinging a baseball bat’ while twisting the torso. Slowly release the cable back to the starting position under control, ready to repeat.
Cable Arm Press – 14 Reps, 4 Sets
Begin with the bar attachment on the cable machine, set at chest height. Grab the bar at shoulder width and take a few steps forward so there is tension on the cable. Push the bar away from your chest and squeeze your pecs. Return the bar to the starting position under control, ready to repeat.
Bodyweight Hanging Ab Raises – 14 Reps, 4 Sets x 2
Grab the pull up bars at shoulder width apart. Engage your core and lift your legs so they are horizontal to the floor. Slowly release the legs under control downwards to the starting position. To avoid swinging slow down the exercise. To regress the movement, complete with bent legs.