Whether it is work, family, or friends; finding time to exercise can be hard, or even impossible some days. Finding the time is only half the battle. Once we start the workout we then need to find the energy and motivation to complete 1-2 hours of cardio and strength training. With so much hard work, and poor results, many people find it increasingly difficult to fit exercise into their schedules. The following five tips will not only drastically reduce the time required to exercise, but also maximize results.
1. Drop the Cardio
Without a doubt, the easiest way to maximize your workout time is to stop using steady-pace cardio as a primary form of exercise.
There are two reasons for doing this. First, steady-pace cardio is extremely efficient for our bodies, which makes it extremely inefficient for changing our bodies (i.e. weight-loss). This is because steady-pace cardio relies primary on aerobic energy sources to fuel the muscles. These aerobic energy sources produce a large amount of energy with little work from the body. In other words, you will need to exercise much longer to burn the same amount of calories, compared to other forms of exercise.
The second reason to ditch steady-pace cardio is the few health/fitness benefits it offers. If the goal is to maximize workout time, the focus should be on forms of exercise that give us the biggest “bang for our buck.” Steady-pace cardio offers ZERO health/fitness benefits that cannot be obtained through other forms of exercise, and because we already know cardio is inefficient, why do it?
This is not to say steady-pace cardio is bad for you. If you have the time, and you enjoy doing it, you should continue. However, if you dread getting on the treadmill every day, or find it difficult to fit exercise into your schedule, you should switch to more efficient forms of exercise.
2. Incorporate Circuits
The biggest concern with resistance training is that it is time consuming, and does not offer any cardiovascular benefits. Circuit training is a great way to overcome this. Not only do circuits increase workout density (i.e. efficiency), they also increase your heart rate, giving you all the benefits of steady-pace cardio. A standard circuit uses 2 or more non-related exercises, with little to no rest in between exercises. While one muscle group is recovering from a previous set, you can exercise another with little adverse effects.
A well thought out circuit can greatly decrease the amount of time it takes to complete a workout. Instead of spending an hour doing cardio, and another hour lifting weights, combine the two and be done in 20-30 minutes!
3. Remove Single-Joint Exercises from Your Workout
Another mistake many gym-goers make is spending too much time on single-joint exercises such as leg extensions and leg curls. There are many reasons to select multi-joint exercises over single-joint exercises. Focusing solely on workout efficiency, multi-joint exercises allow us to get more work done in a shorter amount of time. Instead of using three separate exercises to target your quads, glutes, and hamstrings; why not do one set of squats and hit all three muscle groups at once?
Doing this could easily cut your workout time in half.
4. Do Non-Intensive Mobility and Stability Exercises During Rest Periods
To really maximize your time workout time, you should take full advantage of every second you have. Rather than spending 15-30 minutes doing sit-ups and stretching at the end of your session, a more efficient way of using your workout time would be to incorporate these exercises into your rest periods. Depending on the exercise, a person may need anywhere between 1-5 minutes to recover for their next set. Instead of using this time doing thumb curls on your smart-phone, you can maximize your workout time by doing some non-intensive mobility and stability work.
Not only does this decrease workout time, research also shows that staying active between sets can actually speed recovery time.
5. Increase Resistance, Decrease Repetitions
One of the biggest fitness myths is the claim that lifting heavy weights will cause a woman to appear muscular and “bulky.” This myth is exploited daily by the fitness industry where “trainers” create 30 minute workout DVDs that aim to “tone” women’s legs, butt, and stomach. This results in people spending far too much time doing endless sets and reps in hope of lengthening and tightening their muscles. The truth is a muscle cannot be “toned” or “lengthen,” but only increased or decreased in size.
A much more effective, and efficient way of exercising is doing 1-5 sets (depending on experience) of 6-10 repetitions per muscle group, using a CHALLENGING weight. With the increase in intensity, far fewer sets and reps are required to fatigue the muscles, and as a result, a workout can be completed in a much shorter time.
All of these tips can be used independently, or combined to together to fully maximize workout time. Doing so will not only shorten workouts, but also improve the benefits of them. With shorter workouts, that yield results, more time can be spent enjoying life with family and friends.