I keep getting a ton of questions like this, and it’s a terrific question. And of course, they’ve asked the right guy!
I’m a big fan of short and sharp sessions; you can get terrific workouts in a lot less time than you think. Here are eight quick tips that I’ve learned to creating an efficient workout and getting the most out of your time at the gym.
- Keep moving: Unless you are a powerlifter who is trying to increase his/her top line strength and power, then no one needs to sit down for minutes in between sets. That is valuable time that you can take back.
- Wear headphones: Sure, making friends and having conversations is important, but NOT if you’re serious about getting a quick, efficient workout.
- Have a plan: Before you step into the weight room, know what you’re there to accomplish. Whether your session’s focus is chest and biceps, or just total-body training, you need to have an itinerary on paper, or at least in your head, of what exercises you’ll do and equipment you’ll be using.
- Have a BACKUP plan: You don’t need a full backup workout, but you should have an alternative exercise that you can do just in case someone has camped out on a certain piece of equipment that you wanted to use. Be flexible: We cannot, ever, sit and wait for someone to get done.
- Circuits and supersets: Call it what you want, but the basic idea is that we need to arrange a certain chain of exercises that we will perform continuously. I prefer to train “opposing” muscle groups, so that you can go from, for example, pullups to triceps press-downs back to shrugs, to skull crushers. If you do four sets of that round, you’ve done a good job of taxing your back and triceps right there.
- Active recovery: This is what you can do in between rounds of your circuit. In the example above in tip No. 5, you’re training back and triceps, and you’ve pulled and pushed two sets each. Then, for the fifth movement, add in a core exercise, like hanging leg raises. After those 5 movements, try one minute of any fat-burning/metabolic exercise like running, jumping jacks, mountain climbers, etc. That “active recovery” keeps your heart rate pumping, and allows your targeted muscle groups to recover and reset before you hit them again.
- Compound movements: If your goal is overall fitness and feeling better/looking better, then we can combine movements that work multiple muscle groups. This will lead to a more efficient workout that allows you to get more done in less time. Bonus: By moving more muscles, you are burning more calories. Three examples shown in the video:
- Squat to shoulder press (with barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, elastic bands, etc)
- Pushup to row (again, choose your resistance)
- Pullup to sprawl
- Train more often: We must exercise every day. That doesn’t mean it has to be at the gym- you can exercise anywhere. But most importantly, if you are spending less time in each session at the gym or wherever you train, then that gives you more hours in your day. Remember the “metabolic bonfire” we talked about in a previous article? Exercise is stoking that fire- and when you do it every day, you’ll be turning your body into a lean, mean, fat-burning machine.