What if I told you that you could spend less time working out and still get great results? With just a few simple changes you can!
Here are 8 workout hacks that will minimize your time in the gym and maximize your results:
1. Streamline your warm-up
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Many people get carried away with their warm-ups. Instead, do about 5 minutes of things you personally find helpful – e.g. mobility drills, core activation exercises or things to activate your nervous system such as jump rope (skipping) or medicine ball throws. Then move on to your warm-up sets and get training!
2. Base your workouts on the big 6 movements
Many people base their training on muscle groups. Since there are over 650 muscles, this can take a long time! Instead, base your training on the big 6 movements…
-Upper body horizontal pushing (e.g. bench press, push-ups)
-Upper body horizontal pulling (e.g. rows)
-Hinge (e.g. deadlift variations, swings)
-Upper body vertical pushing (e.g. shoulder press)
-Upper body vertical pulling (e.g. pull-up, pulldowns)
These 6 movements will hit all major muscles in your body. Then, if you have time, you can add in extra work for specific muscles.
Note: you don’t have to do all 6 in one workout. You can do an upper/lower body split or do half of the movements one workout and the other half next time.
3. Analyze benefit-to-set-up time
When you are tight on time, you want exercises that are fast and easy to set-up (e.g. dumbbell, body weight). However, picking amazing exercises is the most important workout time hack. Some exercises (e.g. deadlifts) are so amazing that they are worth the set-up time.
4. Go against the flow
If you can, try to train when your gym is slow. If you have to train at busy times, avoid popular machines and stations. For example, at most gyms Monday is “international chest day”. As a result you will likely not have a bench press station open for you. Instead, do other exercises that don’t require equipment (e.g. pull-ups – the pull-up bar is always free) or pick exercises that don’t require equipment (e.g. dumbbell floor press).
5. Group non-competing exercises
Use your rest time between sets to train other movements that don’t interfere with each other. For example, between sets of an upper body pressing exercise, have a short rest, do a set of an upper body pulling exercise, have a short rest and then get back to the press. You can also pair upper and lower body movements (e.g. hinge with an upper body push and squats with an upper body pull).
6. Use interval training for cardio
With training, you have two options: train long or train hard. Since you don’t have time for long, choose to train hard. If you are busy, don’t waste your time doing endless hours of steady cardio. Instead do 10-20 minutes of high-intensity bursts alternated by low-intensity recovery periods.
7. Use some intensity techniques
Here are some examples…
–Back-off sets: do 2-3 heavy sets and then take advantage of your body being used to the heavy weights, drop the weight and crank out a lighter set. Example: Weighted chin-ups for 2 sets of 5 followed by 1 set of max reps with body weight.
– Mechanical advantage drop sets: This method which was made famous by Charles Poliquin involves extending a set by moving from less to more mechanically-favourable positions. Example: Narrow-hands push-up, rest 10 sec, wider-hands push-up, rest 10 sec, push-ups from your knees
–Post-exhaustion sets: Do a heavy multi-joint movement and then follow that up with a single-joint exercise for the same muscle group. Example: shoulder press, rest 10 sec, side dumbbell raises.
8. Don’t multi-task
As human beings we can’t multi-task so well. When you enter the gym, turn your phone off, put the rest of your life on hold and give that workout your undivided attention. You will get better results from 30 minutes of hard, totally-focused training than an hour at the gym watching TV and trying to respond to texts between sets.
You don’t have to spend endless hours working out. Follow these time hacks and you can have a great body and a quality life outside the gym.