As your life gets busier and busier, you may come to find that it quickly becomes harder to fit in the time you’d like at the gym.
You have a demanding career, a significant other constantly vying for your time, and you may even have children who need you at (seemingly!) every free second you get.
How do you find time to make fitness a priority?
Despite your incredibly hectic-pace, you can figure out ways to get and stay in great shape. It all comes down to learning how to best manage the time you do get in the gym so that you can see the best possible results.
Let’s look at ten tips that you can start applying to your own workouts that will get you in and out of the gym in no time. Even if you only have 20 minutes to do a quick session, you should still be able to make positive changes to your physique.
Time-Saving Tip #1: Superset
One of the best strategies in the book to help you save time during your workouts is to implement superset training.
What’s a superset? For those who aren’t aware, a superset has you moving from one exercise to the next with no rest in between. Once both exercises are completed, rest for your allotted amount of time and then repeat the process again.
Supersetting not only saves you time, but it also ramps up the intensity. To really see this technique in full effect, superset with an upper and lower body compound movement.
As an added benefit, you’ll get some cardio training as well.
Time-Saving Tip #2: Go Full Body
If you’re currently doing a split body workout, this is going to demand you’re in the gym three to five times per week – minimum.
Many people just don’t have time for this.
Instead, consider a full body approach. By hitting each and every muscle group in all the sessions you do, you can cut back your total gym day commitment to two or three days.
This frees up more full days to get everything else you need to do done.
If you’re someone who can afford to spend a little more time per session in the gym, but not go as often, the full body workout is a great solution.
Plus, when planned properly, a full body workout can be just as effective for gaining strength, building muscle, or burning fat. Don’t let yourself believe this is a beginners-only approach.
Time-Saving Tip #3: Add Cardio Intervals
Cardio intervals are another smart way to bring the two types of training together. If you don’t have time to do both strength training workout as well as separate cardio training, you can combine the two.
In between your sets of strength moves, add a cardio interval. This could be burpees, mountain climbers, or jumping jacks.
Just note this is typically best done between upper body exercises. Do it during lower body exercises and you may find that it hinders your ability to lift heavy.
It’s also a great way to combine cardio and core training together.
Time-Saving Tip #4: Add Strength Intervals
On the flip side, perhaps you’re more serious about your cardio training. You might be training for a half marathon, a particular type of sport, or some other event. As such, you need to devote much focus to getting your cardio in.
Don’t let your strength suffer if that’s the case. Try hopping off that treadmill, bike, or elliptical from time to time and performing a set of bodyweight exercises. Squats, lunges, push-ups, or pull-ups all work excellent here.
While you may not get quite the strength boosting results you would from a full-on strength training workout, it’s better than nothing when you’re short on time.
Always think about what your top priority is for that workout session and make that type of training the foundation of the day. Then, mix in the other types of training as best as you can.
Time-Saving Tip #5: Get On Board With HIIT
If you still have not jumped on the high intensity interval training bandwagon, now is the time to start. This approach helps save time and also accelerates your fat burning dramatically as you’ll burn more calories not only while doing it, but for hours after you’re finished as well.
A study published in the journal of Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism noted that as little as three HIIT sessions per week involving less than 10 minutes of intense exercise and less than a 30 minute total time commitment were shown to help improve aerobic capacity, enhance skeletal muscle oxidative capacity, increase exercise tolerance, and lower the markers of disease risk after just a few weeks in healthy individuals as well as those with cardiometabolic disorders.
This illustrates the fact that you don’t need to exercise long to reap benefits.
HIIT has you alternating between bouts of very intense exercise with active rest periods added in between. While it’s not an easy session by any means, when done properly, it can save time and take your fitness up to the next level.
Time-Saving Tip #6: Do Reps For Time
Speaking of strategies to save time and boost fitness, that brings us to the next tip, reps for time.
Rather than doing your normal set of 6-10 reps, pausing, and then doing another set, try doing reps for time.
Select a given time frame over which you will exercise (usually adjusted based on how heavy you plan to lift).
Now, try and do as many reps as possible in that time frame, only resting if you absolutely have to. If you do rest, pick back up again as soon as you can.
Most individuals will be best served by using a 45 second time frame for compound exercises and a 60 second time frame for isolation moves.
If you are more advanced, try 60 seconds for compound exercises and 90 seconds for isolation exercises.
After each interval is up, rest for the same length or twice as long (again, depending on your fitness), and then repeat or move onto the next exercise.
Time-Saving Tip #7: Cut Out Isolation Moves
When you need to get in and out of the gym in a hurry, it’s important that you choose your exercises wisely. One critical thing to do is eliminate all the isolation moves in your workout program.
This includes exercises like lateral raises, front raises, leg extensions, hamstring curls, and other exercises that work just a single muscle group.
While these exercises may be beneficial if you really want to shape and strengthen just one isolated muscle, they really don’t give you much ‘bang for your buck’, so to speak in terms of gaining strength, burning calories, and increasing your fitness.
Instead, rely on compound exercises to get the job done.
- Bench press
- Shoulder press
These should be the exercises making up your training program. Perform 3-4 of these moves in each session and you can be in and out in 30-40 minutes and hit just about every muscle group in the body.
Time-Saving Tip #8: Train With A Partner
Another time saving tip is to train with a partner. Now, you might think that this would do the opposite.
If you’re training with someone else, you’ll have to wait while they reload weight on to the bar and there’s a greater chance you’ll get to talking between sets.
This is how it could play out, or it could work to your advantage.
First, choose someone who is as serious about getting their workout in as you are. Have a no-chatting policy for the time you spend in the gym. You are there to work and nothing else.
Then, make sure that you push yourself to the max with them there to spot you. Most people do find they push themselves harder when someone is there with them, so this could then mean you have to perform fewer sets overall.
Since you have to rest between sets anyway, if they are exercising while you’re resting, this won’t really add much more time to your workout.
But, if it means you have to perform fewer sets to achieve the necessary stimulus overload, this could in fact save you time.
Time-Saving Tip #9: Slow Down Your Movement
Which now brings us to another time-saving tip that may seem counter intuitive – slowing down your movement.
One big mistake many people make when they are short on time is rushing through the exercise. Avoid this. All this will do is put you at risk of injury.
And, if you’re injured, you won’t have to worry because you’ll now have plenty of free time thanks to not going to the gym at all.
Slowing down your movement is going to help you first and foremost, focus on proper form. One set of an exercise with good form will always be more beneficial than three sets using poor form.
Second, when you move slower throughout the rep, you can increase the total time under tension the muscle is being placed under.
This is one important element as far as overall growth is concerned. Lift the weight to a tempo pattern of 3:1:3. 3 seconds to raise the weight, a one second pause at the top, and 3 seconds to lower the weight back down.
Time-Saving Tip #10: Check Your Diet
Finally, the last time saving tip isn’t a ‘gym’ tip at all –it’s a nutrition one. Check your diet.
The fact is, if you are eating foods you shouldn’t be, this is going to mean you need to spend more time in the gym doing cardio training if you hope to maintain your weight (or lose weight if that’s your goal).
Focus on getting your diet dialed in perfectly. With the right nutrition, you can really cut back on how much total time you need to spend doing cardio each week.
While some cardio training is always a good idea to keep your heart healthy and promote better performance during your strength training workouts, by keeping your diet in check, you can minimize how much you need to do.
So there you have it – 10 time saving tips to use next time you’re in the gym. Don’t let lack of time be an excuse for you any longer. If you are committed to seeing success, there is a way.
Are there any time saving strategies you’d add to this list? Share them with us below.
Gillen, Jenna B., and Martin J. Gibala. “Is high-intensity interval training a time-efficient exercise strategy to improve health and fitness?.” Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism 39.3 (2013): 409-412.