8 Ways To Optimize Your Time In The Gym

8 Ways To Optimize Your Time In The Gym

“I just don’t have the time.”

Tips for Time Optimized Training SidebarWhenever you talk to someone who could probably benefit from getting more exercise, this is far and away the most likely response you'll get.

And the thing is, it's true. We're all in a bind when it comes to time. We work all day, maybe we've got a side hustle too. We're picking up the kids from school; we're running errands; we're trying like heck to maintain some small semblance of a social life with those near and dear to us.

Maybe this is why some of the most common click-bait on the internet focuses on a very specific theme: Six-Pack Abs in Six Minutes A Day. 10-Minute Strength Workout. 8-Minute Chair Workout for Weight Loss.

We can't vouch for any of these miracle training regimens, but we appreciate where they're coming from. There just isn't enough time.

Time-Optimized Training

This concern with available time isn't limited to people who want to sell you a Magic Weight-Loss Vibrating Belt. It's also one of the hottest trends among reputable gyms and trainers across the country.

Their clients want shorter optimized workouts and classes that are designed to be efficient and effective in a briefer amount of time. And they're willing to pay for it, whether that means expensive one-on-one training, trendy classes, or the latest wearable fitness tech.

Again, some of these fitness options are more hype than substance. But at their core is a philosophy containing a kernel of truth: A short, sharp, hyper-focused, high-intensity workout will confer more benefit than a slower-paced workout that takes up more time and offers plenty of opportunities for rest.

To achieve the former, you don't necessarily have to shell out big bucks for a celebrity trainer or get on a wait list for a popular class. You just need to approach your daily workout with common sense. Here are eight ways to make your workout shorter, more efficient and more productive.

Have a Detailed Plan Every Time You Walk Into the Gym

We see this all the time, especially when two or more people are training together.

What should we do today? I don't know, maybe leg day. Oh man, I'm not up for leg day. Look, the bench press is open, let's start there.

This sort of lackadaisical approach to training is a recipe for failure. If you're wandering around, trying a little of this and a little of that, you might as well go home.

Instead, you should have a specific split (i.e. back/biceps/forearms or chest/shoulders/triceps) you want to do, working knowledge of how exactly to work those body parts maximally, and an eye on the clock to minimize rests.

You should also have a contingency plan in place for when particular machines or pieces of equipment are occupied. You should know exactly how to modify your routine (what to switch with what) so that you can keep working without a hitch.

You do not want to be standing around while someone finishes up. Or trying to work in with someone who's pace is considerably more casual than yours. Always be looking ahead to the next piece of equipment, making sure it's available, and knowing what to do if it isn't.

45 Minutes or Less is Best

In the Dark Ages of physique training, guys would be on the gym floor for ninety minutes, two hours, lifting massive volumes of aggregate weight at a leisurely pace. Golden era bodybuilders would clock in on the floor from eight to ten in the morning, and then COME BACK in the evening for some more work.

Kudos to those guys, but their plane of existence is not yours. Even if you had that kind of time. The harsh truth is, a workout of more than 45 minutes is probably counter-productive.

After forty-five minutes, you've already shredded all the muscle fibers you're going to shred, and you're just postponing recovery and squandering growth potential. You're flooding your system with stress hormones like cortisol that have negative effects on protein synthesis and fat gain. You're increasing your chances of injury. And, frankly, your rest intervals are probably too long anyway.

Forty-five minutes is ideal for a workout consisting of eight different exercises, three sets each, with twenty to thirty seconds of rest between each set. Or some minor variation of such, which we'll get into.

In the gym, pace is just as important as volume. Keep it moving. Then shut it down and start refueling and recovering.

Emphasize Compound Movements

Want to get more done in the gym in less time? Work more muscles. Isolation movements focused on your delts or your calves have a place in your regimen, but when time is a factor you want to dial in the Big Daddies of multi-joint movements -- bench presses, deadlifts, squats, and rows. All of these exercises work multiple muscle groups, build both mass and functional strength, and even improve balance and coordination.

Also, it's a good idea to move these high-impact exercises to the beginning of your workout when you're fresh and your energy levels are at their highest.

Steer Clear of the Treadmill

Is there a machine in the gym that offers less benefit for your fitness-club buck than the treadmill? We don't think so.

Yes, theoretically you do derive some cardiovascular health benefit from plodding along on the treadmill. But you'll gain the same benefit with a fast-paced, high-velocity weight training session. And that weight training session will help you gain muscle mass, while steady-state cardio chews up muscle mass, spares body fat, and undermines your metabolism. Worse yet, your body acclimates to it very quickly, so after a while, you're not even burning much in the way of calories, never mind fat.

The truth is, you're better off doing cardio outside the gym, maybe twice a week. Run some sprints. Find a sports field or event arena near you and climb some inclines or stairs. Simply going for a walk offers much the same cardio benefit as sweating on that noisy machine.

If you want to do cardio in the gym, invest in a class. Kick boxing, high-intensity interval training, a dance aerobics class, heck, even yoga all offer better cardio and fat-burning benefits. And they're more fun, too.

Employ Supersets

The key to time-optimized training is to reduce the amount of time you spend at rest. One way to do this is to utilize supersets. A superset is essentially a workout routine in which you do two exercises, targeting different and contrasting muscle groups, back to back without any rests in between. This is a time-efficient strategy that will significantly build both strength and endurance.

Good examples of superset pairings include bench presses and rows, bicep curls and tricep push-downs, dips and pull-ups, leg curls and deadlifts. You can find many more online. Do five blocks of exercises working opposing muscle groups in thirty minutes and you'll walk out of the gym feeling like you just went to war.

Put Down the Phone

It's a common theme here, but still a universal truth. Unless you're a brain surgeon on call or have small children at some kind of unique risk, you can be off the phone for forty-five minutes. Leave the phone in your car. Or, if you need it for music, set up your music before you hit the floor and slip the phone into a common arm-band-type phone holder so you don't have easy access to the screen. Tiktok can wait.

Avoid Rush Hour

We're big fans of home gyms. If you own your own home and have a suitable dedicated space -- extra room, basement area, garage -- for working out, by all means do so. You can assemble a highly versatile training set-up with relatively few pieces of equipment and eventually save money compared to what you'll spend on a gym membership over the years. You'll also have good motivation for actually using that equipment, since it will be staring you in the face every day.

Not everyone has this opportunity, however, so the next best thing is to schedule your gym visits in off hours. Don't feel that you have to join the 5pm-to-7pm masses jostling for gym floor space and queuing up for the squat rack.

Early morning workouts afford greater access to equipment and get your day off to a vibrant, positive start. Since you're focused on shortening your workout, lunchtime is also a possibility and will help you avoid the dreaded midday slump.

Train With A Friend

And no, not the feckless gym tourist referenced in #1 above. Finding a workout partner at your basic level of development, who shares your determination, is the gift that keeps giving. That person will push you when your pace slackens, inspire you to make a greater effort, and, if need be, shame you into going to the gym when it's 12 degrees out on a February morning.

The articles featured herein are for informational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. Specific medical advice should only be obtained from a licensed health care professional. No liability is assumed by ProSource for any information herein.