If you’re like us, you never have enough time to give to your workouts.
Since we’re unable to manufacture more time in our busy days, finding new ways to maximize training sessions is hugely important for anyone serious about fitness. Fortunately, there are plenty of tweaks you can make to instantly see more time in gym – and even get better results.
With plenty of exercise science, technology and psychology to support best practices, we’re about to cover 11 easy ways to get more out your workouts. And more time for your daily life.
#1 SOCIALIZE LESS, WORKOUT MORE
The gym can be a great social scene. After all, here’s a group of like-minded individuals who values health and fitness and have lots of experience and insights to share. You can learn a lot, make friends, and increase the quality of your day by getting involved in the community.
However, this does not improve the quality of your workout.
Getting caught in conversation with a chatty spotter or a frequent associate can really reduce the intensity of your exercises and distract from your overall focus. Gym-time is all about you. For some of us, it’s the only time we get to ourselves all day. Invest in yourself and cherish this time to work inward.
That means turning your notifications and ringers off.
#2 DROP REST TIME
A great way to make up for time (and increase intensity) is to cut down on rest time between sets and intervals. Typical rest time is between one and two minutes. If you’re allowing more time off between lifts and exercises, your muscles get cold which could leads to muscle damage.
Use an interval timer if you’d like a reminder.
#3 DO SUPERSETS
And do you really need to rest at all? A superset is a series of two or more exercises done back-to-back without rest. Doing two exercises in a row that targets the same muscle group will really engage muscles and burn calories. How intense would it be if you went squats to lunges? Or bench press to tricep dips?
Doing pre-exhaustion supersets saves loads of rest-time and compounds results for your body. You don’t want to do too many supersets but don’t be afraid to challenge yourself.
Antagonistic supersets – which target opposing muscles – were shown by Syracuse University to burn 32% more calories than other lifts. It’s proven that muscles generate a stronger contraction when they’re preceded by contractions of an opposing muscles group. For example, you could do rows and then bench press, or bicep curls followed by tricep extensions.
You can also alternate exercises with unrelated muscles groups to save time. Keep some dumbbells nearby the leg press machine to blast the biceps between leg sets. Or perhaps it’s doing some quick pull ups between cardio intervals. Staggered supersets like these increase calorie burn and keep intensity up.
For cardio routines, increasing time in motion means you’ll increase intensity. High intensity interval training (HIIT) burns more fat, more calories, and increases your stamina more than typical endurance workouts. Try out incline intervals if you really want a challenge. Twenty minutes is all you need.
#4 SHOCK, TWEAK, AND UP RESISTANCE
Shocking the system is recommended. When you do the same workout over and over again, your body has less incentive to change and uses familiar muscles to complete the workout from memory. This means that you’re body is less engaged than it would be with a new workout.
Workout intensity and enthusiasm also drop when you know what to expect. Changing your routine can make all the difference and stave off the law of diminishing returns.
A routine of variety ensures that you try and see new exercises you like, while showing you where you need to improve. If you’re weak in some areas – say calves, core, or cardio – you can switch your focus to these exercises to burn extra calories and reap immediate rewards in your routine.
If your workout involves lots of lifts or exercises that target only one muscle group, bring in dynamic lifts to target more muscle groups. Bicep and hamstring curls are great – but multi-step exercises like deadlifts, squats, dumbbell presses (instead of barbell) will target more muscles and introduces a greater range of motion. Compound exercises also involve core strength, which is hugely important.
Always upping your resistance delivers consistent improvements in your physique while making sure you don’t dally on sets. Whether it’s running another quarter mile, adding five pounds to a lift, or spending five more minutes on the treadmill, an organized program of improvement is important. It will keep your training sessions from running long and keep the intensity – and the gains – at peak levels.
#5 SET A GOAL
Always plan your gym goals before arriving. Prior planning is going to prevent poor, or substandard, performance in the gym and keep your workout flow tip-top.
Maybe you use a pen and paper to keep yourself on point. Maybe you use an app. Maybe you keep it all in your head. Whatever the case, knowing what your daily workout is going to be, what machines or free weights you’ll need, the order in which you want to do these exercises – will all come in very handy in a crowded gym scenario.
#6 GET YOUR MUSIC GOING
Studies show that listening to music while working out can help you work out harder, better, faster, and stronger. Upbeat songs with beats per minute (BPM) between 120 – 180 are particularly effective because they oftentimes match and exceed your heart rate, making you feel in sync with the music. And sometimes help give you that extra push you need.
The National Institute of Health tells us the resting heart rates are as follows:
- Adults and children: 60 – 100
- Well-trained athletes: 40 – 60 beats per minute
In order to optimize a great workout, you’ll want to elevate your heart rate (HR) anywhere from 50 – 85%. Below is a chart to help you find your optimum range – and your max.
Target HR Zone 50-85%
|Average Maximum Heart Rate, 100%|
|20 years||100-170 beats per minute||200 beats per minute|
|30 years||95-162 beats per minute||190 beats per minute|
|35 years||93-157 beats per minute||185 beats per minute|
|40 years||90-153 beats per minute||180 beats per minute|
|45 years||88-149 beats per minute||175 beats per minute|
|50 years||85-145 beats per minute||170 beats per minute|
|55 years||83-140 beats per minute||165 beats per minute|
|60 years||80-136 beats per minute||160 beats per minute|
|65 years||78-132 beats per minute||155 beats per minute|
|70 years||75-128 beats per minute||150 beats per minute|
Tip: Keep particularly upbeat and inspiring songs on your playlists to help boost your workouts to the next level in those tough moments.
Like to listen to hip-hop while you lift? An upbeat hip hop track sits around 140 – 180 BPM.
Electronic music like house, techno, EDM, and trance are upbeat around 125 – 135 BPM. Some people like the repetition and the drops. If you listen to dubstep, that’s around 140; drum and bass hovers around 160 – 170 BPMs or 87 – 90.
Faster rock and roll songs typically occupy the 150 – 160 BPM range.
#7 STAY HYDRATED
If you’re not fully hydrated, your ability to perform drops significantly. Muscles are 75% water, after all.
At 2% dehydration, your workout capability is reduced by 10 – 20%.
Symptoms of dehydration include:
- Digestion Problems
Make sure to consume one liter, or 16 to 20 ounces, both before and after you train. Drink at least one gallon of water each day.
#8 DRINK CAFFEINE
Caffeine has been shown to reduce the perceived impact of stress on the body. Those who drink a cup of coffee or tea before going to workout report strength and stamina increases of up to between 10 – 20%.
Drinking caffeine about an hour before workouts will have you arriving to gym fully energized and ready to go.
#9 IMPROVE MEAL TIMING
Heading into a training session with good stores of energy is essential for optimized performance.
Eat a meal 1 – 2 hours before a workout to give yourself the energy you need with time to digest and convert food into the nutrients you need. Be sure to eat again within 1 – 2 hours of your exercise routine.
Whole foods are sustained within the body for longer. A balance of healthy fats, proteins, and complex carbohydrates – and plenty of amino acids for muscle repair during and after the workout – are recommended. Depending upon which type of exercise you’re heading into, eating a different balance of food can tip the scales.
BUT IF YOU MUST EAT BEFORE-HAND, EAT SMART.
For example, if you’re headed into the gym for a run right away, eating more carbs with light fat and protein is recommended. The carbs will be more readily available and the protein and fat will be available at the later stages of the workout.
Think of a banana with some almonds.
For lifting weights, load up on more healthy fats and protein with fewer carbs. The fats will provide the slow-burning energy that you’ll need for a lengthy, heavy training session.
Peanut butter with apples should do the trick.
#10 EAT FOR ENERGY GAINS
For maximum energy throughout your day, eat plenty of fibrous vegetables and fruits. Over many years your body has optimized to eating plants as a source of complex carbohydrates. As plants slowly digest, you gain a steady stream of energy. Fiber digests more slowly and thereby keeps you feeling fuller for longer during your day and daily workout.
Plus, plants give you more energy per serving. When you eat a burger, it takes a lot of your body’s energy to actually break down and convert that meat, cheese, and whatever processed condiments go on the burger. This means your body is losing energy as it’s trying to gain energy!
Munch simply. Eating mostly plants and natural, whole foods will keep you both physically healthy, low-calorie in your intake, and with a sustained fuel source.
#11 GET A TRAINER
Two heads are better than one. Science indicates that a personal trainer can really help motivate people in the gym. Plus, a fresh set of professional eyes on your workout routine sna techniques can prove immensely helpful for improving your workout efficiency and making sure that you’re doing exercises safely and with the proper technique to get the most effect.
Plus, a certified trainer will be able to give you pointers and recommend new exercises you may not have ever considered. Or you can download a total fitness app to guide you in the same way – for a fraction of the cost.
If you implement a handful of these tips, you will see a more efficient and productive workout. Increasing the quality and intensity of your workouts will free up more time in your life. By eating and drinking the proper nutrients at the right time, lifting and training muscle groups in proper succession, and cutting out time-wasting activities, you’ll be amazed at the shorter duration of your workouts. And you’ll be getting in better shape. Talk about a win-win.