The easiest way to make sure you don’t spend too much of your day at the gym is if you don’t go at all…
Which is the excuse many people make for themselves – they just don’t have that kind of time. But if you’ve read some of my other articles on training and nutrition, you already know that that’s just not an option here at Vikingfinity – you already know that training is almost like breathing or eating.
Still, not wanting to waste hours at the gym almost every day is a legit concern for many people – not everyone loves being at the gym listening to the grunts of other people and smelling sweat all day. So, if you struggle to find time to go to the gym and get an effective workout in, or if you just want to shorten your workouts to make time for more important things, then these 5 tips are for you!
1. Focus on compound movements
If you want to make your workouts shorter, then forget about training each and every one of your muscles individually. Forget about isolation-work, forget about hitting the same muscle from multiple angles, and forget about long aerobic cardio sessions.
Instead, you should focus on the big compound lifts:
- Squats, deadlifts, hip-bucks, and walking lunges for legs
- Bench-press variations (incline, decline, close-grip, normal), overhead-presses, weighted dip variations, and side lateral raises for push-muscles
- Barbell-row variations (combined with barbell-shrugs), weighted pull-up (chin-up) or lat-pulldown variations, face-pulls, and pullover variations for pull-muscles
This will ensure that you hit multiple muscles at the same time with a single exercise, significantly shortening the time you need to spend at the gym.
Will you be as aesthetic as someone who does have the time to do some isolation-work too?
But you’ll still pack on a decent amount of muscle-mass and look way better than average, while becoming stronger than Superman.
Even when it comes to cardio: don’t torture yourself by spending an hour walking or jogging on the treadmill; doing a 15-20 minute HIIT-session 1-2 times a week is not only a shorter alternative, but it’s also way more effective at burning fat. Doing HIIT-sessions will also hit your muscles – although not as intensely as normal workouts – slightly adding to your weekly volume and intensity.
2. Take shorter rest-times
This goes without saying, but if you’re taking 3-5 minute rest-times in between your sets, while texting on your phone or having a laugh with your gym-buddies, then you shouldn’t be surprised if your gym sessions are taking away too much of your day. In fact, you might be shocked to hear that if you’re spending well over an hour at the gym each time you go, then you’re probably taking more time to rest than you are to work out…
To be in-and-out of the gym as quickly as possible, you should spend less time sitting around doing nothing (with that being said, you do need some rest). Be strict with yourself here: time your rest-periods with a stopwatch, then get back to punishing your muscles as soon as possible! Experiment and try to find the shortest amount of rest you need to still be able to push yourself hard – even in your last set. Ideally your rest-times will be somewhere between 45 and 90 seconds, but if you’re training mainly for size – for hypertrophy – then you shouldn’t be resting more than 1-2 minutes between your sets anyways…
Now, the shorter your rest periods are, the sooner you’ll burn out during a gruelling workout (if not, then you’re probably not pushing yourself hard enough). To make sure I stay focused and have the energy to attack the weights like a Viking – despite having shorter rest-times – I take this pre-workout supplement before every single one of my workouts!
3. Do supersets
If you still find yourself struggling to schedule your workouts into your daily routine, you can try something a little more extreme. But be warned, this technique will lead to complete exhaustion, and may even cause unimaginable gains!
A superset is basically stacking 2-3 exercises into a circuit; you don’t rest between the individual exercises, but you do take your normal – well-deserved – rest-time in-between each circuit (called a superset). Doing supersets is extremely demanding – not only on your muscles, but also on your cardiovascular system – but it’s a very unique and effective way to shorten your workouts by upping the intensity. To prove my point:
- Normal sets: You have 3 exercises, 3 sets of each, with one minute rest between sets. Let’s say each exercise takes 40 seconds to complete. Your total workout time is 14 minutes.
- Supersets: Same scenario, except this time you superset the three exercises and do 3 supersets instead of 9 individual sets. In this case, your total workout time will be 8 minutes.
While this is just a theoretical example, it clearly shows that doing supersets instead of normal sets will make your workouts much shorter.
Now, as far as the exercises go, I recommend that you start off by doing opposite-muscle supersets, meaning that each exercise within a superset targets a different muscle-group. This will allow each muscle-group some extra rest-time while you do the other exercises (you can experiment with same-muscle supersets later on).
4. Go more often
While not ideal, you can always break your workouts into more – shorter – sessions, decreasing the overall length of your individual workouts. This way your weekly volume will stay the same, but you’ll achieve that in many shorter workouts, rather than fewer long ones.
If you decide to take this route and hit the gym more than 4-5 times a week, you’ll have to keep a few things in mind about your recovery…
You train, you stress, and eventually you break down. Not allowing yourself to recover fully from a workout can lead to overtraining, which will not only limit the intensity of your next session, but it can also cause a hormonal imbalance, leading to general fatigue, injury, and – holy shit – less gains!
To prevent this awful thing from happening, you can help your recovery in a few ways:
- Don’t train the same muscle-groups intensely on consecutive days
- Make sure to have at least one rest-day a week when you allow your body to fully recover (two is even better)
- Make sure that your diet is on point, providing your body with all the micro- and macronutrients it needs (the right supplements can help a lot here)
- Get at least 7-8 hours of quality sleep every night to allow your body to recover faster
- I’ve found that this all-natural supplement helps incredibly with post-workout recovery and muscele-pain
5. Get past the most frustrating part…
One of the main reasons why I used to spend way more time in the gym than I would have liked to is that I was waiting for a piece of equipment to free up so I could finally do my last exercise. This was insanely frustrating, especially if the jerk was practically using the bench as a bed to take a nice long nap on while watching Netflix, waiting for his shirt to dry…
Wasting your time at the gym because of some random dude hogging a piece of equipment for an unreasonably long time is one of the most frustrating things in the world (OK, I might be a little overdramatic on this one). I was usually blaming the guy using the equipment, while giving him passive-aggressive glares with my flashing eyes (looking back, I might have looked a little weird). With that being said, I rarely encounter this problem today thanks to a few habits I’ve developed over the years:
- I’ve built the confidence not only to ask, but to insist on joining in
- I try to avoid going to the gym in the busiest hours
- Whenever possible, I’m flexible with the exact order of my exercises: I try not to leave the exercises that require the most specific pieces of equipment to the very end of my workouts – instead, I do them as soon as I can (without going against the basic principles of designing a workout)
- I’ve learned at least two effective substitutes for most exercises, including a calisthenics substitute for the worst-case scenario
Similarly, you can adopt these simple habits to avoid getting stuck in the gym because of such a stupid reason.
Which of these methods do you agree with? Share your thoughts in the comments! Also, make sure to follow Vikingfinity – I write articles just like this twice a week, and you already know you don’t want to miss them!