The number one reason I get from people why they are not exercising regularly is that they just do not have the time. Time with the family cuts into that exercise time. Time at work cuts into that exercise time. Time spent shuttling the three kids around in the Honda Odyssey cuts into that exercise time. Time spent glued to the couch and gasping at shocking developments while watching The Bachelor cuts into that exercise time. All justifiable, even watching The Bachelor. But I think a lot of people misunderstand how much time they really need to get a productive workout in a couple of times per week. Or I think people misunderstand that they have to add time or exercises to their current workouts if they’re not getting the results they’re seeking.
It’s really not about how many hours extra you’re logging or how much extra you did for the average person. It’s really about what’s taking place over the course of your workout that’s going to make the biggest difference. Sometimes I watch people’s workouts and think they’re probably better off not doing anything at all. I really don’t care how much time was spent in the gym if the workout was at an intensity level of zero and the only meaningful thing you did was set up long term low back issues. You went an extra ten minutes on the treadmill for what reason? To burn an extra 20 calories? You did 450 crunches for what? That remaining spare tire?
What I’m trying to get at is that time is really not the determining factor that is going to determine your success or lack there of. It’s more about what was done during that time period. Some people are scared off from working out because they think they have to spend two hours in the gym in order to make it meaningful. Programmed right, a good strength training workout should take you no more than 45-60 minutes for the average person. And believe me, a lot of us are average. There’s not too many advanced exercisers out there (Is “exercisers” even a word?)
And what about your cardiovascular training? Last time I checked my heart was jumping through my chest after a superset set of squats and chin ups or some other grueling superset or circuit. Even doing 12-15 minutes of some interval training may be more productive than pounding the treadmill for 60 minutes.
So if you’re not going to workout longer, you’re going to have to workout smarter in order for your workouts to be productive. How do you that?
- Select the right exercises. This really has to do with common sense. What requires more work? A set of squats or a set of leg extensions? Which one of those involves more muscles? Multi-joint exercises should form the bulk of your routine. They usually require more work. They usually require more stabilizing muscles. Any squat variations, lunge variations, press,variations and chin up variations should form the bulk of your workout
- Push the intensity. Every one has different intensity levels, but everyone should be pushing through their workout. A 5lb dumbbell bench press may be intense for an 80 year old man. Great. He’s pushing it. The problem is I see 23 year old girls doing the same dumbbell bench press and wondering why their arms are not “toned”. If you want your body to change, if you want to get stronger, you have to push the intensity. The hormonal changes that occur because of the increased intensity level are the ones that are going to make the changes in your body. High reps, low weight is another way of saying “I just wasted five minutes in the gym”.
- Get off the elliptical. Not once, have I seen any one push themselves hard on the elliptical. It’s the number one used piece of equipment in the gym for one reason: it’s easy to use. You want to use it for some recovery work, fine. But the evidence is there. And it’s not scientific evidence. The same people are using the elliptical everyday, usually the same exact elliptical. And the same people are not getting any results from it. They’re not getting results, so what do they do? They add more time. How much more time can you honestly add? Remember, we’re trying to cut back on your time here. You’re probably much better off doing a bodyweight circuit than using that mind numbing piece.
- Use supersets. I use to spend hours in the gym years ago. And that was only on chest day. Do a set of bench presses. Rest three minutes. Do another set of bench presses. Rest three minutes. And the cycle would repeat with every exercise all the way down to decline chest flys. That was until I came across a much better and efficient way. Hey, if I pair up opposite muscles groups or lower body and upper body exercises, I can do just as much work in a shorter period of time. My rest periods come down. My training density increases. I get out of the gym much faster. And what do you know? My results are better.
- Have a plan. If you don’t want to spend too much in the gym you have to know what you’re going to do before you even walk through the front doors. Don’t waste time dilly dallying between exercises because you don’t know what to do next. Or don’t do an exercise just to do an exercise. Every exercise should have a purpose. Every set should have a purpose. Every workout should have a purpose. If you’re not good at writing up your own training programs, there’s a ton of great stuff out there now readily available on the internet. The field of strength and conditioning is continually evolving. Or if you know of a trainer who is getting results with other people, dial him up…(781)538-6664.
This all goes back to productivity just as in any other line of work or industry. What good does it do to spend more time at work, if you got nothing done? The same goes for your workouts. Don’t think of time as the determining factor when it comes to your workouts. Think more about what you did during that time and how productive was that time. I’ll take productivity over time spent any time, any day. Smarter, not longer.