It’s probably the most common excuse in the book. ‘I don’t have TIME to go to the gym/exercise’. In most cases, it’s simply a case of bad organisation and/or lack of priorities. People say they don’t have time to exercise, yet when I ask them what they did last night, they tell me about all the TV programmes they watched/what they read on Facebook.
Workouts shouldn’t be hours in duration, and you definitely don’t need to exercise every day. It is a myth that the more time spent in the gym/exercising, the better. Exercising follows the rule of diminishing returns...there becomes a point when doing more work will not result in better gains. If you really want to reach your goal, stop making excuses and decide to change. Make that decision, and stick to it.
I agree that we all have busy lives with other commitments such as work and family taking priority over going to the gym, but just 30 minutes, 4 times a week is all that is required.
In order to be in and out of the gym in 30 minutes, and STILL push your body to the limit, you have to make sure your sessions are PLANNED and INTENSE. Walking into the gym and picking the first machine/dumbbell that takes your fancy, then waiting 5 minutes for the next available machine will get you nowhere. 30 minutes sessions are just as (if not more) beneficial as 60 minute sessions....it’s what you do with the time that counts, not the time itself. Sometimes, knowing you only have a short space of time to do something means that you get it done quicker and more thorough, than if there was no time limit. I can think of plenty of examples where I’ve had all day to do something and not done it, but give me a window of only 30 minutes, and I’ll do it straight away, and properly!
This article will hopefully give you a few ideas on how to get the most out of your time in the gym.
Most people walk into the gym, head over to the weights section, spend roughly 30-60 minutes there, then head over to the cardio section and spend another 15-30min sweating away on the treadmill/bike etc....but why? It’s common to associate weight lifting with building muscle, and cardio with fat loss, but is it really necessary to do additional cardio in order to keep fit/burn those extra calories? If you were short for time, which one would you drop? For most Bodybuilders, the answers simple; the cardio is dropped. And I’m one of those people! But I’ve often left the gym looking like I’ve just been swimming with my clothes on, but I haven’t gone anywhere near a treadmill (or the pool for that matter). How? It’s all about INTENSITY. By keeping your weights session short but intense, you can make your workout rival that of a cardio session, but without the boredom that comes with running on a treadmill.
Below are a few points to keeping your workout Intense...
- Limit Rest periods to 40-60 seconds
- Giant Sets
- Weight Circuits
- Compound exercises
- Cross fit
Each one is explained below...
Rest periods – Before I started weight training, I would often look over to the weights area whilst I was on the treadmills and most of the time I would see a lot of people sat on benches, stood next to machines, or simply just chatting, but nothing much was going on in regards to working hard, or so it appeared. Back then, I never understood why people seemed to do more resting than they did lifting. Now I have a greater understanding, but I still have to question the length of some peoples rest periods between sets. The purpose of a rest period is to allow your muscles and Central Nervous System (CNS) sufficient time to recover from the set that has just been completed. This includes the replenishment of ATP levels and the removal of lactic acid. Without resting, your muscles would be fatigued and unable to fully contract. However, the length of a rest period should not be exaggerated. Depending on your goals, the shorter the rest period the better, especially when training for hypertrophy and endurance. Keeping rest periods to 30-90 seconds when doing medium to high rep ranges will help condition your body to work under challenging conditions. It will also keep your heart to pump faster which results in a more intense workout.
As a rule of thumb, the heavier the weight, the lower the rep count, and the longer the rest period. The lighter the weight, the higher the rep count, and the shorter the rest period.
It’s easy to under/over estimate rest periods so always use a timer to ensure rest periods are the desired length of time. In conclusion, push yourself harder by keeping rest as short as possible for the workout you are doing.
The following examples are all great ways to limit rest periods during your workout....
Supersets – A superset is when you go from one exercise, straight onto the next, without a rest period in between. There are several variations of Supersets (also known as Supersetting). You can either choose two exercises that use the same body part e.g Chest, or you can use two exercises which use two different muscle groups e.g Chest and Back. This means that whilst one body part is resting, the other is being worked so no time is wasted waiting for a muscle to recover from the last set.
Giant sets – Not too dissimilar from Supersets, a Giant set is when you do several exercises one after the other without any rest; the main difference being that with Giant sets, four different exercises are usually recommended (instead of 2 for Supersets). Only at the end of the 4th exercise can you have a rest (1-2min) before repeating all four again. Aim to complete 3 or 4 Giant sets and your workout is then complete!
With both Supersets and Giant sets, you will find that you have to use a slightly lower weight in order to be able to complete all reps/sets, however, be sure to keep the intensity high. It’s the intensity that matters! Intensity in terms of bodybuilding refers not only to the speed at which you complete the sets, but also the weights you lift; it’s no use using too light a weight just so that you can complete the sets. If you’re not working your muscles, you won’t progress in terms of strength or muscular hypertrophy. You have to push your body to the max; I’d rather you failed to complete the number of reps/sets then finished feeling like you’ve still got a bit more in the tank. On the other hand, don’t choose a weight that is too heavy. It will cause your form to suffer, and puts you at more risk of getting an injury. Correct form is always more important than the weight.
Weight circuits – These are a number of weight exercises done consecutively for a set number of reps/sets, or for time. Unlike Supersets and Giant sets, Weight circuits are generally full body workouts, or may be split into upper/lower body workouts, and there may be as many as 12 or more exercises with no rest until the whole circuit is complete. The weights used should be challenging for the desired number of reps you intend to perform. Weight circuits will work your aerobic system whilst simultaneously working on your strength. As you progress through the workout you will notice your heart rate increasing and by the end the sweat should be dripping off you. You will want to rest between exercises... Don’t. You will want to rest for longer between each circuit..... Don’t. You will be reaching to the depths of your lungs for every little bit of oxygen available, your muscles will fail, and you will look like death. If you don’t, you need to work harder. And believe me; you will agree that there will be no need to do any cardio afterwards so that’s more time saved.
Compound exercises – Are exercises that work several muscles or muscle groups at one time. The main compound exercises are Squats, Bench press and Deadlift. If you think about the Squat, it engages many muscles in the lower body including the quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, glutes, lower back and core. The benefits of this are....
- More calories burned during exercise due to the large number of muscles involved.
- Workout can be completed quicker due to muscles being simultaneously worked.
- Improves co ordination, balance and reaction time.
- Keeps your heart rate up
- Replicates movements undertaken in daily life.
Anyone not already incorporating compound movements into their workouts need to have a serious rethink. Endless bicep curls will only result in the growth of one relatively small muscle. Doing Pull ups will result in the growth of several muscles; including the biceps. Big arms aren’t impressive on a small body.
CrossFit - Is a style of training which combines weightlifting, sprinting, gymnastics, powerlifting, kettlebells, plyometrics, rowing, medicine balls, running, jumping, climbing and carrying, with the aim being to improve cardiovascular/respiratory endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power speed, agility, balance, co ordination, and accuracy. Exercises include clean and press, box jumps, handstand push ups, overhead squat, thrusters, push press and lot lots more! It is also referred to as ‘functional’ training as a lot of the movements involved will help with daily tasks such as lifting and dragging heavy objects.
Not only will incorporating the above ideas into your routine help you improve your strength and fitness levels in a shorter time, but they will also have the following advantages...
Increase Testosterone – Training hard will increase your testosterone levels. Increased testosterone means more muscle, and more muscle means more calories burned on a daily basis (1lb of muscle burns roughly 50cals a day, 1lb of fat burns about 2cals a day).The reason for this huge difference in energy requirements is because muscle is metabolically active; fat is not.
Reduce Cortisol – Cortisol is a stress hormone which causes the body to store body fat and burn muscle. Weight lifting causes the release of Cortisol. Other triggers for its release can be stress from work, stress from relationships, financial problems and low calories diets. Cortisol works AGAINST Testosterone by BREAKING DOWN the proteins in your muscle and therefore inhibiting protein synthesis. By keeping your workouts shorter, you reduce the time period in which Cortisol is released and therefore reducing the amount of catabolism taking place. That’s another reason why weight training is more beneficial than cardio. Weight training increases the release of anabolic hormones such as Testosterone, this does not happen during cardio (aerobic) training. During weight training the release of anabolic hormones helps delay and offset the production of Cortisol, which can then be further reduced by correct post workout nutrition.
If you incorporate these different methods of weight training into your workouts, you will get all the benefits of a good workout but in a shorter time period, and with all the spare time you now have, you can get the well earned rest that you now need!