This guest post comes from Nick Smoot, a Strength Coach and Nutrition Consultant who currently trains at AMP Fitness Boston. Nick is a young up-and-comer in the fitness industry, and he runs his own business Smoot Fitness. You can check out his website, or follow him on Facebook and Twitter.
A common excuse for a lack of physical activity and exercise is “I’m too busy.”
And, that makes sense doesn’t it?
Most of us have jobs, classes, children, families, friends, hobbies, and a million other things that are all tugging at our most prized and precious commodity: time.
Hey, I get it.
Life gets hectic, and structured exercise – being the hobby and privilege that it is – doesn’t always make it to the top of our priority lists.
But, just because you’re busy doesn’t mean you can’t find time to exercise.
There are a bunch of ways to minimize training time while maximizing your desired training effect (which for most, I assume will be getting stronger, bigger, faster, and leaner).
And four of my favorite ways of doing so are down below.
But First We Need to Touch On One Basic Principle
“Something is always better than nothing.”
I’m sure you’ve heard this saying before, and I know it’s cliché and unoriginal.
But, it’s true, and it’s something everyone needs to understand if they want to get significant, long-lasting results.
For some reason, there seems to be this belief that if a workout doesn’t meet some arbitrary set of guidelines — more often than not in regards to “time spent training” and “number of exercises performed” — it’s worthless and didn’t stimulate meaningful results.
On that same note, there seems to be a complementary belief that if you can’t do everything, you might as well do nothing,
That’s also bullshit.
A workout doesn’t have to take 90 minutes (although there’s nothing wrong with that), and doing something — even if it’s just one exercise — will ALWAYS be better than doing nothing.
Your results aren’t a product of what you do on a daily or weekly basis. They’re a product of what you do on a monthly and yearly basis.
If you take anything from this article, let it be this: always be doing something!
Alright, On To the Good Stuff
Each of the tips below is designed to help you minimize your time spent in the weight room (while still allowing you to make significant progress).
They’re not in any particular order of importance or effectiveness, and none of them are inherently better or worse than another.
Experiment with all of them. Keep the ones you like. Trash the ones you don’t like.
Without further ado, lets dig in.
1. Decrease the Number of Exercises Per Workout
Accessory work is fantastic.
It allows you to perform more work (and more work equates to more strength and size), practice movements that you struggle with, and tackle weak points and imbalances that may be holding you back from achieving a higher level of performance.
With that being said, accessory work – especially accessory work that doesn’t serve a specific purpose – isn’t fantastic for busy people, as it increases the length of each training session, and a longer training session is a no-go for people who are short on time.
Instead of worrying about a bunch of accessory work, pick 2-3 main movements (compound exercises such as squats, deadlifts, presses, pulls, carries, etc.), and attack them with an extremely high level of intensity (i.e. put in some effort).
The compounds are what account for the majority of your results anyway, as they mimic fundamental movement patterns, utilize a ton of muscle mass, and have an exponentially high capacity for loading.
If you’ve got some extra time, throw in some accessory work.
But if you don’t have any extra time, you’ll still make awesome progress crushing a few compounds.
2. Implement Supersets, Tri-sets, and/or Compound Sets
If you’re adamant about including accessory work in to your workouts (which is certainly NOT a bad idea) – but your time is severely limited – supersets, tri-sets, and compound sets will be a Godsend.
A superset is where you perform two exercises back to back with no rest in between exercises.
A tri-set is where you perform three exercises back to back with no rest in between exercises.
And a compound set is where you perform four exercises back to back with no rest in between exercises.
This is a simple way to include more exercises in to your training sessions without taking up a lot of extra time (it’s much faster than doing each exercise individually)
And, it’s also a way to take your heart rate through the freakin roof (which burns a lot of calories, and more calories burned equates to more fat loss).
3. Utilize Shorter Rest Periods
It’s not uncommon for people to take upwards of 2-3 minutes in between sets of each exercise.
If your goal is to maximize strength, that’s fine (and necessary).
If your goal is to minimize training time while still improving strength, that’s probably not ideal.
Instead of taking 2-3 minutes of rest in between exercises, try taking any where between 30-90 seconds of rest in between exercises (or groups of exercises).
Your training intensity will go up.
Your training duration will go down.
And for someone who’s busy, this is probably one of the best changes to their workout routine they can implement.
4. Do Mobility Work During Rest Periods
Last but not least, do your mobility work in between sets of each exercise instead of at the beginning or end of each workout.
You have to rest anyway, so you might as well do something productive during that rest period that 1) allows you to improve another area of fitness, and 2) decreases your total workout time.
Just a word of advice: make sure you choose mobility drills that focus on a body part that’s NOT the one you’re actively using during each exercise.
For example, if you’re performing a squat, choose a mobility drill for your upper body.
If you’re performing a pull-up, choose a mobility drill for your lower body.
Doing so ensures that the mobility work you’re performing doesn’t take away from your immediate workout performance.
Although mobility work is important, your ability to set new PRs — and improve from one workout to the next — is still top priority.
As said earlier, everyone — in 99% of circumstances — can find time to exercise. They just have to get a bit creative.
At the end of the day, your results are dependent upon consistency. And consistency is dependent upon innovation.
If what you’re doing right now coincides with your current lifestyle, keep doing it.
But if it doesn’t — if you’re having trouble fitting workouts in to your current routine — don’t stop working out.
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