As with everything in life sometimes you have to squeeze as much work in as possible to the shortest time available. In general the 60 min mark is where most people will fall when asked ‘how long do you work out for?” However, if you have to get back to the office for a meeting or home to pick up the little one from daycare, then a shorter period of time can still be beneficial to getting the work done and maximizing the training effect it has.
When working with shorter time periods, it is important to remember to make time for both a warm-up and cool-down. The warm-up can consist of the exercises done in the workout, but performed without weight, at a slower tempo and for more repetitions. The cool-down can be a few core exercises such as plank, side plank and reverse crunches. In general, time-saving workouts should feature compound exercises involving multiple joints and muscle groups.
Here are a few ideas for designing effective workouts that will help you maintain your fitness when time becomes an issue. If you’re a coach, these are also great ideas for your clients who travel frequently and want to maintain their fitness levels while on the road.
One of my favorite contributions from the world of CrossFit can have a couple of different meanings:
As Many Rounds as Possible: Design a total-body workout with four to six compound exercises. Set a rep goal for each exercise (four to eight for strength or eight to 15 for general fitness), and the challenge is to complete the circuit as many times as possible in 15 to 20 minutes. This format is perfect for sandbag or kettlebell workout programs.
As Many Repetitions as Possible: Use the same compound exercises from the workout above and select relatively short time intervals, from 20 to 45 seconds. Here, the challenge is to complete as many reps as possible in that timeframe, being sure to allow appropriate time for recovery between exercises.
These are great for machine-based workouts when limited time is a major factor, drop sets work because they fatigue ALL fibers in a muscle. These have been around for ages but are still a great way of getting the volume and work in when time is short.
After an appropriate warm-up, you/your client performs 3 sets of 10 repetitions at approx. 60% of 1RM. The first 2 sets have 60 secs recovery. After the 3rd set, begin the drop set by reducing so that only six to eight reps can be completed. When muscle failure is reached, drop the weight and then go to fatigue again. Ideally, the initial weight will allow for two to three drops sets.
|Drop sets: DB press|
|Set||Reps||Load (kg)||Recovery after set|
|Drop 1||6 (to form failure)||22.5||None|
|Drop 2||5 (to form failure)||20||None|
|Drop 3||4 (to form failure)||17.5||Completed|
In their truest form, Tabata-style intervals are done at 100% intensity (the testing for the original research challenged the subjects to work at 170% of VO2max). However, most people simply can’t perform at this work rate for the required eight cycles, nor is it appropriate to do so. That said, the proliferation of free Tabata-style timers available for mobile devices make this an effective option for people with a limited amount of time. A personal favorite is the Tabata to music soundtrack you can down load on ITunes and work to the beat of the music. 4 mins GO!
Bodyweight circuits are a great way to save time because you don’t have to switch weights or move from machine to machine. In fact, you don’t even need to be in a gym, which makes this an excellent option for people who travel frequently.Simply find 8- to 10-square-feet of floor space and perform a circuit of exercises for 30 seconds at a time. (Tip for coaches: When I want to teach a client an exercise or workout, I ask to use their phone and take a video of him or her performing the exercise while I provide step-by-step narration. Now the client has a visual representation of how to perform the exercise, which he or she can refer to as needed.)
Cardio Workouts on Machines
Doing cardio workouts on three different machines for either a set period of time / calories goal or even a AMRAP session is a great way to stave off the boredom that comes from exercising on a single piece of cardio equipment for an extended period. Here is one of my favorite circuits: airdyne bike, rowing on a Concept-II ergometer and the skierg. These workouts are fun and the time will go by quickly.