How to exercise when you have limited time?

Do you find life keeps getting in the way of your fitness goals?

For many people just like you, training simply isn’t the number-one priority. If you have kids, a high-pressure job or academic studies to attend to, it can be hard to optimise your training.

If you’re looking for a way to stay in the best possible shape and crush your goals, you need to train smart and get the most from limited time.

That’s what today’s piece is all about; getting as much as possible from short workouts, or even home workouts.

Step 1: Prioritise Weight Training

Weight training is one of the easiest ways to make the most of your workout. It builds muscle, burns fat, and improves bone/joint health.

This could be as simple as choosing two big compound movements that cover large muscle groups at once. For example, the split squat and overhead press can be a great start to a workout and may only take 20 minutes to complete both.

When you’re rushing, focus on getting a few sets of heavy weights out. 3-5 sets of 4-8 reps is a great way to cut down on time while still causing significant changes!

Step 2: Bang for Your Buck Exercises

This is the next step – choosing the right exercises that are going to combine different, essential effects that contribute to your goals.

For example, if you’re looking to get stronger, look better, and improve your posture, pull exercises are a great choice. They contribute to everything from the core to the biceps and the whole back. You’re going to see big developments here.

Equally, a heavy kettlebell swing can be an amazing tool to boost cardio, strength in the posterior chain, and build a big old butt. You have to be sure to perform this type of exercise with good technique, but it can tick a lot of boxes with as little as 6-10 minutes!

Step 3: More Body, More Efficiency

As a rule of thumb, the more of your body you use for an exercise and the greater length of the movement, the more efficient it will be with your time. A rower is a great example of this, as it moves from totally flexed to totally extended and the stroke is long. This burns a huge number of calories.

This is why we prioritise compound exercises that include lots of muscles and joints in a short workout: the more you can use at once, the more quickly they can reach the amount of use necessary to force development.

If you perform 3 exercises that all hit the glutes, for example, you don’t have to use each of them as hard, meaning you can dedicate less time to each exercise and still see plenty of fantastic results while chasing other effects (such as leg strength)!

Step 4: EMOM and Timings

If you’re low on time, cut down on rest. When you’re at the gym, there’s definitely some spare time you spend browsing Instagram or texting. We all take a bit of extra time between sets to recover and this is fine, but if you cut down on these rest periods you’ll get through a workout faster.

Every-Minute-on-the-Minute (EMOM) training is a great way of maximising your results on a time limit. Perform 5-10 minutes of EMOM training with any exercise at a relatively light weight (somewhere around 60-70% depending on the exercise) and you’ll soon realise that you don’t need a lot of weight to feel the effects!

These are particularly useful on simple strength and conditioning exercises. Things like Kettlebell swings respond well to EMOMs, as do skipping, running, rowing, squats and other basics.

Step 5: Complexes/Supersets

This is a classic way of improving the effectiveness and efficiency of your training. We’ve seen bodybuilders use these techniques for years. You might not be supersetting so that you can get to the beach faster like Arnold, but it’s an easy way of fitting more exercises into the same timeframe.

Perform supersets of exercises that hit opposite sides of the joint. These antagonists are best trained together to improve the health of the joint and when you superset them, you won’t notice the reduction in rest times, but you’ll definitely save time.

The best types of exercises to use for supersets are presses/pulls, biceps/triceps and even lower back/abs & core exercises. These can be performed without rest, as you’re training opposite muscles. There are small carryovers between these opposite movements, but they’re going to make light weights feel heavy and you’ll get all your volume in for these muscles without having to worry about the clock!

Step 6: Harder not Longer

When it comes to cardio exercise, the simple advice here is to go harder rather than going longer. You’re going to struggle to fit in that hour on the treadmill on top of the rest of your exercise. We’d rather see you performing HIIT circuits on the rower than slogging it out for an hour.

This is a great way of improving your speed and other athletic traits, while also saving yourself precious time. A hard, sprint-based HIIT cardio workout can take as little as 8-10 minutes if you’re really pushing yourself.

HIIT isn’t a magic pill, but it is a great way of cramming all that exercise into a shorter time period so you can worry about the rest of your life. Being late sucks, and being late because you were suffering on the treadmill sucks even more.

A Quick, Effective Full-Body Workout

This is a simple workout that can be completed in 45-50 minutes and will provide a full-body stimulus. It’s going to mean improvements in muscular quality, as well as effective conditioning and even postural improvements.

Split Squats: 4 sets of 10-12 reps

Pendlay Row: 4 sets of 8-10 reps

Superset (Cable Bicep Curl/Tricep Extension): 4 sets of  10-12 reps

EMOM Kettlebell Swing: 20 reps, 8 minutes (heavy)

EMOM 150m Row: 10 minutes

This is a true full-body workout, hitting all the muscles in the body whilst also providing plenty of cardio work to keep your heart and lungs healthy and to burn off that extra fat.



If you’ve anything you’d like to say about this topic then I’d love to hear it, please post your comments in the feed below…


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