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How to Save Time in the Gym

Dave Cruz

The key to designing a workout for yourself lies in the efficient use of time. Rather than go in with no plan or a vague plan (which is still better than no plan), schedule every minute with the goal of getting maximum work done in your small window of time. The conventional approach of a walk on the treadmill followed by a body-part-oriented bodybuilding-type workout just doesn't cut it. To create great programs, you need to get more work done in the same amount of time. Here's how:

Soft tissue work (5 minutes)

All workouts should begin with a five-minute period of self massage. Use a foam roller or even a medicine ball. The two kilogram balls are hard enough to be effective and small enough to work hard-to-reach areas. The top areas to work: your glutes, hip rotators, thoracic spine and posterior shoulder.

Static stretching (5 minutes)

Static stretching has gotten a bad rap, but most people need to stretch more. The best time to stretch is right after soft-tissue work. Key points:

  • Don't try to look like you are flexible. Try to find the "real stretch," the position that makes you feel uncomfortable. Pay attention to spinal position and hip position. People are amazing compensators and will try to avoid the real stretch.
  • Don't do stretches you like. If you can do them and they are comfortable, then they probably aren't doing any good.
  • Do one stretch for each of the following areas: hip flexors, hip rotators, lateral hamstrings, adductors and lats. These are the areas that tend to be tight on all of us.

Dynamic warm-up (5 minutes)

Many people complain that they don't have the space for a good dynamic warm-up, also known as movement prep. How about a great, in-place, dynamic warm-up? Start with activation of the glutes with mini-band work and bridging. One thing to think about. At what point does warm-up cease to become the lower-body workout? Remember: A good functional warm-up may be more leg work than you're used to. 

Total-body strength (35 minutes)

Efficient strength training should only require about a half hour. The first key is to perform a total-body workout every trip to the gym. The second key is "tri sets." As opposed to supersets, in which you perform two exercises back-to-back, a relatively continous sequence of three movements (strength, core, strength) makes the most of your time. Here are a couple same tri sets:

Sample Tri Set 1 (repeat 2 to 3 times)

Exercise Reps
Split Squat 10 each
Dumbbell Row 10
Side Bridge 20 seconds


Sample Tri Set 2 (repeat 2 to 3 times)

Exercise Reps
Alternating Dumbbell Bench Press 10
Slideboard Leg Curl 10
Curl-up 20

Michael Boyle is one of the world’s leading experts in the area of performance enhancement and the owner of StrengthCoach.com. He is also the author of Functional Training for Sports.

Tags: Training, Resistance Training, Planning

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