How to Make Your Training More Efficient
Training movements instead of body parts is one way to create an athletic, functional, fun, and time-saving training session. But there are also a number of training techniques you can use to save time while improving strength, mobility and power.
Training with a Plan
Do you have a training program? Without one, it’s extremely challenging to train efficiently and consistently. You want to head to the gym knowing exactly which exercises you’re going to do, and you should also know the sets, reps and rest periods you’ll use.
Too many people do a set of exercise and then sit around chatting for a few minutes before doing another. It’s important to recover between sets, but it’s also possible to recover without wasting time.
A superset is a set of one exercise followed immediately by a set of a different exercise that usually involves an opposite movement. So if we do a pushing exercise, such as a bench press, you might follow it with a pulling exercise like a dumbbell row. The reason: When one set of muscles is working, the opposite set of muscles is resting. Not only is this a time-efficient way to train, but it also produces better performance in the actual exercises, since the process allows the non-working muscles to recover faster while their opposing muscles work.
Example: Let’s say you’re following a training program that calls for 3 sets of 10 reps of presses and rows performed as a superset. You would perform a set of 10 presses immediately followed by 10 rows, then rest for the specified time and repeat the combination twice.
A circuit is any number of exercises—often three to five—performed in success. Three consecutive exercises is often also referred to as a triset. Most circuits are also performed with no rest or minimal rest between movements.
Just like you strive to become more efficient at work or with chores at home, you should also aim to get more work done in the gym in the same amount of time. This concept is known as work density or training density.
Training density refers to the amount of work done in a given period of time. Say you only have 30 minutes to fit in a training session and you want to make sure you pack as much quality work into those 30 minutes as possible. That’s where using techniques like supersets or circuits come in handy.
As your body adapts and your fitness level improves, you should be able to do the same amount of work in less time. So you’ll create a more dense workout and improve your “work capacity,” or your ability to get more done in the gym.
This isn’t to say you should rush through your workout or try to pack in a high volume of pure high intensity work that would risk injury or overtraining. No, the goal is to build a session that’s dense while properly performing clean, crisp movements that help you achieve your goals.
Performing “complementary movements” is yet another time-saving training strategy that injects moves that emphasize mobility or stability between strength movements.
For instance, the complementary movement for a dumbbell bench press could be a movement that focuses on scapular stability, or maybe pec mobility.
Complementary movements benefit your program in two ways:
- They help improve the quality of the movement pattern being trained, helping you move more efficiently, bust through plateaus and prevent the onset on aches, pain and injuries.
- They allow you to actively recover from the bout of work you just completed—so you can progress through your training session without needing to take any long breaks and effectively increase the density of your training session.
Here are a couple sample circuits that use complementary movements:
- Bench Press – Alternating dumbbell
- Y’s – Physioball
- Romanian Deadlift – 1 arm 1 leg
- Supine Hamstring Stretch
- Squat to Press – Dumbbell
- Sumo to Hamstring Stretch
- Romanian Deadlift to Row – Cable
- Sidelying – External Rotation Bent Leg