When you're pressed for time and under the gun of a hectic schedule, it's easy to push the gym aside for other priorities. It's important to remember, though, that you don't need 60-90 minutes to get a good workout. In fact, you can effectively build muscle and burn fat in only 30 minutes!
If you've been brushing off the gym because your training plan consumes too much time, you're in the right place. Almost everybody, no matter how busy he or she might be, can squeeze a 30-minute session into their day. WBFF pro Ashley Hoffmann knows exactly how to help you do it.
Here, Hoffmann offers excellent tips on how to make a time-saving gym game plan, plus a complete 30-minute workout for each body part. It's time to put your excuses to bed. Armed with Hoffmann's advice and workout plan, you can fit exercise into even the most hectic day!
Ashley Hoffmann's Workout Efficiency Tips
1. Eliminate unilateral movements
When you're trying to save time, forgo exercises that work one side of your body at a time, which are known as unilateral movements. "Doing unilateral movements can double your time in the gym," says Hoffmann. "So, bilateral movements are always best."
Trade single-leg leg presses and single-arm rows for exercises that work both sides of the body at the same time. It's important to note that you can turn nearly any unilateral dumbbell movement, like a dumbbell curl, into a bilateral movement. Just curl both dumbbells simultaneously! You may not be able to focus quite as intensely on each working arm, but you'll save a significant amount of time.
2. Limit rest periods
Keeping an eye on the clock while you rest between sets will boost the overall intensity of your workout, increase your calorie burn, and maximize your time in the gym. "I'd suggest resting no more than 45 seconds between sets," says Hoffmann.
Don't play on your phone or talk to your friends after you finish a set. Get a drink of water, take a few deep breaths, and get back to work. You may notice that shortening your rest periods is just what you needed to take your physique up a notch.
3. Prioritize compound movements
Compound (or multijoint) exercises like the squat, bench press, clean, and pull-up are perfect for quick workouts. "Compound exercises save time because they work multiple muscle groups at once," says Hoffmann.
For example, squats work your entire lower body, not just a specific muscle group. By squatting, you can train your legs without having to do a separate exercise to hit each leg muscle individually.
Because they involve multiple joints and muscle groups, compound moves also allow you to lift more weight than isolation exercises. Lifting heavy weight forces your body to work harder to move the load, which adds another layer of effectiveness to your workouts.
4. Utilize intensity techniques
Advanced training techniques like supersets, trisets, and dropsets push your muscles harder than normal sets. Advanced techniques like these also require less time than adding additional straight sets to your workout. While you could just pile on extra sets and reps to any given training session, you'll add volume and fatigue your muscles much faster with intensity techniques.
If you're doing a full-body workout, try supersetting—taking two exercises and performing them back-to-back, without rest—an upper-body exercise with a lower-body exercise. For example, you could go directly from pull-ups to squats without rest. In this single exercise pair, you'll train almost your entire body and get some added cardiovascular conditioning!
Dropsets—when you take a set to failure, immediately reduce the weight by 20-25 percent, and lift to failure again—are a great tool when you want to totally exhaust a muscle. Try doing a few dropsets at the end of the last set of a particular exercise. If you really want to burn out a muscle, just keep dropping the weight and doing as many reps as possible. You'll find that curling just 5 pounds can feel impossible!
5. Implement pre- or post-exhaustion exercises
"Pre-exhaustion and post-exhaustion techniques can be effective ways to get a good workout in with minimal time," says Hoffmann. "They'll specifically fatigue one muscle group so that, during the following compound movement, you really feel the target muscle working. This can then mean fewer total sets for that compound move."
To perform pre-exhaust exercises, do a few sets of isolation movements before a compound movement. For example, pre-exhaust your legs before you squat by doing a few sets of leg extensions. This will really force your body to work overtime to complete each squat.
Alternatively, to really fry your quads after you're done doing squats, go to the leg-extension machine and do some sets while your legs are already tired. You'll get the overall mass-building, energy-burning impact of a compound exercise and the targeted power of an isolation exercise.
Ashley Hoffmann's 30-Minute Plan
Before you do any of these workouts, make sure you warm up. "You might think skipping a warm-up saves you time," says Hoffmann, "but considering how hard you're going to be pushing yourself in the next 30 minutes, you'll be at serious risk of injury if you don't."