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Certain things fall squarely in the “more is better” category – days off from work, sex – but strength training isn’t necessarily one of them.
“There’s no reason to spend hours in the gym unless you want to,” says strength and conditioning coach Eric Cressey the co-founder of Cressey Performance in Massachusetts, and author of Show and Go. “Many of the world’s top athletes are in and out in less than 60 minutes.” Learn their secrets and you can do the same. Here’s how to stop wishing for more hours in the day to workout and start building more muscle in the time you have.
1 Don’t spin your wheels
If you typically warm up on the treadmill, stop. It chews up workout time and targets only your legs. “Get rolling faster by focusing on multi-joint, total-body movements, like the squat-to-stand with reach,” says Cressey. In addition to increasing your bloodflow, you’ll jumpstart the signaling between your brain and your muscles, boosting performance from the get-go. The result: a faster warm up and a more efficient workout.
How to do it: stand tall with your feet slightly beyond shoulder width. Lower yourself into a squat and grab your toes. Keeping your chest and shoulders up, raise your right arm high and wide. Repeat with your left. Now stand up. That’s one rep; do eight.
Time saved: Five minutes
2 Multitask your muscles
Ditch the old “one exercise at a time” routine for supersets or trisets – two or three exercises done back-to-back. “While one muscle group recovers, another is working, reducing the need for rest,” says Cressey. You’ll also reap a metabolic boost, burning more kilojoules per minute both during and after your workout than you would with a more traditional weightlifting routine with rests, according to Syracuse University scientists.
How to do it: target noncompeting muscle groups by pairing push and pull exercises (dumbbell chest press and cable row, for example) or upper-and lower-body exercises (dumbbell alternating shoulder press and barbell straight-leg deadlift).
Time saved: 15 minutes
3 Reduce the repetition
Instead of doing three or four sets of eight to 10 reps each, start off with a few lower-rep sets using a heavier weight. “It’s called a stage system,” says Cressey. “The nerves that stimulate your muscles are amped up from the heavy sets, so they’re able to lift more weight than normal for a final higher-rep set.”
How to do it: do three sets using a weight you can lift only three times in a row and then lighten the weight by 10% and do a final set of six reps.
Time saved: 10 minutes