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How long do you actually work out? The answer might surprise you. Turns out, the average person works out for just 11 minutes for every hour spent in the gym. The rest of the time is wasted. On what? Well, there’s the girl you chat with on the treadmill, the Top 10 on Sports Center, and “recovery” time between sets. But there are also some not-so-obvious distractions that are prolonging—and, ultimately, hindering—your workout. So stop wishing you had more hours in the day to exercise, and start maximizing the time you have. Cut out these five gym time sucks today.
Leave your headphones at home. Worrying about your playlist, skipping songs, and messing with the volume can eat up valuable gym time. But now a new study from Switzerland reports that just listening to music during your workout can actually hurt your performance during a strength workout.
When CrossFit athletes listened to music while lifting, they performed fewer repetitions than those athletes who didn’t listen to tunes. Researchers believe the music distracted the participants from focusing on their form, resulting in less strength overall. Don’t let Drake or Iron Maiden dictate the quality of your workout. Head to the gym and stay focused—sans beats.
Invite your friend out for a beer, but don’t invite him to the gym with you. “Workout partners can be motivating, but they also come with big distractions,” says Sean De Wispelaere, trainer for Men’s Health Thrive in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. “Chatting during sets, taking turns with equipment, or waiting for them to return from the water fountain can diminish your workout and drag it out.”
Instead, turn to a personal trainer. Working out with a certified trainer or coach enhances your performance and results, according to a study from The University of California Los Angeles. Athletes exercising under the guidance of a coach increased their strength on the bench press and leg press by 10 to 15 percent compared to those who exercised without one. A trainer’s primary job is to improve your results, explains De Wispelaere. They only have a limited with you, so they’re going to make the most of every minute, he says.
Unfortunately, you can’t pick and choose where on your body to lose fat. “Too many guys waste time trying to ‘spot treat’ certain areas, but science has proven that exercising one portion of your body over and over again will not reduce fat in that specific area,” says Mack, who has seen gym goers crank out thousands of situps in hopes of burning away belly bulge.
If you want to burn a ton of fat fast, stick with total-body exercises. You’ll target several large muscle groups at once, finishing an intense calorie-torching workout with fewer exercises and in less time, says Mack. Plus, you’ll rev your metabolism for hours after you leave the gym. That’s something crunches could never do.
Your fancy exercise equipment
Just because it’s there doesn’t mean you need to use it. You can spend the majority of your time traveling from piece of equipment to piece of equipment, without getting in a lot of work. “I spent a year training in a bare-bones powerlifting gym, and I’ve never trained better,” says Tony Gentilcore, C.S.C.S., co-founder of Cressey Performance in Hudson, Massachusetts.
Supercharge your efficiency at the gym with complexes, he says. Each exercise begins in a similar position—standing with dumbbells, for instance—so you don’t waste time setting up between exercises. Because of this, you’ll accomplish more work in a shorter time, burning more calories per minute than you would with a more traditional weightlifting routine with rests, according to Syracuse University researchers.
Your cardio session
Still slogging away on the treadmill for cardio? Stop. Performing 10 minutes of high-intensity exercise improves your cardiovascular performance as much as 50 minutes of jogging at a moderate pace, according to research from McMaster University in Ontario, Canada.