Simple Ways to Cut Your Workout Time in Half from Simple Ways to Cut Your Workout Time in Half

Simple Ways to Cut Your Workout Time in Half

Many of us have been lead to believe that we need to spend at least an hour sweating up a storm if we want our workouts to actually count for anything. That simply isn’t true. Of course, whether or not your workouts are effective is highly dependent on your goals, but in most cases, half of that time (i.e., 30 minutes) is more than enough to execute an effective workout.

But let’s get straight to the point: the best way to keep your workouts within a limited time frame — whether that be 30, 20 or even just 10 minutes — is to always head into the gym (or wherever it is you work out) with a plan.

“This doesn't mean that you have to write your own workouts,” says Anderson Cohen. “This simply means that with an understanding of the resources available to you, you can achieve an efficient workout in the time that you have,” said Jeana Anderson Cohen, an ACE certified personal trainer and founder of aSweatLife.com.

In other words, even if you don’t have your workout routine planned out down to a tee, at least have a general idea of what you want to accomplish and what tools you’ll use to do so. That said, at the very least, definitely know the amount of time you can afford to spend exercising each day. And if you can, plan the specifics of your workout — taking this step will help to absolutely ensure you’re sweat session will fit into the designated time frame.

Not sure where to start when it comes to planning succinct but sweat-inducing workout sessions? Use the following tips to find out how you can cut down on time without sacrificing quality and progress.

Get Specific

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There’s no need to target every single muscle every time you work out. In fact, that’s a great way to increase your risk for injury. “Instead of doing full-body workouts, try zoning in on one body part, or complementary body parts — like back and bicep muscles — and doing more targeted exercises,” said Shannon Fable, director of exercise programming at Anytime Fitness. By implementing this strategy you can keep your workouts quick and simple (think a 25-minute circuit with six to eight muscle-specific exercises), but still highly effective.

Multitask

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“Combine cardio and strength together,” Fable said. Following a workout that incorporates plyometric moves — like squat jumps, mountain climbers, box jumps and push-up variations — will increase your heart rate and challenge your muscles at the same time. Essentially, you can kill two birds (both your cardio and strength workouts) with one stone. Check out our high-intensity circuit training workout for an example of how to combine strength and cardio in a single workout session.

Cut Down on Rest Time

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“When lifting weights, people usually do one exercise or ‘set’ and then break for 30 to 60 seconds,” said Cassie Piasecki, a certified personal trainer and indoor cycling and Pilates instructor. “Instead, do a set of one exercise and then switch to a different exercise that works a different body part.” For example, do lat pull-downs and then during your upper-body rest period, perform a set of squats.

Increase the Intensity

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There are a handful of different ways to increase the intensity of your workouts, but it depends on the type of workout. For example, if you have a cardio workout planned for the treadmill, instead of running at a steady state for 40 minutes, increase your speed and alternate between a sprint and recovery pace for a total of about 20 minutes. Or, if you have a strength training workout planned, perform exercises like jumping jacks or mountain climbers in between sets instead of resting passively. You’ll spend less time working out, but reap more fitness benefits because your body will be working harder. 

Know Your Alternatives

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Part of working out at a gym means you have to share equipment with other members, so if you’re crunched for time it’s important to keep some alternative exercises in mind; moves that you can use in case a certain machine or piece of equipment isn’t available. “For instance, if the squat rack is occupied, use some dumbbells and get your squats in that way,” explains Thea Boatswain, a certified personal trainer and founder of Total Body Finesse. “Of course your weight won't be as heavy but if you're pressed for time, you take what you can get.” 

Keep It Simple

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Keeping your workout as simple as possible is a smart strategy when you’re short on time. Squats, barbell curls, push-upsplanks and triceps dips are all examples of simple exercises that can be performed in one spot with minimal equipment. The less time you have to spend setting up or transitioning between moves, the more time you’ll have for actual exercise.

Take a Class

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Check your gym’s group exercise class schedule. Many gyms offer shorter classes that last anywhere from just 15 to 45 minutes. Plus, attending a class eliminates all the guesswork. Your workout is already planned out for you, all you have to do is follow along and for the most part, you’ll know it will be confined to a specific time frame. 

Try Tabata

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Tabata is a form of high-intensity interval training that was originally designed as a workout that would last for only four minutes. When it was originally developed, the intense portion of the workout had participants reaching up to 170 percent of their VO2 max, which is why the workout could be kept so short. However, because it’s probably unrealistic that you could reach such a level of intensity (nor is it necessarily recommended), your Tabata workout might last anywhere from 15 to 20 minutes incorporating about four high-intensity exercises, performing eight 20-second sets of each exercise with just 10 seconds of rest in between. Check out our Beach Body Workout for an example complete with exercise demonstrations and detailed instructions. 

Do ‘As Many Rounds As Possible’

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NASM certified personal trainer and creator of TheGetinShapeGirl.com, Kyra Williams, said she only prescribes workouts that fit her clients' schedules, which is why she highly recommends AMRAP, or “as many rounds as possible” workouts. “It also has to help them reach their goals so I like to tie in high-intensity interval training for max calories burned in a short time, with weight training to build muscle,” she said. 

The following is an example of one of her favorite 20-minute AMRAP workouts: perform 10 squats to overhead press, 10 close-grip triceps push-ups, 10 burpees and 10 sit-ups. The goal: perform as many rounds of those four exercises as possible within 20 minutes. AMRAP can also sometimes stand for “as many reps as possible,” which applies the same idea, only you would choose a few exercises and perform as many reps of each as possible within 60 seconds, for example, for a certain number of rounds (like four or five). 

Exercise at Home

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When all is said and done, sometimes getting to and from the gym takes more time than the actual workout. If you find this is the case and it’s hindering you from fitting exercise into your schedule, it might be a good idea to consider exercising at home. You might consider investing in a few simple home workout tools or a membership to an online community with a wide range of follow-along exercise videos. Or, you can simply work with what you have by following bodyweight workouts that don’t require any equipment at all.