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Speed up your gym workout

gym workout
(Image credit: Unknown)

1 Cut your rest

If you’re looking to shorten your workout without reducing the training effect, it’s time to reconsider your rest periods. Always use a stopwatch to time your rests, and make sure you keep them to one minute between sets and two minutes between exercises. And don’t just sit there waiting for the clock to run down – use the time to set up your next set or exercise, and visualise doing the move to prime your nervous system. Keep moving about to maintain an optimum heartrate as well as your mental focus.

2 Go minimal

One of the best ways to waste time and break up the flow of your workout is to queue for equipment. Avoid this by choosing only workouts that use simple free weights during peak times. ‘Grab some dumb-bells and find a single space to work rather than trying to work back and forwards between stations, only to get back and find the local idiot is doing curls in the squat rack or 40 sets of chest presses,’ says Graeme Marsh, director of Aegis Training. Another good idea is to take your own water bottle so you don’t lose your piece of gym territory by going to the water fountain.

3 Turn up the density

When you’re running late and time is against you, go dense. Pick three or four big moves, then decide how much time you’ve got to devote to each exercise – say five minutes. Now pick a weight you can do ten to 12 reps with, and do as many reps as you can in 30 seconds. Then rest for 30 seconds before going again and repping out for another 30 seconds. Repeat this for the five minutes. You wouldn’t want to do such a brutal workout every time but you will do a lot of reps in a short period to get enough exercise volume for muscle growth. It will also push your fitness through the roof.

4 Use supersets

A superset is two exercises done straight after each other without any rest. You can target opposing muscle groups to keep the calorie-burning pressure on your heart and still lift at your full potential. ‘Supersets substantially cut down on rest periods – but that’s not all,’ says Marsh. ‘You can also pick hybrid movements, combining two exercises into one, such as a squat to press. Or you can try to put together several movements into a tri-set or giant set to target a specific plane of movement.’

5 Work harder but less often

Don’t beat yourself up if you miss a workout – just adjust the next one. A new study published in the Journal Of Strength And Conditioning Research split 29 exercisers into two groups. The first trained twice a week with three sets of ten reps in nine different exercises. The second trained three times a week with two sets of ten reps for nine exercises. This meant that while the two groups did an unequal number of workouts, both groups did 54 exercises. After six weeks both groups had increased their lean muscle mass and strength by the same amounts.

6 Tune in and drop out

Plugging yourself in to your iPod should already be a part of your warm-up to get your blood and mind flowing. It also acts as a useful social buffer, permitting a smile and a wave rather than a drawn-out conversation. ‘Get rid of all distractions,’ says Marsh. ‘That means no mobile phones and staying away from all the hot chicks in the aerobics class.’

7 Choose ‘big-bang’ moves

You might think that if you isolate a single muscle group as the target for a workout you’ll get concentrated results. But the best way to put fatigue into as many muscle fibresas possible and get the biggest size gains is with multi-muscle exercises. Marsh says, ‘You can get a lot done in a short space of time by using compound exercises, such as squats, deadlifts, presses and chin-ups, particularly since these movements also give a more favourable growth-hormone response.’

8 Warm up en route

Assuming your gym is fairly close to your home or work, get changed before you leave for your workout and jog or cycle to the gym with your kit bag. This counts as the aerobic part of your warm-up, getting your heart rate into the right zone and warming up your muscles. Once you get into the gym, go straight to your first exercise station and do a set using light weights to activate the muscles you’ll be targeting. After your workout you can leave straight away and cool down with another jog or cycle.

9 Finish under 45 minutes

More isn’t necessarily better. ‘Spending too long lifting weights in one workout will see your growth-hormone levels plummet,’ says Marsh. ‘Similarly, very high volumes of aerobic training usually stress your adrenal glands, break down lean muscle and send your stress hormone levels skyrocketing.’

10 Stretch at home

A quick stretch after a strenuous set is always good policy but rather than heading to the mats for a 15-minute full-body stretch, just focus on the muscle you’ve worked and head for the door. ‘You often get better improvements in flexibility when you do standalone stretching sessions,’ says Lee Jones, personal training and fitness manager at Cannons. ‘You could do a proper flexibility session at home. Hit all areas of your body two to three times and hold the stretches for 15-60 seconds.’

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