How to make your gym workout more efficient

strength training workout

By Mike Kubas

Gym Time is Your Time

Everyone in the gym is a bit different; everyone’s here for different reasons and has their own preferences for working out. Some people take their time, others want to be in and out as fast possible. Either way, gym time is very valuable time because it’s your time, so don’t waste it! For people looking to cut a few minutes off their workout here are a couple of exercises/tips you can use to be a bit more efficient with your gym routine.

1 . Pair your exercises!

Back when I first started lifting at about 16,  I was taught 3 sets of 10 reps for literally everything and to do all my sets back to back to back with sufficient rest in between.  Three and a half hours later I was done with my workout. Don’t get me wrong, I love spending time in the gym, but nobody should be spending that much time in a gym unless they work there.

Over time I learned different ways of making my workouts more time-efficient. One way to do this, is to pair your exercises. It’s important to pair them correctly though, for example pairing dumbbell chest press with an overhead dumbbells press would result in a great deal of fatigue and would impact your performance on the overhead press. They are both pressing movements which will recruit the chest, shoulder, and triceps, thus when moving onto the dumbbell overhead press you’ll already have used those same muscles for the chest press.

An example of a better pairing would be 10-15 back squats paired with 10-15 pull-ups or lat pulldowns with the goal being at least 90 seconds in between finishing your first set of squats and starting your 2nd set of squats. This pairing works two separate muscle groups so there is little need to rest in between the exercises, though be sure to rest after the completion of both. This allows you to train two different movements that you might otherwise train separately, leading to not just a better workout, but a more efficient one. 

2. Use Complexes!

Complexes are a great way to save time, add muscle, and burn calories. A complex is a series of exercises performed x amount of reps each, done in sequence while using the same piece of equipment. This means that there is no rest in between exercises, the rest comes after the completion of the desired number of rounds. An example of a full body complex using dumbbells would be 10 Romanian deadlifts (RDLs), 10 bent-over rows, 10 dumbbell front squats, and 10 overhead presses. These four exercises would be performed with the same set of dumbbells, so some exercises will feel a bit easier than others, that’s ok. You would choose your weight for this group of exercises by determining what weight you can comfortably push overhead 10x. You would rest 60-90 seconds after the first round and then perform the desired number of rounds, usually 3-5 depending on fitness level. You can alter the rest period as well to increase or decrease the intensity.

3. Combine Exercises!

A simple and effective way to get two exercises done at once is to combine exercises. An example of this is a dumbbell hammer curl into shoulder press. Here we are combining the hammer curl and shoulder press by doing one right into the other. A standard hammer curl will bring the dumbbells up to shoulder height, then a slight adjustment to get your shoulders properly aligned and right into the overhead press. Perform 10-12 reps each. A second combination is a straight arm lat pulldown into a rope tricep pushdown. For this, you will need the rope attachment and a pulley positioned up high. First, you perform the straight arm pull down with the hands coming to outside your hips, then you keep your elbows in and bend at the elbow to perform a tricep pushdown. Perform 10-15 reps each. Both of these are taking two exercises that have complimentary movement patterns and combining them to save time and add a new/different stimulus.

So next time you miss the yoga class, don’t have an hour to spend in a group exercise class, or are just bored of your cardio routine and are in a hurry, try one of these variations to change it up and get your workout done in less time!

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