Time-efficient ways to exercise

Marjie Gilliam / Cox Newspapers /


Published Aug 8, 2013 at 05:00AM / Updated Nov 19, 2013 at 12:31AM

Q: I’ve been working out five days a week for an hour, but with a new job I won’t be able to hit the gym as often or for as long. I am worried about losing the progress I’ve made, and welcome any tips you might have.

A: There are many ways to adjust an exercise program to make it more time-efficient.

Look at your current routine and replace isolation exercises with functional ones. Functional exercises use multiple muscle groups with each repetition while isolation movements work only one muscle group at a time.

For example: When working legs, it’s not uncommon to use one machine for the hamstrings, one for the inner and outer thighs, one for hips and one for quadriceps. To work the same muscles using a single exercise, you could perform squats or lunges instead. Other examples of functional exercises are push-ups, pull-ups, deadlifts and climbing stairs. Cardiovascular exercise works multiple muscle groups as well.

Since you are pressed for time, I would suggest starting out with a simple program that includes primarily body-weight-only exercises like the ones mentioned, performing one set of each to muscle fatigue. Typically, this equates to about one minute per set. Depending on the amount of time you have left, you can go back and complete a second or third round.

Another option is to work the upper body and lower body at the same time. This type of training is the most time-efficient, and as a bonus, provides greater calorie burn. An example of an upper/lower body combination would be to work the arms with bicep curls or shoulder presses, while doing lunges or squats for leg strengthening.

Minimize rest breaks during the workout. If using a program similar to the one described, you can further maximize efficiency by eliminating or decreasing your normal rest breaks between reps or sets.

— Marjie Gilliam is a personal trainer and fitness consultant.