Jurg Widmer

Why less is sometimes more when it comes to workouts

The many excuses we come up with for not going to the gym are often longer than the queues for the most popular equipment. We are great at telling ourselves that we either have too much work, we’re too tired, or we simply just don’t have time to go and work out. So is there a way to get more out of the workouts we are able to squeeze in? Is it possible to do shorter workouts, but get the same benefits? We believe it is, so here are our top tips for getting more out of shorter gym sessions.

Understand what intensity really means

We have spoken here before about how important it is to understand the idea of intensity in workouts. It is a common mistake – often made by people starting out in bodybuilding and weight training – to simply try and pile on extra weights to increase the intensity of the workout they’re doing.

Those of you who are short on time might also be trying to do something similar – in order to increase the challenge of the workout and to try and squeeze the maximum benefit from it, you will add weights to the equipment you are using, and in doing so risk overstraining and injuring yourself.

The secret here then is to understand that intensity levels can be tweaked in many different ways and that it not always just about piling the weights on to the equipment. So, for example you could keep the weights the same, but increase the number of reps you do. You might simply change the order of your workout programme. Or, you might want to reduce the amount of time you spend recovering between sets.

Whatever your strategy, we recommend taking a smarter approach to increasing the intensity of your workouts – and you’ll find that you can squeeze more into your gym session without risking injuring yourself.

Eat well

Of course, diet is hugely important in any training regime, and we’re not going to spend too much time here explaining the benefits of healthy eating habits. But it is well worth remembering the impact that your diet can have on the amount of time you need to work out – particularly if you’re exercising to lose weight.

By increasing the amount of calories you consume, you are also increasing the length of time you need to spend in the gym burning them off. So, consider carefully what – and how much – you’re eating, and adjust your calorie intake accordingly.

Remember however that staying fit and healthy isn’t actually always about reducing your calorie intake. In fact, by starving yourself you are only making it more likely that your metabolism will rebel and you will binge later to compensate, so eat healthily, eat regularly and focus on food that has plenty of the nutrients your body needs.

By being more careful about what goes into your body you’ll find that the time you spend in the gym is much more productive – your energy levels will be higher and you will have less fat to burn off in the time you have available.

Don’t over-complicate things – and do it consistently

One of the most important things to understand about building an effective work out programme is that isn’t necessarily all about the variety of exercises you do. Of course, you will want to be focusing on improving specific areas and muscle groups (although we recommend doing exercises that work multiple groups at once)  – but the crucial thing to bear in mind it that you need to be consistent in your approach.

What do we mean by this? Well, the most effective workout programmes progress steadily, building on each element and keeping things simple. So, instead of changing the workout wholesale, you might want instead to change the number of sets and reps you do. Or you might want to a tweak the tempo you are doing them at, adjust the weights you are lifting or cut your recovery time.

The key is to gradually adapt just a few simple elements, so that you’re not wasting your time trying to learn new exercises or move between equipment.

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