Saving Time In The Weight Room

People often ask me how long my workouts are, and then they’re almost always surprised when I tell them that most of my gym sessions are right around 45 minutes. Sure, every once in a while I’ll go longer than that, but these days it’s pretty rare.

And I’m the strongest right now that I’ve ever been.

Yet I know of plenty of people (mostly women), who spend upwards of two hours in the gym every time they go, but they still aren’t seeing results. First of all, who has time for that? And second of all, who wants to be spending that much of their day in the gym? Not me, that’s for sure.

And lastly… when your workout lasts that long, you’re actually doing more harm to your muscles than good. Sounds counterproductive to me!

Sometimes, I cut it down even shorter if I have to. There are some times when I still want to get a decent lift in, but don’t even have time to fit in the hour it normally takes me to warm up, lift, and foam roll. Recently I had a few days like this in a row, but do you think that stopped me from hitting the weight room? HECK NO.

I came up with the following plan that worked out well, so I wanted to share it with all of you. We’ll call it the 3×5 and it went a little something like this:

Pick 3 exercises that will hit large muscle groups (in other words, no bicep curls allowed). I chose trap bar deadlifts, weighted Landmine squat and press; and standing overhead shoulder press. Weights should be relatively heavy, but manageable enough that you can move through your workout at a fairly swift pace, and hit slightly higher reps than normal. (These should not be max lifts).  To put it into perspective, I my trap-bar deadlift is generally 135-145 lb. For this, I was lifting at 115 lb to reach 10 reps at a fairly quick pace.  With these lifts, I effectively hit my posterior chain (hamstrings, glutes, calves), quads, shoulders, and a little bit of chest. Not bad for a threesome right?

The actual work done was in the form of a kind of circuit, completing 10 reps each of the DL and squat/press, and 8 reps of the shoulder press.  As little rest as possible was taken between exercises, and about 2-3 minutes of rest was taken after each set of all 3 lifts. I went through this “circuit” 5 times (hence the 3×5).

So how much time did this save me? It only took me 25-30 minutes to complete (including a good warmup, of course). Boom. Done.

The best part is that I got in a decent full body lift, while still allowing myself to get in and out of the gym quickly. This isn’t something I would recommend doing every day, because having a full, well rounded lifting program is important. But let’s face it, we don’t all have time for a full lifting program all the time. Every once in a while we need a quick, but effective workout, and fortunately that doesn’t mean you’re limited to the treadmill or other torturous forms of cardio. As an added bonus, you can get some great cardio conditioning in by doing a quick-sequenced workout like this one with little rest in between exercises. Strength and conditioning in one efficient session? Count me in.

To incorporate something like this into your own routine or program, you can certainly use different exercises than I did. To make it the most efficient full body workout that I could, I chose 1 lower body lift, one combo (involving both upper and lower body), and one upper body. I would recommend a split similar to this, but feel free to get a little creative.

Just remember, you want to be doing exercises where you’ll get the most bang for your buck. I’ll repeat: NO Bicep Curls! Now get after it. And stop using your lack of time as an excuse. You’re better than that.

How do you save time in the gym when you need to? Is a lack of time a common excuse for you? Do you tend to scrap a lift all together if you don’t think you have time for your full plan? 

11 thoughts on “Saving Time In The Weight Room

  1. Oh lord, my two bosses with spend WAY too much time at the gym. One of them takes about 2.5 hours, but the other one takes 4 hours. I wish I was kidding. If he goes to the gym at lunch time, I know I’m not seeing him for the rest of the day. I would love to see what they are doing in the gym that takes them so long!

    I’m in and out in 30-45 minutes every day, baby! Last week, I had to run to the gym in between clients and they literally dropped their jaws when I walked back into the room 30 minutes later. It’s funny because neither of them are particularly fit, either!!

    1. WHAT? 4 hours?!? That doesn’t even make sense! Holy catabolism. Your clients must be shocked that you can train that quickly, especially with the way that your bosses set the example!

      1. Haha yep. I keep telling them that they train too long but they respond: “I’m trying to get HUUUUUGE”. Doesn’t work that way, fellas!! Haha. I think they waste a lot of time talking at the gym. No wonder people think they don’t have time to work out with these two schmucks running around, haha!

  2. I love that picture!! I can be a hot sweaty MESS from a good circuit lift!

    1. I hear ya! I do enjoy a good interval run or sprinting session, but a quick circuit can really kick my ass.

  3. Thank you for this post, enforcing my life :). But seriosuly, I feel SO strong lately because I am doing like 45 minutes of essentially non-stop lifting. No cardio except my mini 30 second jumping jacks or something between sets. Yea no typical cardio.

    1. YES to becoming a strong weight lifting lady!! Nice work friend 🙂

  4. I’ve been doing crossfit which basically only lasts about 20 minutes. I used to never do strength training (I’m a triathlete, but now mostly just a runner), but ever since I started crossfit twice a week to supplement, I am amazed how a 20 minute workout kicks my butt every single time! I am literally always sore (in a good way)! And the best part? I am so much stronger and constantly amazed at how much more I am capable of!

  5. Timmy Jones Johnson December 11, 2012 — 2:45 pm

    I love bi curls, I usually just go to the gym do 3 sets of 20 of those and same with tri’s and I’m outty. Great workout in a small amount of time.

    1. Timmy Jones Johnson December 11, 2012 — 2:47 pm

      Obviously steam room and sauna to relax after.

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