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August 1, 2016

3 Ways to Workout In Little Time

3 Ways to Workout in Little Time

I think you'll agree with me when I say most of us don't have time for long workouts.

In a world where we are all limited on time, why waste time on workouts that are ineffective and inefficient? So today I share how to do short workouts to build muscle and lose fat.

Time is precious. Especially when all we want to do is spend more time with the people we love, the children we brought into this world, and the friends we hold dear to our hearts (and time to watch The Bachelorette). We do not know how long God plans for us each to be here. Therefore we must savor the moments with the ones we love.

Time is expensive. With costs of living increasing and the battle to keep a job in this competitive market getting more fierce, we have all become obsessed with working. If it means working extra hours or working more from home, we do it. We know that in order to get ahead it is required to put in the time or else we could be replaced.

Time is cherished. After a hectic day of work, taking care of the family, cleaning, laundry, and lots of other tedious tasks, the last thing you probably want to do is go to the gym. Likely because you think that working out requires a lot of time.

beautiful to the core

Why not come up with ways to make working out more time efficient?

We come up with ways to make work tasks more time efficient: like sending emails instead of attending an hour long meeting or eating while we work instead of taking a long lunch break.

We come up with ways to make home tasks more time efficient like bulk cooking instead of cooking every meal separately, texting instead of calling, or DVR'ing instead of watching all the television commercials.

Attention: Working out does not require a lot of time. If you choose workouts that are effective, efficient, and well programmed you can be in and out of the gym quicker than I can play one hole of golf (yes, I am that bad)!

total body workout

3 Principles that make strength training more time-efficient

#1 Supersets

#2Time Under Tension

#3 Compound Movements

Supersets are incredibly challenging because they involve alternating two exercises without a rest break in between. Say you want to work the biceps in a lengthened position versus a shortened position with: Incline bicep curls (A) and Preacher curls (B). Your workout would look like this if you did it for three sets: A, B, rest, A, B, rest, A, B, rest. Eliminating that rest period between A and B makes it more challenging and time efficient. Warning: Your arms may feel like they want to fall off after that superset.

Time under tension is another principle that will make your strength training more effective. The whole idea of this is to slow your lifting down. Lifting weight up and down very quickly with no control is not only dangerous but also less effective. So slow it down and focus on the entire movement from start to finish with control. The positive/concentric is the main action of the exercise when you are contracting or shortening the muscle. Emphasize the negative/eccentric movement which lengthens the muscle. Slowing down the actual movement can speed up your workout. Sounds crazy, right? It’s true.

(See Related: Time Under Tension)

Compound movements are definitely the way to go if you are lacking time. If you only have ten minutes for a home workout one day, I would say do 100% compound movements. They are exercises that work more than one muscle group at a time. Examples are squats, deadlifts, bench press, pull-ups, hip thrusts, lunges, leg press, pushups, step-ups, jumping/plyometrics, planks, etc. The opposite of compound is accessory or isolated movements. Examples are bicep curls, tricep presses, shoulder lateral raises, chest fly, leg curl, leg extension, seated calf raises, etc.

With these three principles, you can easily complete a strength training workout in under 20 minutes that is effective.

To prove it to you, I have put together a Total Body workout that includes strengthening with supersets. All you need are dumbbells and a bench. The entire workout took twenty minutes total including my thirty second rest periods (then I spent some extra time doing HIIT and stretching). Here it is below, in video or snapshot format.

quick total body fat burner workout

HIIT for cardio efficiency

If you are limited on time but desire to burn body fat with cardio, then choose HIIT (high intensity interval training). Break up with the steady state, long duration cardio like running. HIIT is much more effective and takes a fraction of the time! I usually do HIIT 1-3x/week if my goal at the time is fat loss. HIIT is the most effective way to burn fat while preserving muscle. In addition to those benefits, HIIT also got rid of my knee pain. The years of long distance running had caught up with me until I stopped the running and substituted HIIT. The reason: I cut down my high impact cardio time from 1-2 hours per day to 10-20 minutes per week. So save time and save your legs by choosing HIIT as your primary form of cardiovascular exercise.

(See Related: HIIT)

HIIT is performed incorrectly most of the time. So as a reminder, HIIT should involve 100% exertion. You should not be able to speak a complete sentence during the high intensity interval. You should feel winded and like you're going to pass out after each high intensity sprint. Watch the video below to see one of my favorite HIIT workouts in action: Deadmills.

Wrap up

Hopefully you believe me now when I say you can get in a killer workout in a short period of time. Stop the excuses, keep a gym outfit in your car, and go straight to the gym after work. That will cut down the time to get home, unwind, change, and then re-consider whether you should go workout or not. Just walking into the gym is the hardest part. Once you’re there and you see other people working hard it will motivate you to get your butt to work!

For anyone that tells me they don’t have time to stop at the gym 3-5x/week, then write down what you do every half hour of a day. I guarantee you can find 20 minutes filled with useless tasks (i.e. Netflix, laying around, Facebook) that could be replaced with an effective 20-minute workout. Or you could delegate a simple task to your spouse or kids.

If you must keep your workouts short and less frequent, then be smart about your programming and exercise selection. Choose a program built around heavy compound movements and use tools like supersets and time under tension to maximize results and reach your goals.


  • An effective workout does not require a lot of time.

  • Compound movements work more than one muscle group at once and therefore are a more efficient use of time.

  • Supersets are a great way to decrease workout duration yet increase volume and intensity.

  • Use time under tension to increase the effectiveness of your exercises.

  • HIIT is the way to go if you desire cardiovascular exercise for fat loss.

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