Look, we get it. Lives are busy, exercise time is limited. But rather than encouraging you to carve more gym time out of your schedule, we’re going to tell you how to make your workouts shorter. You won’t be missing out on anything, really. The techniques below shorten overall workout time but increase intensity, which boosts metabolic rate and, yes, fat burning. These don’t even have to be temporary fixes reserved for those days when work gets in the way of workouts. Use them a few times a week, but be sure that your muscles are still getting the workout they need to meet your goals.
1 REDUCE REST
The easiest way to reduce workout length is to be a careful observer of the clock, resting only as long as is necessary for your particular training goal. Performing explosive, heavy lifts such as power cleans or snatches may require three to five minutes of rest between sets, but if you’re hoping to build muscle and burn fat, shorter rest periods will do. In a study from the College of New Jersey, men who rested just 30 seconds between sets on the bench burned more than 50 percent more calories than when they rested three minutes.
2 DO SUPERSETS
Chest and back day? By performing two exercises back-to-back, a training technique called “supersetting,” you need less specific rest for each bodypart — one rests while the other works. Because you’re essentially doubling your work time, supersetting burns 35 percent more calories during the workout and after the workout is over. Studies show that muscles are stronger when trained immediately after their antagonist, or opposing muscle group, so plan your workouts accordingly.
3 CIRCUIT TRAIN
By moving from station to station with little to no rest between exercises, you can increase your workout intensity, train more muscle groups and release more growth hormone, all in less time than traditional set training. If possible, try to train opposing (see No. 2) or unrelated muscle groups in succession. Going from chest to back or quads to triceps, for example, can help you keep your strength up throughout.
4 ACTIVE REST
Instead of spending 30 minutes on the treadmill after weight training, break it up into several smaller sessions between exercises, employing a technique called “cardio acceleration.” You can run in place, shadowbox or do jumping jacks for 30 to 60 seconds between your sets of bench presses or lat pulldowns, keeping your heart rate high and building cardio into your existing routine.
5 TRY HIIT
High-intensity interval training, in which you alternate all-out sprints (90 to 100 percent of your max effort) with recovery walks or complete rest, is the best way to perform cardio if time is a factor. Mounds of research shows that it preserves or builds muscle and burns more fat than steady-state cardio and in less time. If you’re new to HIIT, start with a 1:2 ratio of work to recovery, sprinting 15 seconds and walking for 30. Once that becomes easy, switch to a 1:1 ratio of 30 seconds each. And finally to a 2:1 ratio of 30 seconds of sprinting and 15 seconds of walking or rest. Ten sprints total is a good place to start — you can increase the number as it gets easier.