It wasn’t uncommon in bodybuilding’s halcyon days to hear of a guy spending two or three hours a day in the gym working on his physique. But as Brooks Hatlen observed in The Shawshank Redemption, “The world went and got itself in a big damn hurry.” In the era of the monster commute and overstuffed datebooks, most people can’t afford to invest so many of their waking hours on blasting their quads and pecs.
As such, marathon training sessions have gone the way of sundials, with timeefficient tricks now part of every trainer’s repertoire. Eric Fleishman, a Los Angeles-based celebrity trainer whose clients are always pressed for time, has become a master practitioner of maximizing workout efficiency.
1. Have a Plan
You have to get your body and mind ready for the gym, Fleishman says. “Make sure you’re properly nourished and hydrated before you step into the weight room,” he says. “And make sure you’re rested from your previous workout so that heavy loads don’t feel like they’re going to crush you.” Having a well-thought-out plan of attack for that day’s visit, he adds, will help to keep you focused and on track.
2 Reduce or Eliminate Rest
This may sound counterintuitive for lovers of heavy iron, but it can actually help you build more muscle and burn more fat. “Reducing your rest not only keeps your metabolism high but also helps you maintain a pump in the targeted muscles throughout your workout,” Fleishman explains. “By resting only 30 to 60 seconds, your muscles must perform at levels beyond simple strength. This begins to cultivate overall athleticism, which will translate easily into other sporting endeavors.” He also points out that the muscular energy systems replenish fairly quickly — within 15 to 30 seconds — so you’ll be surprised at how much weight you can handle with reduced rest.
3 Try Supersets
“When time is a factor, there’s no better way to bombard the muscle than by using supersets, during which two different movements are performed in a row with little or no rest in between,” Fleishman says. He suggests pairing opposite muscle groups, such as chest and back or biceps and triceps, for greater strength and overall pump, or to do back-to-back exercises for one muscle group to thoroughly challenge and exhaust it.
4 Integrate Abs and Cardio
When you’re pressed for time, your abs routine and cardio plan are usually the first things scrapped. That doesn’t have to be the case. If your midsection or overall conditioning are a concern, you can simply build these into the framework of your overall program. “To save time, insert sets of ab work or cardio in between sets of larger muscle groups,” Fleishman says. Doing abs instead of resting helps you squeeze that work in without having to set aside time at the end. For built-in cardio, he suggests 100 to 200 repetitions of jump-rope or jumping jacks between sets of resistance exercises.
5 Turn Up the Volume
Forget about wandering around the gym or waiting on equipment when the place is teeming with bodies. With volume training — performing 10 sets of the same exercise for a single muscle group — you just park yourself and lift. “This leads to a higher level of muscular fatigue while engorging the region with blood, delivering impressive results,” Fleishman says. You’ll want to make sure you stretch between sets, he adds, to reduce the increased muscle soreness that comes with this type of training. Limit your workload to no more than two exercises per muscle group.
Eric Fleishman is a Los Angeles-based celebrity trainer and fitness expert. For more information about Fleishman, visit www.ericthetrainer.com.