Maximize your workout by wasting less time at the gym

Maximize your workout by wasting less time at the gym

Get the most out of your routine by changing it up, opting for other machines in peak hours, forgetting the book and focusing on sweat.

By Jill Barker

The Vancouver Sun

Nov 16, 2009

Who has time to waste at the gym?  Not me! My objective is achieving maximum results in the least amount of time.  I figure most Canadians feel the same, though you’d never know it by looking around the gym.

To be fair, most fitness fanatics don’t realize that their workouts aren’t as efficient as they could be. In fact, many people believe that more time in the gym will result in more results.  But that’s false.  Your body responds to the quality, not quantity, of your workout.  So, to help you get the job done in record time, here are five common time-wasters, along with suggestions on how you can get more done in less time.

Isolating muscle groups

Why perform an exercise that targets one muscle group when you can hit two or three at the same time?  Sure, single joint exercises like a triceps pull-down get the job done, but if you perform a compound exercise like a push up you’ll work not just the triceps but the chest, front of the shoulder and core muscles.

Want more exercises that offer maximum payback?  Try lunges, squats, lat pull-downs, seated rows and pull-ups.

Waiting for a machine

Standing around waiting for a cardio or weight machine to become available is not only a waste of time, it can get downright frustrating.  But that’s the reality for many Canadians who have no choice but to use the gym during peak hours when popular machines like the treadmill, elliptical and lat pull-down have reservations lists longer than those at most popular restaurants.

The solution?   Don’t be exclusive. Climb on a bike, try your hand at the rowing machine or  choose a different weight-training machine instead of the one with which you usually start your workout.  This change in routine will not only save you from standing around doing nothing, it’ll challenge different muscles and force your body to alter its movement pattern.  Both of these changes will spark added results without adding to the length of the workout.

Multiple repetitions

When it comes to building muscle, more reps aren’t the answer. In fact, the more repetitions of an exercise you perform, the more you compromise strength gains.  Here’s why.  Strength is defined as the maximum you can lift once.  If you can lift a weight 10 times, you’re operating well short of your maximum capacity.

The idea, of course, isn’t to lift and lower a weight just once.  For strength gains, you should keep your number of reps to six or fewer.  For greater muscle size, max out your reps at 12. As for the number of sets, if you’re a novice lifter, one or two sets will offer substantial results.  If you’re a veteran in the weight room, three sets per exercise are recommended.

Reading a book

Multi-taskers don’t impress the gym crowd.  That’s because workouts take concentration and commitment, making it impossible to turn your attention away from the task at hand and read about the latest exploits of Jon and Kate.

Does that mean voracious readers can’t be voracious exercisers.  It depends.  Reading while exercising reduces the intensity of your workout, which may in turn reduce or delay the achievement of your goals.  It also makes you less in tune with the messages your body is sending and what your body is doing, which may cause causes you to ignore early signs of fatigue or discomfort and/or  compromise exercise technique.  So if you want to benefit from all that exercise has to offer, keep your book next to your easy chair at home not propped up on the console of your favourite exercise machine.

The fourth day of the same workout.

Fitness improves based on the adaptation your body makes in response to the stress of your workout.  In other words, the more you force your body out of its comfort zone, the greater the results. The idea is to never let your body get too comfortable with your workout habits, which is why change and variety are the cornerstones of an effective exercise plan.

Before you panic, I’m not going to recommend that you give up the exercise class you’ve enjoyed for years or drop your favourite exercise from your regular workout routine.  What I am going to recommend is that you mix things up a bit every week.  If you’re a runner, incorporate a speed or hill workout into your weekly routine.  Swimmers add weekly sprints or butterfly sets into your workouts.  Gym junkies try a new class every now and then and change yup the routine of your weight-training workout on a weekly basis. Not only will your experience greater physiological results, the change of pace will put some spice into your workout routine.

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