I’m a big fan of 5 or 6 day training splits. But for many people, hitting the gym 5 or 6 days a week just isn’t a viable option.
Sometimes work, family, travel, and other priorities take precedence before getting to the gym.
So what do you do if you can’t train more frequently?
Should you just skip your workout entirely because you can’t fit in 5 days per week? Of course not.
Or what if you only have X amount of time to get your workouts in each session?
In today’s article, I’ll show you 5 strategies you can use to make the most of your time and still get the best results possible.
#1 Scale Back Your Warmup
While I don’t advise going right into the gym and just getting after it, you also don’t need to foam roll and warm up/mobilize for 30 minutes.
If time is limited, the last thing you should be doing is rolling around and stretching for a half hour when a half hour might be all you have! Instead, do what you need to do to get your core temperature up and get into your lift.
If you’re doing your soft tissue work and mobility stuff every day, then when you get to the gym, a quick 5-10 minute warm up should suffice.
My suggestion is to pick the most important areas you need for that session and get those ready in a hurry.
This article HERE has some great warm up exercises. You can pick a couple of them to knock out before you begin your lift.
When time is limited, warm up quickly and get after it.
#2 Utilize Total Body Workouts
When limited to a certain number of gym sessions per week you should modify your workouts to ensure you cover all your bases.
With a 5-day split, you may have had time for some extra arm work.
But, if you only have 3 days to get your lifts in, prioritizing the biggest bang-for-your-buck exercises is the best idea in my opinion.
Your solution: total body training.
While there are endless options for how you could structure your program, here are some general guidelines for creating total body workouts.
*Lower body push (squats, lunges, leg press etc)
*Lower body pull (deadlifts, rdl’s, glute bridges, goodmornings etc)
*Upper body push (bench press, overhead press, pushups etc)
*Upper body pull (Rows, pullups, pulldowns etc)
*Core work (planks, rollouts, knee raises, reverse crunches, chops etc)
Now, depending on the time you have for each session, you could throw in a little more isolation work for the arms and shoulders. However, if you stick to the compound basic exercises you’ll at least cover a majority of the body each session.
The barbell compound exercises will be good options here because you’ll work more muscles. You can also use dumbbells as well and machines if you’re not able to perform these lifts with good technique but still want to mimic the same movements.
#3 Shorten Your Rest Periods
One way to get everything done in a more time efficient manner is to shorten your rest periods.
Not only will you get more work done, but you’ll also become better conditioned.
One method you can use are every minute on the minute (EMOM) sets on squats, deadlifts, bench presses etc. With this method, you’d basically load up about 55-65% of your 1RM and do a set. Once the set is over you only rest for 1 minute and then perform your next set. You’ll be surprised how quickly these will tire you out. Keeping the weight light ensures you’ll still get quality work in with less rest than usual.
If you’re training more for strength, though, don’t sacrifice rest on your heavy work. Instead, keep your accessory exercise rest periods shorter and consider pairing exercises together to save on time.
Bust out your stopwatch or cell phone and set the timer for the appropriate duration to make sure you stick to your rest periods.
#4 Do Away With the Fluff
(You definitely don’t want to be doing this. Ever.)
When your time is limited your training emphasis should be on the major compound lifts first.
If you’ve got only 3 days to train, it’s probably not the best use of your time to make one of them a full day of training your arms. Even for those looking to maximize fat loss or muscle gain, I’d still recommend hammering the compounds as much as possible on those 3 lifting days.
You don’t need 6 different variations of curls in your program if you’re limited to 3 days of training throughout the whole week as is.
You’ll get enough arm stimulus if you’re performing lots of pressing and pulling exercises in the form of bench presses, pushups, rows, and pullups.
If you do have an extra 10 minutes at the end of your workout then you could do a superset or tri-set with some isolation arm exercises to work them directly.
But only once you’ve completed all of your main exercises.
Stick to the basic exercises first and get rid of most of the foo-foo exercises because they won’t provide the same level of benefit the basics will.
#5 Prioritize Weights Over Cardio
People often ask, “If I’m short on time during the week should I do cardio or weights?”
I’d prefer people choose lifting over cardio for several reasons.
First, everyone can benefit from more muscle mass and greater strength. You can only develop these through lifting weights.
Second, you can still get cardiovascular benefits during weight training if you keep the pace up and utilize circuit style lifting or metabolic circuits at the end of your lifting sessions.
You can do complexes like this one:
A1) Barbell Front Squat
A2) Barbell Row
A3) Barbell Overhead Press
A4) Barbell RDL
Pick a weight that you’ll be able to lift for each exercise and load it onto one barbell. Perform 5 reps and then immediately switch to the next exercise. Do one exercise after another and don’t put the bar down until you’ve completed all rounds. Start with 4 rounds and work up from there.
In addition to complexes, you can throw in finishers at the end of your workout that will get your heart rate up quickly. This may help to satisfy your cardio craving and also make you hate life a little bit (because they’re brutal).
This one below:
A1) Kettlebell swing 30 seconds on
A2) Overhead Med Ball Slam 30 seconds on
Rest minimally as needed and go back and forth for 6-8 minutes.
A1) Goblet Squat x 10 reps
A2) TRX Row x 10 reps
A3) Kettlebell swing 10 reps
Perform 10 goblet squats every round while decreasing the other two by one rep each round until you get to 1. So 10,10,10, then 10,9,9, 10,8,8 until you get to 10,1,1.
Don’t think for one second that you can only get results by training 5 or more days per week. For some people, that just isn’t possible.
Make the most of your training and apply these tips to maximize your results.
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