Maximizing Time In The Gym: Big Work + Little Work = Results

exercise fitness workout Jun 26, 2018

When it comes to the physical side of healthy living, there are a lot of people who lack the proper understanding of exactly what a good workout and good overall plan looks like. In general, there is a lack of clarity among gym goers about the basics of what constitutes the right exercise program for them. 

Some people go to the gym and in a basic sense just do random exercises with various machines and equipment. They don't have any real structure and they don't have any particular goal or way they are tracking progress. 

Others see what someone else is doing, think it looks good, and then try to emulate what the other person is doing. Maybe they even see several different people and try to do a mix of things they see without really knowing why or how. 

For anyone, whether a "recreational" fitness enthusiast or a hardcore gym rat, having a goal and a plan are essential to getting the results you want. Not every training style or program is right for every person or for what each individual wants to achieve. Training for good overall health is different than training for building large muscles, improving athletic performance for a particular sport, building endurance for athletic competition, etc.

Regardless of why you want to train and how you want to train, for most of us the truth is you can get it done without needing to spend a ton of time (less than 60 minutes) in the gym. To do this however requires knowing how to maximize your time.  

So, today I'm just going to share with you an example from one of my workout days about how I try to maximize my time while still training for my primary goals and at the same time add in some additional training that I don't want or need to spend a lot of time on elsewhere during the week. 

I'm closing in on 42 years of age, so my primary goal is to keep myself in good overall condition so I can be the best husband and father I can be and feel good every day. 

Beyond that, I enjoy competing in obstacle course races, so my training also has to challenge me sufficiently to be able to run well and be strong enough to complete most obstacles. And I'm competitive, so I want to be able to give my best effort vs. just getting through. 

My personal training plan generally consist only 2 heavy lifting days each week. I use a 5x5 protocol which consists of 5 primary exercises and then I do a barbell complex another day of the week. In between I'm adding in either dedicated running workouts or mixing in running with some type of muscular endurance training. 


Today was my 5x5 day that concludes with a series of incline sprints on a treadmill. Each exercise is completed for 5 sets and each set consists of 5 reps. So, minimal reps means going as heavy as I can to maximize the strength building aspect. The 5 exercises in order are Dumbbell Benchpress, Barbell Deadlift, Overhead Press, Dumbbell Goblet Squat (I personally prefer this to a back squat because #1 I'm not a huge fan of loading the spine especially with previous back issues and #2 I like the additional core stabilization that kicks in when having the weight in front), and a Barbell Bent-Over Row. Between each set I try to take no more than about 60 seconds of recovery. This keeps things moving. After all 5 exercises have been completed, then it's over to the treadmill for the incline sprints. I set it at 8-10% incline at 8-10 mph and complete 10 repetitions of 30 seconds sprint with 30 seconds complete recovery (I simply jump/step my feet off to the side of the belt and let it keep going so I can jump right back on and hit the sprint; be careful doing this because a misstep will end up with a high likelihood of injury). 

Now for the "secret" for my supplemental work. Like most guys, I like to work my arms; the biceps and triceps specifically. However, I don't want to have to dedicate one entire workout or a whole to of time to working arms. So, this is what I do. In a workout like today, I take my 60ish seconds recovery periods and add in variations of curls and triceps work. I change it up with each exercise. For example, today during dumbbell bench press, I did dumbbell curls during one break (25 lbs for 15 reps) and overhead triceps extensions during the next break (25 lbs for 20 reps), alternating each break period. Then when I moved on to deadlifts, I used the cable machine and started with the triceps. This way, between the two primary movements I got 5 sets each of biceps and triceps work. I kept doing this for each break and just kept varying the biceps and triceps work I was doing. 

And that's really it! I did all this in just under 60 minutes today. Great workout. Trained for strength, running some hills at high intensity, and got my "supplemental" work in. My philosophy, don't waste time in the gym. Make every second count. 

Below you'll see more photos that show some of the primary and supplemental movements I did today. 






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