As I’ve grown older and some would say wiser, I’ve realized that not all of us have the luxury to spend 90 minutes or more in the gym 3-4 times a week regularly. I am fortunate in the fact that I have a fairly flexible schedule and can figure out how to get my training in but this article isn’t about me, no, it’s about YOU! If you’re a busy professional looking to spend your time as efficiently as possible in the gym, here are 10 things you shouldn’t be doing:
1) Going to the gym on Monday or Tuesday between 5 and 7pm. These are the infamouspeak hours in the gym, when everyone recommits to fitness and starts occupying all the racks, benches, and equipment.
Workaround: Rearrange your training schedule so Monday and Tuesday are your scheduled days off. Instead of training Monday, Wednesday, and Friday do Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday or similar.
2) Have more than four exercises on your agenda for a given day. Really, unless you are a high-level competitive strength athlete you don’t need anymore than this. Doing endless variations of movements assuredly costs you more time in the gym and less time recovering, which is where you actually get better from the work you put it.
Workaround: Pick 2 big movements (squat, press, row, pull) and 2 smaller movements (curl, chin, dip, back extensions) and hit them hard!
3) Have a 40 minute mobility routine for your warm up. I’m all about people getting more mobile and having better range of motion, but spending anything longer than 10-15 minutes on getting ready to train indicates you have too many issues to address in one session or your doing it wrong. If you truly need this much specific mobility work, break your routine into 3 or 4 parts and hit one each day you come to the gym with vigor and diligence.
Workaround: Pick 2-3 mobility drills relevant to the movements you’ll be training that day. If you’re going to squat work on the hips and knees and if you’re going to press work on the thoracic spine and shoulders. You know what the best way to warm up for a movement is? Do the movement unloaded and at lighter weights. Here is a sample of my squat warm up before a set of 5 at 403lbs:
Bar x 5 x 2 sets, 95 x 5, 135 x 5, 185 x 3, 245 x 2, 275 x 2, 325 x 2, 355 x 2, 385 x 1, 403 x 5
4) Do an hour of cardio. Unless you’re a competitive physique or an endurance athlete getting close to your competition you don’t need this much cardio. These populations would be better served by having separate training sessions dedicated to this type of work anyway, and if you feel like you need hours of cardio to get lean we probably need to take a closer look at your diet.
Workaround: Immediately after completing your weight training do 10-20 minutes of high intensity interval training 2-3x per week and you’ll have great cardiorespiratory endurance. If you’re trying to lean out and need some more cardio work add in separate sessions either first thing in the morning or 2.5 hrs after any meal.
5) Go to the gym without a plan. Sounds simple enough but a lot of people go in to just workout by how they feel, which is wrong on so many levels. You need to have a good program that’s setup to allow progression over time to get you results. For a good example head over to www.dynamicfitnesscoach.com and get your free 7 day trial.
Workaround: Pick a good program and attack it with the fire of a thousand suns (dramatic, right?). Or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll help you out.
6) Pay no attention to yourperi-workout nutrition. The hours immediately preceding and following your training session are those golden hours where your body partitions nutrients into muscle, not fat, and sets up the recovery process. A failure to properly fuel before and after a workout essentially means you wasted a training session.
Workaround: If you’re on the go and can’t get a solid meal in hit up a protein shake + oats before your workout (women 1.5 scoops protein, 1/2 C of oats, men- 2-3 scoops protein + 1 C of oats) and afterwards use a post workout supplement like Biotest Surge Recovery. Additionally, you can make your own and keep it cold- 1 scoop vanilla protein, 1 serving apple sauce, 1 medium sized sweet potato (skinned) with it’s flesh mixed into the protein + applesauce. Add a bit of Cinnamon and it tastes like pumpkin pie. If you can’t get your hands on the Surge Recovery and can’t make a little post workout concoction then just repeat the protein and oats regimen.
6) Stretching after your workout. Numerous studies have been published about the LACK of efficacy of stretching- static, passive, and even ballistic with regards to range of motion measurements and soreness prevention.
Workaround: Since they don’t work, just do a 5-10 minute cool down on an exercise bike or similar.
7) Take an exercise class. These classes do not offer legitimate training that increase strength, hypertrophy, power, or conditioning. They do take up a lot of time, though.
Workaround: If time is at a premium, skip the yoga, zumba, and turbokick and head to the squat rack. Squats, unlike the others, actually do good things for your legs and backside. If you have time to burn then go ahead and do yoga and spinning, just make sure you get some real work in too.
8) Make tons of friends in the gym and make your rounds between sets. While some people love to socialize in the gym, this is not how you would make efficient use of your time. If this is a problem for you put yourself on the clock, 3-5 minutes between work sets on strength exercises and 60-90s between hypertrophy-focused work. Get in and get out.
Workaround: Get a cheap watch and use it to time your rest periods. If you want to talk, go to the bar (not the one in the squat rack).
9) Bring your phone with you. The gym isn’t the time to tweet, facebook, instagram, or tumblr, unless you have time to burn. Leave your phone in your gym bag and get after it.
Workaround: If you use it for music then put it in airplane mode so you can’t social media between sets. If you have an iPod then use that and if you have an iPad leave it at home, dangit.
10) Require a lot of equipment to get your training in. If your training requires more than 2 or 3 pieces of equipment to do, you’re doing it wrong. My workout on Tuesday required only 3 pieces of equipment:
Squat (barbell and squat stands)
Good Mornings (barbell)
Glute-Ham Raises (GHR Bench)
If your training has you using all sorts of different equipment then I’d advise either simplifying it or getting a better program.
The take home message from this is to go to the gym to train. Get in and get out to start the recovery process and streamline your efforts. We train to get stronger, faster, and more conditioned, period. Now if you excuse me, I’ve got some mobility work to do so I don’t spend all day in the gym tomorrow!