I’m on a march to get my clients to max the benefit they’re getting from the gym in the time they have available. Time is precious, so I’m building programmes that are short & sharp, that only takes around an hour out of your day door-to-door.
I’m suggesting a very simple four stage workout… Warm-up, Weights, Intervals, Core. If you blitz it, that’s easily doable in 30 minutes and you should feel that you’ve had a workout once you’re done. Let’s break it down a bit:
Warm-up – 5 minutes – You’re almost certainly coming into the gym cold and you’re about to work out hard, so you need to get your heart working & muscles working. So choose whatever cardio kit works for you and spend at least five minutes getting yourself moving. I invariably hop on the stationary bike, it’s low impact from the off, it lets me get my headphones & music set-up and I can adjust the tempo easily to get my legs (and body) working at different rates. A treadmill or cross-trainer would be fine as well. I’d avoid the rower, it’s slightly higher impact in terms of effort and there’s a good chance you’ll need it later in this workout.
Weights – about 10 minutes – Your time is precious, so you need to be prepared to shift weights and pump your muscles. In most instances I suggest a multiset that uses two exercises to target complimentary muscle groups. So, if you’re targeting arms and upper body, think in terms of chest press and bicep curls (or pull-ups) combined, or single arm rows and press-ups… and you’re looking at three sets of 12 reps, with 30-60 seconds recovery between each set. Remember that a set in a multiset is all of the exercise… for instance, 12 left arm rows, 12 right arm rows, 12 press-up, no rest between those, and then a 30-60 second recovery before starting the next set. If you have the facilities I would create a multiset by combining a freeweight (dumbbell or barbell) exercise with a bodyweight exercise.
Intervals – about 10 minutes – This is a cardio slot that’s designed to get you working hard. Again it’s your call which kit you use, but remember that this isn’t a ten minute cruise. The principle is simple, combine bursts of intense activity with periods of recovery – for starters I’d be looking at a one minute warm-up, then rounds of 30 seconds high intensity followed by 60 seconds recovery. You can adjust the intensity and recovery periods as you get stronger at this. The key factor is get the balance right – if you’re working at a high enough intensity then you should need all of the recovery period and then some. Note that whilst your high intensity level should be well above your normal ‘cruising’ pace for the cardio exercise, equally your recovery pace will be well below that ‘cruising’ pace – if you can maintain a normal pace between the high intensity slots, then you’re arguably not pushing yourself hard enough.
Core – about 10 minutes – I don’t go in for old-school sit-ups and crunches (they’re just bad for a lot of people), but equally don’t look for ten minutes of planks. There are a lot of exercises that wouldn’t normally be called ‘core’, but that hit your abs and the aim is to throw as many variations into your core as possible – you’re building a strong ‘whole’ core, not just one band of muscles. Plank variations, like shoulder taps and medicine ball planks, are great – get your phone’s stopwatch out and do these as an interval session, 20 seconds on and 20 seconds off. Battle ropes and rope pulls work on the core, as do press-ups and cable crunches. Leg raises are good old-fashioned core exercises – hard, but effective. So lot’s to go at.
The exact timings are up to you… you know how much time you have available and you’ll know how your body feels, so you can flex the times. If you’re feeling strong, spend a bit more time on the Weights and reduce the Intervals… if you’ve had a tough day and need to burn some stress, then expand the Intervals.