Many people who workout believe they need a minimum of 30 minutes for a good workout, this ‘more is better’ mentality can lead many to spend up to two hours in the gym before they feel they have done enough.
Having that kind of time to spend in a gym is no bad thing but what if something like a sick child, car trouble etc. crops up? It can be all too easy to skip the workout altogether.
Don’t give up on the day’s fitness goals just because life has thrown a curveball your way, you can actually perform an effective workout with 15 minutes to spare. Before you start throwing shorter workouts into your routine with abandon it is important to learn a few simple rules so you can make the most of your time.
When you are short on time, using the best exercises is non-negotiable, you do need to get the most from your time. Use large compound exercises like squats or step-ups instead of isolation moves like leg extensions and leg curls. For the upper body, perform push-ups and inverted rows instead of triceps kickbacks and dumbbell curls.
These compound exercises activate more muscle fibers and need more energy to perform than their isolation counterparts, this makes them the best choice when you are short on time. Even if you are building a full workout you should focus more on compound moves, they give you the most bang for your training buck.
Once the right exercises are chosen, you need the right load and effort. Work hard by using a challenging load and putting in 100% effort and focus into every rep you perform, there is no need to waste time on over-light reps or ones done poorly.
It is also important to be smart about it too, never sacrifice proper exercise form for more weight or reps. Even though the training is only for 15 minutes, don’t rush the reps. Doing this will hamper your results and increase the chance of injury, take your time and stay focused.
To make the most of short workouts, don’t perform the same type of movement over and over. It is also important not o neglect large areas of your body. Even if you only do air squats and push-ups for example, you are neglecting the back side of your body.
A great way to train the body evenly is to do three-exercise circuits that utilize a lower-body exercise, an upper-body pull and an upper-body push. Try these two templates, they will ensure you have an effective, balanced, total body work out every time you train.
Exercise A – Quad-dominant exercise (Squat, step-up, lunge).
Exercise B – Horizontal push (Push-up, dumbbell bench press).
Exercise C – Horizontal pull (Inverted row, single-arm dumbbell row).
Exercise A – Hip/hamstring exercise (Romanian deadlift with a barbell or dumbbells).
Exercise B – Vertical push (Barbell shoulder-press, single-arm dumbbell push press).
Exercise C – Vertical pull (Chin-up, Cable pull-down).
The exercises done will depend on the equipment you have available, as well as personal preference. As an example, if you don’t have time to go to the gym, choose bodyweight exercises that can be done at home or wherever you happen to be. If you are in a hotel gym that only uses dumbbells, use a combo of dumbbell and bodyweight exercises.
Use both templates equally if you can.
Now you know the rules and have two great templates to make use of for a 15-minute workout session here are several sample workouts you can do when short on time.
Workout 1 – Stopwatch
Choose a template and fill it with exercises you want or have equipment for. Perform as many circuits as you can of that template for 15 minutes. Do one exercise after the other, continually for 15 minutes. Only rest if you really need too, once the timer goes off you are done.
Rep range is up to you. You can choose to do heavier weights and perform sets of 6 reps which is great for strength focus or sets of 12 reps which is great for building muscle or general physical fitness.
Example stopwatch workout
As many rounds as possible in 15 minutes.
Dumbbell lunge – 12 reps per leg.
Push-up – 12 reps.
Dumbbell row – 12 reps.
Workout 2 – Top of the minute
Select three exercises as per the templates and set a timer for 15 minutes. At the top of each minute, perform a set of one of those exercises. As an example, when the timer starts, you would do a set of Exercise A. Rest until the top of the next minute rolls around then do a set of Exercise B, rest until the top of the next minute and then do a set of Exercise C. Repeat this pattern for 15 minutes.
You can use any rep range, perform sets of 5, 10 or maybe even 15 reps.
Example top of the minute workout
(0:00) Barbell Romanian deadlift – 10 reps.
(1:00) Barbell shoulder press – 10 reps.
(2:00) Chin-up – 10 reps.
(3:00) Barbell Romanian deadlift – 10 reps.
(4:00) Barbell shoulder press – 10 reps.
(5:00) Chin-up – 10 reps.
Repeat for 15 minutes.
Workout 3 – The Combo
Start with template 1 and do as many circuits as you can in six minutes. That’s right, only six minutes, work hard and keep rest as little as possible. I would suggest a lower rep range for this first circuit, 5-8 reps is a good range.
Once you have done as many circuits as you can for template 1, rest for 1-2 minutes and then perform as many circuits as possible for six minutes of template 2, on this round use a higher rep range, 10-15 reps is a good target.
It may seem like six minutes is not enough time but if you work hard and keep rest to a minimum you will see true results with what you can achieve with hard work and focus.
Example combo workout
As many rounds as possible in 6 minutes of:
Step-up – 5 reps per leg.
Dumbbell bench press – 5 reps.
Inverted row – 5 reps.
Rest for 2 minutes.
Then as many rounds as possible in 6 minutes of:
Barbell hip thrust – 10 reps.
Barbell push press – 10 reps.
Lat pull-down – 10 reps.
When you are really short of time or want to change-up your current routine, you now have several options. You now never have to miss another workout because there is only 15 minutes spare.
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