Here are some options for how to make your training session quicker, if you need to hurry it up for some reason today.
I hope you are following a training plan. That is hands-down the best way to get results. if you’d like an in-depth post about why a training plan can help you, read here. In short, you’ll see increases in strength, improvements on lifts, and changes in your physique if you follow a plan.
Additionally, you will always know what to do. There’s no guessing when you get to the gym.
However, sometimes you have to make adjustments. Sometimes, traffic gets the best of you and you don’t get to the gym until later than you planned. This is called “living in Austin”. Surprise, Mopac is backed up an extra 40 minutes. 🤗
Sometimes you just get busy for a week or so and need to prioritize the lifts that are really bang for your buck.
How do you do this without wasting your time in the gym? How do you use your time in the gym without just skipping? There are four main ways I will adjust a training session if I or a client need to get work done in less time.
Options for How to Make Your Training Sessions Faster
As I mentioned, there are several ways to speed up your session if you need to. This will depend on your goals, upcoming events (meets or beach trips), and how long your schedule will be very busy. These are meant to be short term adjustments. If you find you are frequently needing a shorter session, you might want to get on a training plan that addresses that. Here are some ideas on how to do that: link to how to exercise when you are busy:
But, let’s say you just need to make adjustments today. Here are four ways to do that:
At the gym, there are a few ways to get a quick workout. You can:
- Just do your main lift/s and skip accessory work.
- Just do exercises that don’t take as much time to warm up and prepare for
- Move quicker through your planned session (don’t adjust anything but pace)
- Change the type of exercise you are doing altogether.
Do Your Main Lift/s and Skip Accessory Work
This is my favorite way to train if I need to hurry it up. This allows you to hit your main lift, which is presumably the lift you are focusing on improving and working on. In this situation, the pace of your session doesn’t change. You just end it sooner.
Begin with your regular warm up. Do not skimp on or rush the warm up. Remember, you’re still going to get your heavy, compound lift so you need to be prepared. No matter what, do not sacrifice your warm up. You’ll lift better if you warm up well neurologically and physically, and you are at lower risk of injury.
Progress on your feeler sets or warm up sets as you would if you had all the time in the world. Let’s use the deadlift as an example. If my current program aims for me to do 3×3 @ 225 (that is, 3 sets of 3 reps at 225 pounds), then I would start with 95 pounds. I would do 3 – 5 reps. From there, I increase the weight each set until I get to 225. Then I begin my work sets. For example, I might progress like:
1×5 @ 95
1×5 @ 135
1×3 @ 185
1×1 @ 205
3×3 @ 225.
Between my feeler sets, which are 95 – 205 pounds, I’ll rest a minute or 2. Not long. Between my work sets, I’ll rest 2-3 minutes.
In total, this puts my warm up around 10 minutes, feeler sets around 8 minutes, and work sets 9-10 minutes. From here, I would finish with 2 sets of the back extension or reverse hyper and then head out. Boom – around 30 minutes for a big lift, which was safe and uncompromised.
Do Exercises That Don’t Take as Much Prep Time
If you have half an hour but want to get more than one exercise in, an option is to do exercises that don’t take as much time to warm up to prepare for. In this case, you skip exercises like heavy compound movements that require a good bit of warm up, prep, and feeler sets. This would be a day where you skip your deadlifts.
You would begin with a warm up, which you always do. Then you would do exercises that you can jump right into, or only take a couple sets to get into. An example is the push pull squat style of workout.
Let’s choose a pushup (push), dumbbell row (pull) and squat. After your general warm up of some squats, lunges, and light presses, you’d begin.
Start with pushups and get a moderate amount. Move right into the dumbbell row with a light/moderate weight. Then squat. For this first round, I would suggest a light to moderate weight, such as the one you just rowed. From there, you can decide to bump up the next round or not.
If you do want a bump up, then you do a few more reps on the pushup, heavier weight on the row and heavier weight on the squat. Rest as you need between rounds, and repeat.
This is a fun one to push conditioning goals, whereas the previously mentioned deadlift session still works strength in a quick amount of time.
Moving Faster Through Planned Session
Another option to move quicker through your session is to keep the same exercises, but skip the heaviest/hardest sets so you can move faster. Let’s go back to my deadlift day. Let’s imagine I planned to deadlift, then superset lunges and overhead presses, then superset hamstring curls and bent over rows.
Normally, I would take my time on the deadlift session and work up to my challenging working sets. Using the number from the first example, where my goal was 225 for 3×3, today, I might just do sets of 5 all the way up to 185. This would look like:
1×5 @ 95
1×5 @ 135
2×5 @ 185
Note that you always respect your heavy lifts. Even if it’s not as heavy for you, you always treat it like it is. Getting some good volume at lower weights, while still doing my best with form, is a good way to get good work in safely.
This deadlift progression would shave off the last 10 minutes of the heaviest lifts, because you’re not having to rest quite as much.
From here, you would go to the first superset and work through it. Back and forth, back and forth. Lunges and presses done. Move quickly to the curls and rows. Since you’re moving quicker and resting less, you might not go as heavy as you would have on the last set, but that’s ok. You’ll feel the work begin done! You can choose to do just two sets here if you’d like. And, boom, you’re out. Lots of work done quickly.
Change the Type of Exercise You Are Doing
The last option if you are strapped for time is to change the type of exercise you are doing altogether. If you are going to be worried about rushing or running late to the point you do not get good exercise, then just turn it into a conditioning session.
Great options are to get on the treadmill and get some incline work in at a steady pace, or set up a circuit of sled pushes and pulls. Bonus options are the rower, ski erg, and battle ropes if you have access to these.
In this situation I’d still recommend a light warm up of treadmill work, or squats and lunges to get your heart rate up. Then get into your work.
This is a great option to get quality work in, and reserve your big lifts for a day when you have the time to give them the attention you want.
Modify, Don’t Miss
Matt Wenning says, “Modify, don’t miss.” This is great advice. Modify according to make a rushed session fit your time frame. Let me know how this works for you, or if you have ways to work around busy times. I’d love to hear!