Print This Page SparkPeople

8 Ways to Build Maximum Muscle in Minimal Time

Double-Duty Strength Training
  -- By Glenn Kent, Ph.D., Certified Personal Trainer
"Time is money," Benjamin Franklin advised a young tradesman in a 1748 essay. Although we don’t know to what extent he applied Franklin’s wisdom, most of us do understand the implications of this adage in our own lives. When it comes to health and fitness, time is critical. We all lead busy lives and therefore want to maximize our results in minimal time, freeing us to pursue other activities. You probably know how to burn the most calories when it comes to cardio; that is easy—bump up the intensity, time, incline or distance.

But what about strength training? Getting better results isn't always a matter of lifting heavier weights or performing more repetitions (which also takes longer). You don't have to pour over published research or earn a degree in exercise physiology for the sake of better, more efficient workouts. Here are eight secrets that will help you get twice as much out of your strength-training efforts.

Double-Duty Tip #1: Try compound exercises.
Just like compound words combine two words to form a new, more complex one, compound exercises join two exercises that form a more effective new one. A wall sit with lateral dumbbell raise is one example; it combines two movements (the squat and lateral raise) into a single exercise. They differ from isolation exercises (like a simple biceps curl), which involve one movement. Double-Duty Tip #2: Skip the workout machines.
With a few sets of dumbbells (free weights), you can target every muscle group in your body without wasting time moving from machine to machine at the gym or switching between various pieces of equipment. It doesn't take much space to complete a dumbbell circuit either. Double-Duty Tip #3: One side is better than two.
It may be counterintuitive to think that performing an exercise using just one side of your body at a time (one-sided exercises, also called "unilateral" training) would give you better results in less time, but stick with me here. A few common examples of unilateral exercises include single-leg squats, one-arm dumbbell rows and single-arm lateral raises with a band. Double-Duty Tip #4: Get on the circuit train.
Developed in England in 1953, circuit training combines aerobic and strength-training exercises into a series of stations. Positioned around a given area, you visit each station in succession to perform the given exercise without resting between stations. While true circuit-training involves both strength and aerobic exercises (such as squats and jumping rope), you can also circuit train without adding the aerobic exercises at the gym or at home by moving quickly from one strength-training move to the next, reducing rest time and maximizing efficiency. The Best of the Rest: 4 More Tips for Strength-Training Efficiency
In his Advice to a Young Tradesman, Franklin said the way to wealth was dependent on two things: industry and frugality; that is, waste neither time nor money. The same might be said for your health. Incorporating these efficient workout strategies will help to maximize your fitness level with a minimal investment of time. These techniques may not lead to riches in dollars and cents but to something better—improved health, which is priceless.

Selected Sources
Brzycki, Matt and Fornicola, Fred. 2006. Dumbbell Training for Strength and Fitness. Blue River Press.

Franklin, Benjamin. 1905. Advice to a Young Tradesman. In Albert H. Smyth, ed., The Writing of Benjamin Franklin, vol. 2. New York: Macmillan.

Zhou, S. 2000. Chronic neural adaptations to unilateral exercise: Mechanisms of cross education. Exerc Sport Sci Rev 28: 177-184.

This article has been reviewed and approved by SparkPeople fitness expert, Jen Mueller, M.Ed., Certified Personal Trainer.