"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.
Why it works: Compound exercises train multiple muscle systems to work together rather than isolating them to work independently. Since that's how we tend to move in real life, it's a more functional way to strength train. But compound exercises can also help you get better results. They recruit more muscle fibers than isolation exercises and stimulate the release of anabolic (muscle-building) hormones such as human growth hormone, allowing you to lift heavier weights. They'll also save you time. Why do three sets of squats and three sets of overhead presses (six total sets) when you can put the two together and finish in half the time?
How to do it: Amplify your results in half the time by doubling up lower body exercises such as lunges and squats with upper body moves. A few examples to get you started include side lunges with a dumbbell press or dumbbell chest presses on a stability ball (to help work your core and balance) instead of a bench. Remember to start with simple movements and light weights to develop proper form and technique. You can add weight and complexity over time as your body adapts to this timesaving workout strategy.