Cut Your Workout Time in Half

By , SparkPeople Blogger
How do you fit in the ideal amounts of cardio, strength training, stretching, balance exercises, and core training—without living in the gym?
Well, you could do multiple workouts a day: Cardio in the morning, Pilates at night. Strength training the next day and a yoga workout before bed.  Or you could do one really long workout per day, such as 30 minutes on the elliptical followed by 30 minutes of full-body weight training (stretching each time, of course). While both of these options will work, they also take a whole lot of time. And when "lack of time" is number one on the list of excuses people cite for not exercising, I'll give you one guess how far longer and more frequent workouts will get you.
How about we all start working out smarter instead of harder? When you combine the right elements of cardio, strength-training and flexibility into a single workout, you're in and out of the gym in half the time—and still getting the results you crave.
Think intensity!
Get more from your cardio workouts in less time by upping the intensity. As long as you have a solid base of fitness (you've been consistently exercising at a moderate aerobic level for a few several months), and you don't have any other restrictions that would require you to limit your intensity, you can start exercising harder (think: 80-85% of your max heart rate) for a shorter workout and get the same calorie-burning and health-boosting benefits in less time. Why go easy for an hour when you can pump up the workload and finish in half the time? Here are a few examples (based on a 150-pound woman and using's free Fitness Tracker estimates):
Exercise Calories Burned in 15 minutes
Walking 3 mph 57
Running 6 mph 165
Cycling 10 mph 98
Cycling 20 mph 273
Noticing how upping the speed more than doubles the calorie burn? What would take you 30 minutes to burn at the lower intensity can be done in half the time when you push yourself harder.
Use smart strength-training combos.
This is one of my favorite ways to speed through a workout. Instead of doing basic isolation moves, come up with creative ways to combine upper body and lower body toning exercises into a single move. So instead of standing still while doing an upper body exercise like a biceps curl, lateral raise or overhead press, think of ways you can combine that movement with a lower body action (think lunges, squats and bridges) simultaneously. So maybe you lunge while doing lateral raises, squat then push into an overhead press, or lie down to perform bridges while doing a chest press.
Combining upper body and lower body training like this has four major benefits:
  • You automatically work your core and your balance with every move (and in a functional way, too).
  • You burn more calories because you're activating more muscle fibers during every exercise (score!)
  • You work out for half the time it would take to do the same exercises one by one (double score!).
  • You'll elevate your heart rate more (by using more muscles), which can provide an aerobic benefit in addition to your strength training workout.
I used this smart "combos" technique (my favorite) when designing the workouts for the SparkPeople: 28 Day Boot Camp DVD, which features fun and interesting new combinations of upper and lower body exercises so you burn more calories and get a great, efficient workout in as little as 12 minutes. Check out a preview of some of these moves here.
Now what are you waiting for? Use these techniques, and I promise you will get all the fitness benefits you're looking for—while still having a life.
What is your favorite time-saving workout technique?

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