Do you have a lot going on outside of the gym? Can’t dedicate hours to the gym each week?
If you are like most people and don’t have 6 days available to dedicate to the gym then it’s important to figure out how to maximize your time spent in the gym.
A lot of people just think they won’t be able to make any progress if they can’t dedicate a ton of time to the gym.
And this just isn’t true.
Especially if you have been training less than a few years, if you are more advanced you can still make progress but you will just have to be smarter about your approach.
In saying that, it’s important to realize that someone who can dedicate 8 hours to the gym is going to see better results than someone who can only spend 4 hours in the gym per week.
With online clients who don’t have a ton of time to dedicate to the gym, we just have to be more strategic with their program to ensure they are hitting their big rocks.
The cool thing is that just because you can only dedicate a certain amount to the gym now, doesn’t mean it will always have to be this way.
In this blog I am going to go over tips to maximize your muscle growth if you are strapped for time as well as some nutrition/lifestyle tips to maximize muscle growth.
➡️Use mostly compound exercises
Compound exercises are exercises that use multiple muscle groups at one time. Think things like squats, rows, bench press, pull-ups, stiff leg, or regular deadlifts. These are great because they work a good amount of your body for every rep you do so you can maximize your time in the gym.
My favorite compound exercises to program for online clients:
Quads: Squats or leg press.
Hamstrings: Deadlift variations like romanaian deadlifts or stiff leg deads.
Back: Pull ups or bent rows
Chest: Incline or flat bench
Bicep: Barbell curls
You can use isolation exercises from time to time based on how much extra time you have, but more of your exercises should be compound.
HERE is a blog going over the important movement patterns you should focus on.
➡️Choose exercises/techniques that work best for you
While most of your training should be built around compounds, it would also be a good idea to find exercises that really work for you. Maybe a back squat doesn’t work your quads as well as the leg press or lunges do. Then do those.
You won’t get this perfect right away and there will be some trial and error. But we all have those exercises that really hit the target muscle group, you should do those.
Too many people hear that they need to do certain exercises and then get married to them, only to find out the exercise SUCKS for them.
This will also improve as you work on your technique. Maybe a certain grip works best for you, or a certain foot placement. Again this comes down to trial and error and not just mimicking what you see on social media.
➡️Minimize warm-up times
Compound exercises should make up the majority of your exercises, but try to find exercises that limit warm-up time when you can.
For someone who is new to weight training things like squats and deadlifts can be GREAT because they hit so many muscle groups and provide a ton of stimulus.
However as you advance the weight required can be pretty large and this requires a good amount of time warming up and putting on/taking off plates.
That’s why finding a technique that works best for you and one that requires you to use the least amount of weight with the most stimulus can be helpful for people who are more advanced.
For example, instead of doing conventional deadlifts which require you to do 315 plus pounds, maybe you switch to a stiff leg deadlift with a technique that only requires you to 200 pounds to get a good stimulus in your hamstrings. By doing this you save a TON of time warming up and putting on and taking off plates.
➡️Bias lighter rep ranges
The 5-10 rep range is GREAT when you are short on time, but it also requires a lot of time warming up. If you are newer to weight training this is a GREAT rep range since the weight you will be using wont require a ton of time warming up and putting on/taking off plates.
However, as you advance something like the 10-20 or 20-30 rep range doesn’t require as much time to warm up or set up, AND you can also use a slightly shorter rest time with the lighter ranges, which will ultimately save time .
Not to mention the 10-20 range is a GREAT hypertrophy range to get a good stimulus but also can be better for fatigue management and injury risk.
Maybe you do one exercise in the 5-10 rep range depending on the time you can allocate to the gym, but then the rest of your training is in the 10-20 range and 20-30.
Using supersets that work opposing muscle groups can also save you time. This probably isn’t the greatest for advanced trainees, but if you are an intermediate this can save a ton of time and it can also increase your calorie expenditure during weight training.
Studies have shown that super setting with opposing muscle groups did not impair hypertrophy.
However it’s probably best to save these for smaller groups, but if you are really strapped for time then super setting opposing muscle groups is great.
For example, a chest exercise with a back exercise or a triceps exercise with a bicep exercise.
Another tip here is to make sure you prioritize the muscle group you want to grow.
With someone who has a lot of time to dedicate to training working from lower intensities to higher intensities is common with online clients, however, if they are short on time you don’t have to worry about generating too much fatigue so we have them consistently work closer to failure (think 0-2 reps in reserve).
Also as someone who is more advanced, you will need to train at higher intensities to continue making progress.
Things outside of the gym
Training is half the battle, you still must have a good plan for outside the gym as well to grow muscle, ESPECIALLY if you are more advanced.
Here are some of the big rocks we have online clients focus on outside of the gym if they are strapped for time:
Make sure you are getting your protein in. Aim to go no more than 4-6 hours without a source of protein. Some good sources on the go are:
- Protein powder
- Protein bars
- Beef jerky
- Greek yogurt
- Tuna packets
If you need more help with protein read this blog HERE.
➡️Monitor your bodyweight
Depending on what your goal is at the time, its important to track your bodyweight to make sure it isn’t trending one way or the other too fast or in the opposite way of what your goal is.
Take it at least 3x per week. First thing in the morning, post bathroom, pre food or drink.
If you are strapped for time then that probably means finding time to sleep may be a challenge and you are probably a bit more stressed than most.
This means placing a greater emphasis on sleep as it is VERY important for everyone, but especially for you.
Studies have shown that one night of sleep restriction can reduce muscle protein synthesis by 18% the next day.
Aim for at least 6 hours. Also look to improve your sleep quality if getting more sleep isn’t possible for you.
Lastly, just realize that when you are strapped for time your training probably wont be as effective as when you could dedicate hours to the gym, but the good news is that this doesn’t mean its forever, or maybe it is, but either way you can either make the most of your situation or not.
The choice is yours!
If you need more help setting up your training/nutrition program if you are strapped for time then click the HERE and lets get to work.