Fitting in time to workout each day can be a huge challenge, which is why so many of us want to maximize workouts and what we get out of them. Everyone wants to get the absolute most out of our exercise routines, even when we're short on time. And the good news is more and more studies show that we actually get far more benefits from shorter burst of high intensity training than we do from longer periods of repetitive motion (i.e: an hour and a half on the elliptical while perusing a magazine).
A study out of the National Institute of Health found that there is a correlation between short bursts of high intensity workouts and better cardiovascular and metabolic health when compared to longer periods of moderate exercise. Short bursts of high intensity training are also strongly associated with burning fat, and are regularly recommended by personal trainers and fitness experts.
Basically, it's the quality of a workout, not the length, that really makes a difference when it comes to our health and fitness, so you should never feel as though time is your main barrier to feeling good. If you're on the lookout for ways to get the most out of your workouts, here are seven super time efficient exercise moves you can incorporate into your routine.
1. Maximize Your Incline
In an article for Women's Running, fitness contributor Jenny Sugar recommended simply raising the incline on your typical workout if you usually use a treadmill or elliptical, or just incorporating a hill into your daily walk. According to former personal trainer and muscle physiology expert Luanne Voza in an article for LIVESTRONG, "When walking uphill, your hip flexors work harder to lift your knees higher to walk on an incline. There is an increased resistance on your buttocks to bend and extend your legs to lift your body higher," and that, "your abdomen must contract to keep your body upright to avoid arching your back so that your body is not perpendicular to the inclined surface."
Basically, your body is working harder when it's walking uphill, so you're going to be challenging your muscles more. Also, if burning calories is one of your fitness goals, walking at an incline definitely increases calories burned in any given amount of time.
2. Try Interval Training
Interval training is widely considered a great way to maximize efficiency during a workout. According to the Mayo Clinic, all interval training means is incorporating short bursts of high-intensity cardio in between lower intensity movements, known as the "recovery" period. You could walk for two minutes, jog for a minute, or jog for two minutes, and sprint for 30 seconds for a total of 15 minutes, and that would technically be considered interval training.
According to the American College of Sports Medicine, interval training gives a person the same results as a longer endurance workout, but in a shorter amount of time, and that we typically burn six to 15 percent more calories overall when you factor in the body's recovery period.
3. Do Exercises That Work Several Areas At Once
Sugar also recommended exercises that work on more than one muscle group at a time to maximize time spent exercising. She mentioned plank variations, or combining cardio with kettlebells or weights as good options.
In an article on BestHealthMag.ca, author of the book 28 Day Body Shapeover Brad Schoenfeld recommended what he calls "multi-joint moves," like squats and lunges. "Since these moves involve a large number of muscles, they’re more efficient than single joint moves, such as leg extensions, leg curls, or flys,” he said. "You don’t have to do as many repetitions to develop the same number of muscles.” And like Sugar, he also recommended doing moves that combine more than one muscle group at once, like combining lunges with bicep curls.
4. Sprint The Stairs
In an article for MotherNatureNetwork.com, Judd Handler, author of Living Healthy: 10 Steps To Looking Younger, Losing Weight, And Feeling Great, said that running up stairs is a great way to utilize several major muscle groups at once. After warming up, he says to, "climb a deep flight of stairs. Skip every other step and make sure you are pushing off with your entire foot and activating the buttocks and hips as you push off. If your heart is pounding at the top, rest for 30 seconds until your breathing is back to normal or almost back to normal. Perform a set of pushups until near failure at the top of the steps." He says to repeat for 15 minutes, and "you'll feel like you've been at the gym for an hour."
5. Jump Rope
For an alternative to running up stairs, Handler recommended jumping rope. He said to jump until you reach 100, go into a downward facing dog yoga stretch, finish with a set of squats, and repeat for 15 minutes. This is especially helpful if you live in an apartment or don't have a good set of stairs at home.
If you're short on time, or are trying to fit in some super efficient moves between other tasks, then just doing a few squats is a fantastic option. On his website, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist Bret Contreras, says, "The squat is THE primary foundational movement in strength training and it will assist the vast majority of women in achieving their health, strength, and physique goals." He also notes that squats help elevate our metabolisms and use a lot of different muscle groups.
7. Maximize Your Nutrition
OK, this one isn't technically an exercise, but it's super important for any exercise program. "If you want to maximize your workout, you must maximize your nutrition,” said Jon-Erik Kawamoto in an article for BestHealthMag.ca. He recommended a scoop of protein powder in a glass of milk with toast before a workout, and a scoop of protein power in a glass of orange juice after. "You have to replenish your energy stores and rebuild the muscle you just broke down," he said. You also never want to skip meals or workout on an empty stomach, as then you truly won't be getting the most out of the time you're putting in.
Fitting in time to work out can seem impossible some days, but just remember that you definitely don't have to work out for hours a day to see strength and health benefits. A mere 15 minutes can be enough for some serious benefits!