10 Ways to Stop Wasting Time in The Gym

“Oh yeah, I don’t workout because I just don’t have enough time” 

This is about the worst thing you can say to anyone in the strength and conditioning field because they WILL call your bluff. The minimum amount of time needed for an effective bout of physical activity is only 10 minutes and if you truly don’t have those 10 minutes in your day then something IS actually wrong.

So for those of you who’s favorite excuse is “not having enough time” (despite almost certainly having the time), or you’re just looking to go ahead and shorten your gym sessions overall, here’s 10 ways your trainer will tell you to stop wasting time in the gym.

1. Ditch Your Phone 

If you do nothing else on this list, do this. Ditching your phone is the easiest way to cut unnecessary time out of your training sessions. Once the distraction of a phone is gone, all that’s left to focus on is your training. You know…the thing you came here to do in the first place. And no none of those “I’m just using my phone to time my rest periods” excuses, that still leaves room for temptation. Just bring a watch…and not a smart watch either…(think one of those old digital watches that you have to press a button just so the screen lights up for all of 5 seconds before you can’t read it again). Once you realize how boring twiddling your thumbs is between sets with no phone, you’ll fully appreciate how fast you can actually get through a workout.

2. Time Your Rest Periods (For Real this Time) 

“Yeah, I take about 3 to 5 minutes of rest per set”

Do you though?

When did your timer start? Immediately after you finished your set? Or maybe you waited until you refilled your water, went to the bathroom, found the perfect hype song for your next set, oh and talked to your bro about your plans for the weekend.

Respect your rest periods. Your watch starts as soon as you finish your set, and your following set should be starting at the very moment your rest period ends. Ditch the “5 minute rest periods” that were actually 8-10 minutes and you can shave 20 to 30 minutes off a workout easy.

3. Simplify Your Warm-Up 

You don’t need to warm-up and “mobilize” for 30 minutes prior to your warm-up to have a safe and effective warm-up. In fact, warm-ups can be as simple as the main movement you intend to do for the day.

If you have heavy barbell squats, it is perfectly safe and effective to start with bodyweight squats, move to the empty barbell, and then start slowly adding weight.

The requirements for a warm-up are 1. They move from low intensity gradually up to higher intensity 2. They increase our body temperature and 3. They warm-up and activate the muscles we intend to use for the day. This doesn’t need to be complicated. If you’re strapped for time ditch the long winded warm-up routine and get straight to the point.

4. Double Check Your Programming 

Do you really need all the exercises in your programming?

If you don’t have much time to train there’s nothing wrong with sticking to your basic compound movements like the squat, bench, deadlift, and overhead press for the bulk of your training. These are effective movements to train multiple muscle groups at once, and can help you shave time that would have been spent on multiple different isolation movements. Consider those movements which will be the most “bang for your buck” and prioritize them before adding anything else to your routine.

5. Switch Up Your Training Style 

Know you’re about to have a tight schedule for a few months? Consider picking a style of programming that may work well with that tight schedule.

For example, if you are a non-competitive lifter switching from strength focused programming to hypertrophy focused programming might be a good option for you. Hypertrophy training involves naturally shorter rest periods, generally speaking lighter weights (less time spent loading a bar), and the workouts are usually faster to complete overall.

Plotting out future programming in accordance with how much time you will have is a great way to get the most out of your training over the course of the year.

6. Try Giant Sets 

So you’re strapped for time but still want to get a lot of work done? Giant sets may be the answer.

Giant sets are basically supersets on steroids. Whereas a superset may have you jumping between two exercises at once giant sets can have you going back to back between 4 or more exercises. Usually 4 opposing exercises will be used instead of 4 exercises for the same muscle group. An example could be moving from a leg movement, to a push movement, to a pull movement, to a core movement, but you’ll see a variety of combinations. Once you finish all of your exercises then you take your rest and repeat for however many sets you need to get through.

Keep in mind this will add a conditioning component to your strength training and you may struggle to handle weights you are normally used because of this. The payoff however, is just how much work you can get done in a short amount of time.

7. Stay Focused

If you are training…you are training. 

Leave all other worries, stressors, and tasks to be completed at the door as soon as you walk in the gym, and don’t pick them back up until you leave.

Focus keeps you on point timing your rest periods, moving from exercise to exercise efficiently, and…bonus…you’ll get a nice performance boost out of it if your mind is 100% dedicated to the task on hand and not drifting off someplace else.

8. Force Your Way to Efficiency

Nothing seem to be working for you in terms of shortening your gym sessions? Make it so your only choice is to have a short gym session.

What I mean is purposefully schedule your gym sessions into your day where you know you have a limited amount of time to work with. Want to get your workout down to 45 minutes? Place it somewhere in your day where you only have…45 minutes. This could mean scheduling an early morning workout before work, or a quick session on a midday break. Whatever it has to be to force you to work efficiently.

Granted, this only works if you have a certain type of personality. For some this will just cause them to skip their workout altogether, but for those of you that like a bit of pressure…this might be a good option.

9. Take a Class

So maybe you’ve deemed yourself hopeless at getting your training time down. I promise you a good strength coach will not be.

Trainers have a schedule to keep, and it’s unprofessional for them to go over their allotted time for a particular class. If the class says it’s 1 hour, you can be sure you’re only going to be there for 1 hour.

Not only will this keep you on a schedule, you can also learn some of the tricks the trainer is using to make sure the class get’s all of their prescribed training done in a shorter period of time, and use that to create your own workouts for the future.

10. Consider Training From Home

For some people the biggest time consumer could simply be getting to and from their gym. Even a short commute of 15 mins doubles down to an additional 30 minutes to your workout and if this is enough to cause you to miss your training sessions it could be worth considering if training at home is for you.

Obviously the current time period is rough for building a home gym from scratch, but even if you have the bare minimum at your house just incase driving to your gym won’t be an option for the day, it’s better than not training.

Matt Molloy

Matt Molloy

I'm a graduate the University of Pittsburgh with a major in Exercise Science. I’m a local guy (North Penn) and athletics has dominated my life. I've led teams in basketball, baseball, soccer, golf and my passion, long distance running. I've been strength training for 6 years with a focus in power-lifting but have recently stretched to strongman since joining the pride here at the Den. When I’m not in the gym I enjoy, spending time with my friends, music, and relaxing and playing some video games.