You and I both know how busy the Holidays are. All the office parties, last minute shopping, and tying up annual reports is a constant attack of your training, leaving little time for the gym.
With these demands holding you hostage, how are you supposed to train, let alone build muscle and lose body fat?
Further, how can you defend your body from the endless onslaught of Christmas cookies and Holiday theed libations?
Don’t worry I have you covered. You can cut your gym time, down to 30 minutes while using those extra cookies to grow muscle rather than your waistline. The Most Important Factor for Time-Efficient Training
To maximize your time in the gym you must use the exercises that require the most muscle mass. That means big, multi-joint movements, like pushes, pulls, squats, and hinges.
Since these moves use the most weight and stimulate the most muscle, they’ll create the biggest anabolic response to promote muscle growth and fat loss.
The Top Five Exercises for Training in a Time Crunch
- Front Squat:
The front squat is the ultimate bang-for-your-buck exercise and provides exactly what most men are lacking: Lower body, core, and postural strength.
Rather than a typical back squat, the front squat has the bar situated on the front of the shoulders, providing you with three huge benefits:
- Your spine stays more vertical compared to a back squat. This means greater core engagement and less shear stress—helping prevent flexion based back injuries.
- Most guys have posture like Smeagle from Lord of the Rings, leading to poor mobility and possible shoulder injuries. To front squat, you must hold the elbows parallel to the ground.
Holding the elbows up works postural muscles like the traps and rhomboids to hold position and stabilize the bar. These muscles retract your shoulders; making them stronger will provide stability to your shoulders and improve posture.
- Greater depth during front squats to back squats. Because of the bar placement, your core is activated to control spinal position during squats. In most cases this increased stability manifests into letting you squat deeper without flexing through your lower back.
Further, increased depth increases muscle activation in lower body muscles like your glutes, quads, and hamstrings [Caterisano et al]. Increased muscle activation means you’ll be able to stimulate more muscle with less weight compared to a higher squat with more weight.
- Incline Neutral Grip Dumbbell Bench Press
What lifter doesn’t have a bench press variation in their workout? That’s what I thought.
The neutral grip will smoke your chest, triceps, and shoulders while reducing shoulder stress compared to the barbell bench. The neutral grip, (think palms facing each other), may decrease crowding in the shoulder capsule. Less crowding can result in less shoulder friction, impingement, and pain.
In a typical dumbbell press most guys end up arching their back, essentially turning a flat dumbbell press to a decline press. This helps you lift more weight due to a shorter range of motion, but also changes muscle activation. By putting the bench up 15-30 degrees, one or two notches on most adjustable benches, you’ll flatten out your bench press and improve pec engagement.
From the example, simply rotate your palms so they face each other:
Men should be capable of handling themselves, and their bodyweight, in any situation. Moving your body through space in exercises like chin-ups, push-ups, jumps, and sprints is a sign of relative strength: how strong you are for your size.
No exercise is a greater test of your relative strength than the chin-up. As a bonus, set of muscular lats accentuates the coveted “v-taper” appearance, making your shoulders appear wider and waist smaller.
1.) Select grip and width. Depress your scapulae, as if tucking your shoulder blades in your back pocket.
2.) Hold the bar with tension maintained in the lats and shoulders while squeezing glutes.
3.) Drive the elbows down, pulling the elbows to neutral.
4.) Pull your chest to the bar.
5.) lower your body under control, extending the arms to near lockout position.
6.) Maintain tension and repeat for prescribed reps.
Chin-ups are an essential exercise for training in a time crunch —they require minimal equipment, test your relative strength, and add lean muscle to your lats.
The deadlift, picking a heavy weight off the ground and standing up, is the most primal movement in the weight room.
Don’t be fooled by simplicity, Deadlifts use nearly every muscle in your body. Your glutes, hamstrings, lower back, traps, abdominals and forearms all work double-time to hold the bar close to your body and prevent your spine from flexing. On top of that, you still need to stand all the way up and extend your hips before restarting each rep.
With so many muscles working together each rep burns tons of calories while stimulating huge releases of anabolic hormones to build muscle and lose fat.
When you’re short on time stimulating the most muscle as fast as possible is the key to success. In this case, the deadlift reins king.
5.) Split Stance One-Arm Dumbbell Row
We all hate to admit it, but tend to train what we see in the mirror. Quads? Yes. Abs? For days. Biceps? Of course.
Unfortunately, we tend to neglect the exercises we need for those we enjoy.
Luckily, I have an exercise that challenges with your core and your biceps, secondarily to giving you what you need: A stronger back.
Rows strength the lats, rhomboids, and traps: muscles of your back that retract your shoulders, giving you good posture and filling out your Holiday sweaters. Sounds good, right?
Well, we can make it even better by using a split stance.
1) Away from the bench and assume a split stance with the back-knee bent and the majority of your weight on the front foot. Keep the back foot and knee in alignment throughout the exercise to prevent compensation.
2) Pick up your dumbbell with the working arm and position the body over the bench with your non-working arm extended and actively pushed into the bench. This creates stability and prevents rotation in the trunk.
3) Allow a slight-pre stretch of the working arm to pre-stretch the lats, traps, and rhomboids.
4) Drive the elbow back by pulling with the lat.
5) Push the non-rowing arm into the bench, maintain neutral spine, and return the dumbbell to the starting position.
With this row, you’ll strengthen your posterior chain and core to prevent the dreaded flexion-rotation injuries like your uncle Ben who threw his out his back shoveling snow.
By strengthening the biggest muscles in your body and reducing injury the dumbbell split row is an exercise that needs to be in your routine.
Maximal Results, Minimal Time
When you find yourself in a time crunch, simplify. Big, basic exercises that stimulate the most muscle mass are your best bet to make progress when the clock is ticking against you.
Caterisano, A., R.F. Moss, T.K. Pellin-ger, K. Woodruff, V.C. Lewis, W. Booth, and T. Khadra.The effect of back squat depth on the EMG activity of 4 superﬁcial hip and thigh muscles.J. Strength Cond.Res. 16(3):428–432. 2002.