3 Tips for a Fast Strength Workout
Many people forego strength training due to lack of time in their busy schedules, new research suggests.
Emphasising multi-joint movements, incorporating supersets and drop sets, and using dynamic warmups before your strength sessions are all ways to save time in your workouts.
There’s plenty of research emphasising the importance of strength training for runners, but let’s face it: Who has the time?
The answer is that you do, with a few key strategies.
Exercise researchers from Norway and the U.S. recently put together a cheat sheet for time-efficient training, published as a research review in the journal Sports Medicine. Citing lack of time as the top concern among people who want to strength train, they came up with a streamlined set of tips for a fast workout that can offer the benefits of traditional strength training but without the time investment.
Here are the key takeaways that can help you train efficiently.
1. Emphasise Multi-Joint, Bilateral Movements
As much as we all love the “leg day” memes, the standard way of training is a time sink due to specialisation—and that’s not including warmups and stretching—the researchers suggest.
Instead of the usual recommendation to train two to three times weekly, it’s possible to achieve strength goals by just training once a week instead, according to study co-author Brad Schoenfeld, Ph.D., C.S.C.S., assistant professor in exercise science at CUNY Lehman College and author of Science and Development of Muscle Hypertrophy.
He told Runner’s World that the way to make it work is by focusing on a full range of motion, multi-joint movements, and bilateral moves—which means working both sides simultaneously.
You’ll still be training by muscle group—yes, you get your leg day, but it’s also arm day, back day, and core day—and doing about four sets per group, using a six to 15 rep range per set. The researchers suggested this trio of exercises as a starting point:
- Leg press/squat
- Upper body pulling exercise, like a pull-up
- Upper body pushing exercise, like a bench press
2. Streamline Your Sets
Another variable that can make a difference, Schoenfeld said, is to focus on a couple of efficient set types.
Go for supersets, which are two or more exercises performed back to back with just a short rest between them, as well as drop sets, which involve using a heavier weight and higher repetitions and then “dropping” down in weight until the muscle is fatigued.
“If you’re new to strength training, the advice would be to start with relatively lighter loads for supersets and drop sets, and use a higher rep range,” Schoenfeld said. “That will get you used to the movement and keep you in proper form.”
3. Use Dynamic Warmups
Although it can be tempting to skip a warmup if you’re short on time, that’s just going to sabotage you in the long run, Schoenfeld said. But that doesn’t mean you have to do an extensive sequence.
Instead, plan out which training exercises you’ll be doing and create a warmup that’s similar to an unloaded, gentle version of that. Not only does that warm up your muscles, but it fires up the neuromuscular signals that prep you for exercise. For example, if you’ll be doing back squats, hip thrusts, and renegade rows, warm up with bodyweight squats, glute bridges, and inchworms.
Also, Schoenfeld added, you can limit warmups to a few reps before performing each round of exercises, rather than doing a longer pre-workout warmup. And unless it feels good to you, stretching before or after is usually not necessary for strength training, he said.