Do you ever find yourself going through the day feeling one step behind? When you finally leave work, you look at the clock and realize that your family expects you home in an hour. An hour! By the time you drive to the gym and get changed, that only leaves 30 minutes to exercise. Might as well skip it, right?

Maybe, you’re a busy mom who rises early to workout. You find yourself with a few valuable minutes of alone time before the family wakes up and the daily excitement ensues! How can you get a good workout from home, especially with no weights or gadgets?

Time is valuable. Perhaps you’ve heard the saying, “Time is money.” In today’s Top Tuesday, we’ll focus on four workout strategies that can give a great bang for your buck! If time is money, we want to spend it wisely, especially when we’re on a tight schedule.

4: Create a Circuit

When you’re short on time, circuit training is a great option. It keeps your heart rate up and can be done right at home. Circuit training involves going from one exercise to another with little to no recovery in between. Here is an example of a circuit that does not require equipment:

Circuit Example

Exercises in a circuit can be done based on number of repetitions or length of time. For example, you can decide to do 25 squats or do as many as you can in 30 seconds. That part is up to you. Once you’ve made it through the circuit, take a one to two-minute recovery and start again. The key to creating an effective circuit-training workout is to challenge yourself. If after 25 squats, you feel like you can do 50 more, then stopping at 25 is probably not the best thing. To change your body, you need to challenge it.

Circuit training is great when you’re in a crunch because it keeps you moving, burns calories, and can work multiple muscle groups in a short period of time. Speaking of time, you can make it as long or short as you want! If you only have 15 minutes, increase the intensity by choosing more difficult moves or lengthening the time of each exercise. You can also remove the recovery from the end and keep going through the circuit until the allotted time is up.

3: Do Compound Sets

In “Fitness: The Complete Guide,” Frederick C. Hatfield, PhD* explains the Compound Sets Training Principle as, “Alternating two exercises for one body part with little rest between sets.” Say you arrive at the gym late from work, and it’s chest day. Utilizing compound sets will allow you to complete more exercises during your time crunch. Instead of waiting for your muscles to recover enough to do another set of bench press, consider moving to a chest fly in the meantime. Here, you’re giving your chest the extra challenge of performing during recovery, but in a slightly different way. When you’ve done a set of the chest fly, prepare for your second set of bench press. I encourage you to take some recovery after the second exercise before returning to the first.

Keep in mind that exercises tend to feel harder when done as compound sets. Because you’re working the same muscle group, the muscles are already fatigued when you go to the second exercise. To help with this, you can choose to do compound sets that change the way the primary muscle group is working (such as doing an incline/decline chest exercise after the flat bench), or relieve secondary muscles (like the triceps getting a rest during the chest fly), but it will still feel harder than doing the lifts separately. In either case, don’t be discouraged if you find yourself using lighter weights in this format.

2: Utilize Supersets

Supersets are similar to compound sets except they focus on working opposing muscle groups. Supersets are a fantastic training technique to maximize your gym time, especially since they involve even more muscle groups than the compound sets! Here’s an example of a superset:

Superset Example

You can use supersets to a larger degree by using bigger muscle groups, like a chest exercise followed by a back. When you’re short on time, supersets will allow you to stay moving AND give your muscles a little more recovery than the compound sets. Where in the compound sets, you’re training the chest back-to-back, with supersets, the muscles used in the first exercise will get some recovery while you do the second. This will help keep your strength level up with both lifts involved.

Bear in mind that because your opposing muscles are somewhat involved in the first lift, the second exercise may still feel a little harder than normal. In biceps curls, for example, the triceps are engaged on the way down (especially if you control the movement). Therefore, working them in superset fashion may feel more intense than if you performed them separately. Plus, your expending more energy faster by eliminating some recovery time.

You can get a good bang for your buck by working opposing muscle groups together. If you have a few days a week to workout, consider trying supersets. They keep your heart rate up by minimizing rest time and allow you to work multiple muscle groups in a short period of time.

1: Focus on Compound Movements

This tip is helpful for an at-home circuit or gym lifting session. Compound movements are those that involve multiple joints, therefore engaging multiple muscle groups. These movements are great because they get your heart rate up and force more muscles to work. When you’re in a time crunch, working multiple muscle groups at once is a great way to condense your workout.

Consider a pushup, for example. Pushups are a compound movement because the elbow and shoulder joints both move during the exercise. In order to bend and straighten the elbow, your arm muscles engage. To move the shoulder joint, your chest and shoulder muscles kick into gear. Plus, you get the added bonus of core engagement to keep your body straight.

If you only have 15 minutes and you want to work your legs, instead of doing leg extensions, leg curls, calf raises, and a gluteal exercise, which could take much longer than the time available, consider doing a compound movement. Walking lunges, for example, work all four of these muscle groups (quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, and glutes) in one exercise. You can even carry dumbbells for an added strength challenge.

Thank you for reading about these four great time-saving workout options. Which is your favorite? If you haven’t tried any yet, which sounds the most intriguing? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

If you’re looking for additional training ideas, here’s an upper body superset workout you can take to the gym. Feel free to adjust the number of repetitions to fit your personal goals.

Upper Body Superset Workout



*Hatfield, F. (2011). “Fitness: The Complete Guide.” Carpinteria, CA: International Sports Science Association, p.402.

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