Embrace The Time Crunch

When I scroll through my mental databank of ‘great’ workouts, the top ones in my memory tend to be shorter than usual.  Frequently, the reduced length of these workouts wasn’t on purpose, but rather because I had a commitment to be somewhere else.  That, or the gym was about to close on me.  While these aren’t necessarily quick workouts, they come in at just under an hour.  I’ve found that when I’m strapped for time, I pick better exercises, move through the workout with more purpose, and leave the gym feeling really good.  I’m usually covered with sweat and trying to catch my breath, which is usually a good thing.  If you’re stuck between skipping a workout due to time constraints and modifying what you had planned for, I’d suggest modifying your plan and heading to the gym.  Embrace the time crunch!

When the clock is ticking before your workout starts, it’s certainly stressful to complete a great training session.  Most of the time, we’re likely to scrap the exercises that we dislike or hate, which tend to be the ones we need the most.  Who wants to work on the stuff they’re the worst at?!  Instead of haphazardly throwing out entire sections of a workout,  I’d instead recommend using some better ‘bang for your buck’ exercises and movements to push the pace and accomplish all of your goals.

Usually, the first thing to go is going to be warming up, which most people need to do more of.  You’ll walk right past the foam roller, skip your mobility/flexibility/activation/movement prep work, and just jump right into sets.  Not a good idea!  Your brain knows that you need to get in and out, but your body doesn’t.  It still requires a good warm-up, but you may opt to choose some catch-all movements over more specific drills.  If you don’t have the time to work ankle, hip, and T-spine mobility in separate drills, why not try something like this awesome combo move from Eric Cressey:

Combination moves such as that High Knee Walk to Spiderman with Hip Lift and Overhead Reach provide a great mobility warm-up in a short period of time.  Recently, I’ve been recommending a combination TRX pull matrix and a push-up matrix to some of the folks at the JCC to warm-up the upper body in a jiffy.  Here’s an example of what this circuit might include:

  • TRX Overhead Reach
  • TRX Face Pull
  • TRX Scarecrow
  • Hindu Push-Up w/ Breath
  • T-Rotation Push-Up

In as little as 2 circuits of 6 reps per exercise, you’ll certainly feel your chest open up and your shoulder blades tighten down on your rib cage.  If you don’t have access to a TRX  (or other suspension trainer), you can use scapular wall/floor slides, cable facepulls, and band pullaparts as replacement exercises; they’ll work just as well.

As a matter of fact, I used a combination of this upper body matrix and the above lower body exercise to warm-up a recent high school grad for his last workout before he moves into his dorm.  Seth wanted to fit in a quick training session before he made his round of farewells around town, but he wasn’t exactly sure what to do.  In about 10 minutes, he was dripping sweat and ready to do some work!  In the 20 minutes after that, I had Seth perform a slower tri-set of exercises focusing on strength, followed by a quick 10 minute finisher.  The tri-set consisted of  trap bar deadlifts, inverted rows, and push-ups with a 4 second eccentric.  During this set, he pulled a 5RM without even realizing, which is a nice effect of getting people excited about their workouts!  After warming up and completing that group of exercises 4 times, it was on a a Prowler sprint/chin-up finisher.**

In about 45 minutes, Seth kicked some butt.  It was nice to get home and see this as his Facebook status: Illest gym sesh. Ever.

Personally, I did something relatively similar today.  I had about an hour to complete a full body workout, and I had to complete some speed deadlifts against bands today.  I had some quick upper body fillers in between the deadlift sets, and after 6 triples (6×3), there was about 20 minutes left to go.  In that 20 minute period, I packed in clean grip reverse lunges, chin-ups, and a military press.  If you’d like to take care of 3 great exercises all using a power rack, those three will have you feeling like you’re running a marathon; uphill.  Without looking sickly thin.

Sometimes, we’re down to 30 minutes, 20, or even 15.  In that’s the case, I’d suggest just a few exercises that can really take care of your body.  If you have access to a bar or Iron Gym, I’d use either a dumbbell or kettlebell swing, a chin-up, and a Turkish Get-Up.  If you need to drop down to two, you can drop the swing and focus on the strength of the chin-up, or you can drop the chin up and pair the Get-Up and swing for a great conditioning effect.

If you’re down to a single exercise, the Turkish Get Up is probably the best in the world.  Learn this one, and you’re set to workout in just a few minutes.  Here’s a video of the man Gray Cook teaching it for TPI:

**If you have access to a Prowler, can complete a decent number of chin-ups in a given workout and think your conditioning is top notch, you might want to try this one out.  It caught me by surprise on Tuesday’s workout, so I’m passing the love on to you!



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