Lack of time is commonly reported as a barrier to exercise participation. The perception of a lack of time for exercise can result from a belief that significant exercise time is required to experience benefits from resistance training. However, benefits in health and function can occur after only minimal amounts of resistance training. With this in mind, a group of researchers recently provided the following evidence-based guidelines for time-efficient resistance training workouts:
Prioritise bilateral exercises. Bilateral exercises are those in which both arms or both legs are used at the same time. By exercising both limbs at the same time, rather than one limb at a time (i.e., unilateral exercise), workout time will be reduced.
Prioritise multi-joint exercises. Multi-joint exercises are those in which movement occurs at two or more joints. An example of a multi-joint exercise is the overhead press. The overhead press involves movement at the shoulder and elbow. An example of a single-joint exercise is the biceps curl. The biceps curl involves movement only at the elbow. Multi-joint exercises are more time-efficient because they activate more muscles over a given time than single-joint exercises.
Use full joint range of motion. By using a full range of motion on all exercises, flexibility will improve. This will reduce workout time because it minimizes the need for stretching exercises within a workout.
Incorporate supersets or drop sets. A superset occurs when two exercises are performed in succession with limited rest between them. A drop set occurs when a gym goer completes one set of an exercise then immediately reduces the exercise load and quickly performs a second set of the same exercise without rest. Supersets and drop sets help to maximize training volume over a given amount of time.
Use resistances that will create acute muscle fatigue within 6 to 15 repetitions.
Accumulate 4 sets of exercise per major muscle group each week. For example, for chest and triceps muscles, complete 2 sets of bench press (a bilateral multi-joint exercise) on Monday and 2 more sets on Thursday.
APPLY THE STUDY TO YOUR VITRUVIAN TRAINING
Your Vitruvian device makes achieving recommendations for time-efficient workouts easy. The Vitruvian app contains a library of exercises. Many of these exercises are bilateral and multi-joint. The calibration repetitions before each exercise ensure full joint range of motion is achieved during each set. Moreover, “Time Under Tension” mode acts naturally as a sort of drop set because it reduces the resistance as muscle fatigue sets in.
To achieve recommended guidelines for time-efficient workouts with your Trainer+:
1) select a bilateral multi-joint exercise such as the “squat,” “deadlift,” “bench press,” “overhead press,” “bent over row,” or “upright row”
2) select “Time Under Tension” mode
3) select between 6 and 15 repetitions
4) select a resistance that is high enough to induce muscle fatigue
5) set the movement range of motion in the first 3 calibration repetitions
6) let the entire resistance stack on at the top of the movement
7) once at the bottom of the movement quickly pull back up on the resistance
8) repeat until all repetitions are performed
9) complete just one set of this exercise then select 2 or 3 other bilateral, multi-joint exercises
10) do the same or similar workout 4 times each week
Iversen VM, et al. No time to lift? Designing time-efficient training programs for strength and hypertrophy: a narrative review. Sports Medicine, 2021. DOI: 10.1007/s40279-021-01490-1.
Dr. James L. Nuzzo
Head of Exercise Science Research at Vitruvian
Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist