We all know the benefits of a regular strength training program—improved muscular strength and power, enhanced bone density, increased metabolism and improvement of daily tasks, but sometimes finding the time to squeeze in a workout can be challenging.
Not to worry—you don't need marathon sessions in the gym to reap the benefits of strength training. The key to effective strength workouts is intensity—it shouldn't be an endurance contest. Here's how to get the most out of your workout in minimal time:
Fundamental Movement Patterns
Many strength-training workouts have roots in bodybuilding training methodologies. Nothing necessarily wrong with that, except that bodybuilding programs will take some time since they are based on volume to promote muscular hypertrophy.
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Instead, think of how we move on a daily basis—we squat, lunge, step, push, pull, and brace (or stabilize) our bodies throughout the day. These movements use muscles in a coordinated fashion and can be incorporated in your training programs.
Remember, the key to strength training is intensity, so keep moving between sets. For example, after a lower body exercise, immediately get started with an upper body pulling exercise. Then when you are done, go back to the lower body exercise. This will save time and keep the intensity high.
Select Challenging Weights
If your program calls for 10 repetitions, the 10th repetition should be extremely challenging and it should be nearly impossible to get 11 repetitions. This may take a little trial and error, and you should always focus on your form, but the last couple of repetitions need to be tough.
Choose Compound Exercises
Compound exercises involve multiple muscle groups. For example, pull-ups work your back muscles, your shoulders and your arms in an integrated manner. Pull-downs, rows, and dumbbell presses offer the same benefit.
Consider Full-Body Movements
Full-body movements offer a lot of bang for your buck, in terms of benefit and will save time. Cleans, snatches, squat-and-presses, medicine ball throws and other similar exercises can literally work your entire body all at once. These exercises are also ideal for increasing your power. If you are unfamiliar with them, however, it might be a good idea to get instruction from a qualified trainer or coach.