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How can I make time for the gym?

Trying to keep consistent with your gym attendance can often be tricky because life can often be tricky. Between work, family, and other commitments, you may feel that you just don't have enough time to spend an hour or more in the gym -- and you may be right.

Here are a few tips for getting those gym sessions in when it feels like the clock is working against you.

Make the Gym a Social Event

This one won't be equally applicable to everyone; mainly because some people will have social circles that are deeply invested in the fitness lifestyle and love training, while others will have friendship groups who consider time in the gym to be about as fun as staring at a brick wall.

If you're lucky enough to have gym-initiated friends, invite them to train with you at least once or twice a week. You'll be able to spot each other, push each other to new PRs, crack some jokes and have a good time. Not only will this make your time in the gym more enjoyable, but it will also likely make your training more effective, while doubling up as social time than you may have otherwise spent down at the pub.

If your friends aren't up for hitting the gym, you have a couple of options. Firstly, you could try to convince at least one or two to give it a try, but if all else fails you could join a fitness class and pick up a few extra gym-going pals there.

Do Shorter Workouts

There's a thing that often happens to people who have been training for a while. They wake up one day and find that they've started spending absolute ages in the gym.

This can be pretty understandable. A beginner trainee, handling light weights, will generally need less rest time and may not be too hung up on squeezing in all the best accessory exercises to help their deadlift or bench press 1 rep max improve a fraction faster.

At some point though, the rest times are liable to grow, the exercises and sets to increase, and before you know it, what started as a 30-minute workout could end up being a 2-hour long affair.

There are several reasons why long workouts can be a problem. For one, if you're keeping the intensity high all the time, you might be doing harm to your heart, according to one 2012 study.[1]

For another thing, there's some evidence to suggest that short workouts can be just as effective as longer ones (at least in certain areas), meaning much of that extra time is simply time wasted.[2]

So, how can you reduce the time you spend training?

Introduce Supersets

Supersets involve completing a set of one exercise, and then going straight to a set of another exercise without taking a rest. Normally you'd do this by switching between two exercise which work opposing muscle groups (such as pushing and pulling exercises) to prevent your performance in either exercise from suffering significantly.

Not only will supersetting cut out the time you'd normally spend on rest, while still allowing each muscle group to recover before its next set, but it'll also keep your heart rate elevated and introduce a cardio element to your strength training.

Do More Frequent Split Training

There's a big debate in the strength training world about whether full body workouts or "body part split" training sessions are more effective for the natural lifter looking to improve their strength and mass.

The basic idea of body part splits is that you train 5-6 days a week, and dedicate each day to a specific body part, or muscle group. On Monday, for example, you might work your chest with bench press, dumbbell flies, and dumbbell press, while on Tuesday you work your upper back with bent over rows and pullups.

Regardless of where you stand on the issue, there is one definite benefit of body part splits -- they'll generally allow you to enjoy much shorter workouts, unless you're going wild and trying to squeeze in a dozen exercises for each muscle group.

Throw in Some HIIT

HIIT (high-intensity interval training) is pretty much the perfect way of shortening a cardio workout, whether your aim is fat loss or just general cardiovascular fitness. There's plenty of evidence to suggest that HIIT training, which can be done in as little as 10 minutes, is just as effective across the board as steady state cardio sessions which run far longer.[3]

Use Your Weekends

When people find themselves with hardly any free time to hit the gym, the issue is almost always what happens during the week, when work and chores battle against free time.

Luckily enough, most people have weekends off, and there's no reason not to take advantage of these otherwise lazy days to get a bit of quality training done.

There are several ways to approach this. Hypothetically, you could train exclusively on the weekend with an upper / lower body split workout on each day -- for example doing bench press, bent over rows, etc. on Saturday, and squats, lunges, rack pulls and so on, on Sunday.

Alternatively, you could stick to a bare-bones routine of compound exercise workouts during the week -- bench press, squats, deadlifts, etc. each on their own day, without doing any accessory work. You could then use one day on the weekend for a "fine-tuning" session where you include your curls, tricep extensions, dips, and so on.

Just make sure that you don't drink too much the day before training. Hangovers and gym sessions aren't generally considered a happy mix.

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