5 Most Effective Exercises to Do at the Gym When You’re Short on Time

The most overly-used excuse for not going to the gym to exercise is a perceived lack of time. And while most of us usually can find the time if we really want to, there can be unexpected things popping up occasionally right before a workout that can shorten up the amount of time available. Keep in mind with shorter workouts, you are trading time for intensity; because you have less time to exercise, you must do it at a higher level of work. When something unexpected does come up, here are some ideas to get the most out of the time you have.


Rowing Machine

One of the best machines to use when pressed for time is a rowing machine. Why? Because it works both the upper and lower body at the same time thus maximizing your time on the machine. To kick up the intensity of your cardio workout, crank up the resistance and speed up the pace.


Treadmills are very versatile as machines that work the lower body. To make up for the shortened amount of time, increase the intensity by upping the incline and increasing the speed. To add some upper body in the mix, pick up a pair of dumbbells in an appropriate weight and do lateral and forward raises, or bicep curls while walking.

Elliptical Machine

Some people prefer using an elliptical trainer over a treadmill, because it has a lower impact on the lower body joints, especially the knees. If using the stationary handles, it just works the lower body, but most ellipticals also have a pair of handles that oscillate back and forth making it a full body workout. To increase the intensity, increase the angle of the footpads and crank up the intensity. And because it is powered by the user, the speed can be increased by moving the footpads back and forth quicker.

With the increased intensity of any cardio-type exercises, be sure to keep track on your heart rate and keep it in your Target Range (220-age x70% to 80%).

Strength Training

Compound Exercise – Upper Body

With the short amount of time you have available, strength training should focus on exercises that work more than one muscle group at a time. For instance, to target the upper body – shoulders, upper back, neck, and triceps – do shoulder presses with either a pair of dumbbells or weighted barbell.

Compound Exercise – Lower Body

For the lower body, do dumbbell or kettlebells squats and weighted lunges that target the quadriceps, glutes and calves. To do a combined compound exercise, do weighted lunges and when in the down position (foot forward/knee bent at 90-degree angle), raise the dumbbells up in a bicep curl (or two). Return back to the lunge position, push back off your forward foot returning back to the starting position.

Getting in a workout in a shortened amount of time is not difficult if you have a plan going in and minimize the time spent not exercising. Anything is possible if you want to do it!

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