Throwback Thursday #2: 5 Steps to Shorter, More Effective Workouts

Here’s a post from 4 years ago, almost to the day. I’m a believer in maximizing your efforts to maximize your time. I’ve had to work pretty hard at time management over the years, and this post is how I’ve learned to streamline my own training and that of my clients and athletes to make sure they squeeze every ounce of benefit out of their training sessions.

Your time is  the most valuable commodity you have. Time is money, time is happiness, and there’s only so much of it in a day, week, month, year, and lifetime, so it’s imperative to be stingy in how you spend it.


Training is means to an end. We do it for a number of reasons, but the number one reason is so we can kick ass at everything else we do in life, whether that’s playing with your kids pain free, dominating your adult hockey league, surfing, or going for weekend hiking trips with your significant other.

The last thing you should be doing is wasting time in the gym, when that time could be so much better spent doing the things you enjoy with the people you love. Here are 5 ways to make sure you make the most of your training time so you’ll have more left over for the other important things in your life.

Have a Plan

Know what you are going to do from the time you step foot in the gym to the time you leave. This doesn’t have to be written in stone, since sometimes you’ll get there and realize maybe you don’t have a heavy triple in the tank that day, or maybe you need a little extra time to open up the hips during your warm up, or whatever. Failing to plan is planning to fail, though and if you don’t have a plan of attack, you’ll typically default to whatever you like and are good at, and  skip over the stuff you really need to be doing to improve.

Pair Exercises

Instead of doing an exercise, then spending 5 minutes updating Facebook, creepily ogling the girls in yoga pants, or planning the weekend with the boys, alternate it with a noncompeting exercise and/or mobility drill. You can pair a push with a pull, upper body with a lower, or even do tri-sets of 2 exercises with a mobility exercise relevant to what you’re doing. A good example would be:

1A. Front Squat 4×6

1B. Face Pull 3×12-15

1C. Quadruped Hip Cirlces 2-3×5/each direction

Break the Session Into Time Blocks

This is one that really helps me a lot. Just give each section of your program an allotted amount of time to complete. I often use something like this:

Warm Up: 12 minutes

Plyos/O-lifts: 10 minutes

Strength Work: 30 minutes

Conditioning: 8 minutes

Knowing that you only have a finite amount of time to get each segment done will give you more of a sense of urgency to your training, driving your focus and effort.

Use Intervals for Conditioning

Interval training has a million benefits, and not to say aerobic training doesn’t have it’s place, but most people could benefit more from high (relatively) intensity intervals over steady state aerobic work. You’ll get leaner in less time, have some fun by really getting after it and moving fast, while not compromising your strength training.


I’m assuming you’d rather look like a sprinter than a marathon runner, so train accordingly.

You’ll also save yourself the mind numbing 45 minutes treadmill “yogs” that have been keeping people skinny fat since Ron Bergundy’s era. Alternate a period of :15 sprinting on the treadmill with :45 of rest for 8-15 rounds, then build up to :20 on, :40 off until you get to the same rep range, and then again progress it to :30 on :30 off. Once you get back to the original number of rounds, increase either the speed or incline and start over. If you can, find a hill, sprint up it, and walk back down. Repeat several times. Push the sled. Crank on the airdyne. Smash the ropes. Do something besides being inefficient with the traditional cardio protocols.

Wear Headphones

This is probably the thing most people already do, but wearing headphones with a solid playlist will keep people from coming up and asking you about your weekend plans and other dumb shit that doesn’t matter at the time. I never used to wear them because I always felt like the wire gets in the way, but if you put it down your shirt it seems to work pretty well. Actually kind of embarrassed that I didn’t realize that sooner. (2018 Edit: everyone wears wireless headphones today, so the wire is completely obsolete. I didn’t want to lose authenticity by removing this part) Throw on some Metallica, Wu-Tang or whatever suits you and go to work without distraction.

(2018 Edit #2: I often listen to podcasts and audio books when training. I don’t do a lot of driving anymore, so my opportunities to listen to people who can make me smarter are more limited. This might not work for everyone, but I’m a fan.)

2018 P.S. If you haven’t signed up for my free weekly newsletter, which includes all of my best posts as well as the best content from experts around the world that I respect and trust, you can do so here for free.


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