The simplest way to decrease your time in the gym is to increase the “density” of your workouts. Workout density refers to the amount of work you perform in a specific period of time. One way to do this is to use supersets.
Most weight training routines involve performing a set of one exercise, resting for a minute or two and then repeating the same exercise. With this protocol, the rest between sets takes up a lot of time.
With supersets, you perform two exercises for opposing muscle groups (such as chest and back), back to back, which enables you to do more work in a shorter amount of time. So rather than rest after the first exercise, you quickly perform another set for the opposing muscle group, then rest, and repeat this sequence until you have completed all of the sets for those two exercises.
One benefit of this type of training is that it raises your metabolic rate so you burn more calories following the workout. This concept is known as excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC). It refers to the idea that you use more oxygen after a workout than you normally do at rest. And since oxygen is used to burn calories, taking in more oxygen will cause you to burn more calories.
According to researchers, the higher EPOC is caused by elevated blood lactate, an increase in circulating catecholamines (epinephrine and norepinephrine) and anabolic hormones. And, the latest findings suggest that a well-designed workout can keep your metabolism elevated for as long 48 hours following training!
Another way to manipulate your workouts so that you burn more calories with less time in the gym is to use complexes. A complex involves performing two or more exercises, with little or no rest between sets, using one piece of equipment with the same load.
One advantage to using complexes over supersets is that if you workout in a busy facility during peak hours, you only tie up one piece of equipment. Another distinction is that complexes usually involve a sequence of exercises with little or no rest between sets, so you elevate your metabolic rate even more than you do with supersets.
An example of a complex is a barbell stiff-leg deadlift, followed by a barbell bent-over row, followed by a barbell upright row. The best exercise choices are movements that you can transition to seamlessly. And, the key to finding the right weight is to use the weakest exercise in the sequence to determine the load.
Obviously, this type of training is not for beginners, nor the faint of heart. But if you’re looking for a way to crank up your metabolism and are short on time, give supersets and complexes a try!