Recently an athlete asked me, “What can I do if I only have 30 minutes to work out?”
At first, I wasn’t quite sure how to tackle that question. As a strength coach, I plan things out months in advance for my athletes. I lay out the dynamic warm-ups, power work, strength training and conditioning, weeks or even months in advance. All sets, reps and rest periods are accounted for in a 60- to 90-minute training session. So only having 30 minutes to train really made me consider what was most important in my programming. After giving it some thought, I came up with five simple tips to help athletes get the most out of a time-crunched workout.
1. Eliminate Excess In Your Warm-Up
Although the warm-up is a crucial part of any training session, when it comes to warranting a training effect, it’s lowest on the totem pole. It may be fun or habit to foam roll for 10 minutes, stretch with a band for 5 more, and perform 10 different corrective exercises, but it isn’t practical for a 30-minute session.
When crunched for time, eliminate the excess and pick the two or three corrective exercises you need most as well as something to get your heart rate up! Many corrective exercises can be completed away from the gym, yet the more intense, meat-and-potatoes exercises cannot.
2. Prioritize The Most Important Exercises
This may sound obvious, but people often confuse their favorite exercise for the most important exercise. Although you may love hitting three variations of a Bicep Curl, that kind of exercise selection has no place in your 30-minute training session. You need to prioritize compound multi-joint exercises (Squats, Deadlifts, Turkish Get-Ups, Push-ups, Pull-ups, etc.) that build serious strength and torch a lot of calories.
3. Use Supersets
You no longer have time to sit and rest for 2-3 minutes between sets of your main exercise. Sorry, but that’s just how it is. If you actually want to get better during a time-crunched workout, supersets are a must. Instead of resting, utilize active rest correctives and non-competing movements as supersets. This allows the main muscle groups time to rest while working on mobility and keeping your heart rate up. An example of this smart sort of super-setting could be:
- A1. Trap Bar Deadlift x5 Reps
- A2. 90/90 Hip Stretch x3 each
- A3. TRX Row x10
4. Utilize High-Intensity Conditioning
Working under a time constraint, you no longer have the luxury of spending 20 minutes on low-intensity conditioning work. You have to shorten the time and crank up the intensity A great example of this would be Tabata Bike Sprints. Here you alternate between 20s of work and 10s of rest. In 4 minutes, you can complete 8 rounds and feel totally gassed.
5. Time Everything!
If you want to ensure your workout won’t get cut short, you have to be on top of your timing! Get out that stopwatch or timer (there’s no time for texting, so it may be best to use something other than your phone or to set your phone to airplane mode for the duration of your workout). This will keep your heart rate high and ensure you don’t waste valuable time. I’d try to follow this basic outline in terms of timing for your 30-minute workout:
- Warm-up: 5 minutes
- Strength Training A Block: 10 minutes
- Strength Training B Block: 10 minutes
- Conditioning: 5 minutes
The next time you only have 30 minutes, don’t just scrap your workout. Instead, come in with a plan and put in the work! Whether you are busy with school, sports or work, I know you can set aside 30 minutes to prioritize your training. That’s enough time to get an awesome, effective workout!
Below is a sample 30-minute workout. Give it a try and feel free to build your own 30-minute workouts that follow this same basic structure.
The Killer 30-Minute Workout
Warm-Up: 5 minutes
- Glute Bridge w/ Reach X5 ea.
- Alternating Spiderman w/ Reach X5 ea.
- Squat to Stand w/ OH Squat X10
- 500m Row
Strength Training A Block: 10 minutes (complete as many reps as possible)
Strength Training B Block: 10 minute (complete as many reps as possible)
Conditioning: 5 minutes
Photo Credit: Cecilie_Arcurs/iStock