Practical Exercise Ideas For the Time-Strapped Person
What's the number one reason people give for not exercising? That's an easy one...not enough time!
Quite often, the trouble lies in mindset. If you think you need to FIND the time to exercise, you're already a step behind. You must MAKE the time to exercise, be it 20 minutes or 2 minutes.
These practical, ready-to-use ideas will help you make that time, no matter how busy you are.
1. The Daily One-Set Workout
If you can spare 2 minutes a day from your schedule, you can do this workout. All it consists of is one single set of one exercise, done to muscular failure. This could be push-ups, curls, calf raises, or anything (I will explain in more detail below) for as many reps as it takes to reach the point where you can't do another rep. Do this one set workout every single day without fail.
Though you can certainly do this once a day and get benefits, my preference is to do this 2 minute drill twice a day...first thing in the morning and last thing at night.
These very quick workouts are beneficial because they are intense and frequent. Pushing your muscles to failure has several benefits: it will help you maintain and build muscular strength and it will release a spurt of Growth Hormone (a potent muscle-building and fat-loss hormone).
For best total-body results, focus on primarily on exercises that work the back, chest and legs (the smaller muscles such as biceps and triceps will also get worked when you do exercises for these larger parts).
For example, on Monday, do push-ups (morning and night, if you're doing twice a day). On Tuesday, do pull-up rows. On Wednesday, do squats, lunges or bench step squats.
2. Multi-Task Exercising
If you can do some form of exercise while you're doing something else, you'll save time. For example, if you're carrying groceries, do some bicep curls with the bags! If you're watching TV, you can do crunches or lunges or even squeeze a tennis ball to work your forearms.
There are many ways to incorporate activity or exercise into normal daily activities. Feel free to use your imagination! Even though it may not be conventional "exercise" in a gym setting, your body doesn't distinguish between lifting a heavy bag of groceries or lifting a dumbell. Your body will respond just the same!
3. Maximal Stair-Step Interval Training
Only got 5 minutes to do a cardio workout? That's all you need for this stair-stepping workout. All you need are some steps or a low bench. Here's how it's done:
Stand in front of some stairs. There should be at least 2 stairs that you can step up and down on. A railing to balance yourself on is also useful for when you become fatigued. Be sure you have a clock or watch that you can keep track of time on (you may need to have someone shouting out times to you if your watch doesn't have a timer alarm).
Step up and down the first two stairs for 1 or 2 minutes as a brief warm-up and to practice the pattern. The stepping pattern is as follows:
Right foot up on Step 1
Left foot up on Step 2
Right foot up on Step 2
Left foot down on Step 1
Right foot down on floor
Left foot down on floor
Go through this pattern until it becomes second nature to you. It can be reversed by starting with the left foot on Step 1 as well. Try both and work with whichever is most comfortable to you.
Now comes the work...
- For 30 seconds, step up and down the stairs in this pattern
as fast as you can - sprint stepping, basically. The pattern
in the pictures above is done slowly to show you how to do
the pattern. You will be moving a lot faster than that when
you do this training!
- Hold onto the rail (if there is one) if you need to balance
yourself. You should be really pushing yourself to keep going
as you get to the end.
- Now rest for 30 seconds. Walk around a little. Swing your
arms - do whatever you need to do.
- Sprint the stairs again for 30 seconds then rest again
for 30 seconds. Repeat this pattern for a total of 5 work
- By the time you start getting to the later work intervals,
your pace will be slowing down significantly. Be sure you
are still at least trying to go as fast as you can, even
if it's not really that fast anymore. That's the most
important thing. You should be breathing extremely heavily
towards the end.
Now you're done! That short workout is extremely effective for burning fat and boosting your metabolism. It's quick and it gets the job done when you're in a hurry.
4. Weekend Warrior Training
Got little or no time during the week to workout but more on the weekends? Here's a training schedule that may suit you. You will do one training session mid-week (e.g. Wednesday) and two on the weekend (one Saturday and one Sunday). This gives you 3 sessions per week, which is plenty to make good progress!
On Wednesday, you will do a total body workout. Do 2 or 3 sets for each of back, chest and thighs and 1 or 2 sets each of shoulders, biceps, triceps and calves. This is more of a maintenance workout.
On Saturday, work half of your body (however you prefer to split your bodyparts up, e.g. back, chest, biceps and calves). On Sunday, work the other half of your body (e.g. shoulders, triceps, thighs and abs). This split will allow you to do more sets for each bodypart, e.g. 5 or 6 sets per bodypart.
You can also include cardio training on the weekends as well, either as separate sessions (if you have time) or immediately following your weight training (the 5 minute cardio workout I explained in #3 is an excellent way to go!).
"Isometric" basically means "without movement." To do an isometric movement, you can push or pull against any immovable object.
For example, to work your chest muscles isometrically, press your palms together in front of you and push them together as hard as you can for 30 seconds.
To work your back, grab a solid railing or post with one hand and brace the other one against something solid. Now pull as hard as you can for 30 seconds, squeezing your back muscles hard.
Simple isometric contractions can also be very effective and convenient to do. These are done without working against objects but just by flexing the muscles.
Want to tone your glutes? Clench them hard and unclench them while you're driving in the car (though if you're not alone, you may have some explaining to do). Actively squeezing and contracting muscles for 20 to 30 seconds is a great way to keep the muscles active and toned.
Isometric contractions are very techniques to incorporate into the "Multi-Tasking" exercise technique I mentioned previously.
While there always seem to be plenty of reasons why a person can't find the time to exercise, there are also plenty of reasons why a person should MAKE the time to exercise.
These ideas should allow even the busiest person to make that time and reap the benefits of regular exercise!
More Articles by Author Nick Nilsson
Return To Weight Lifting Articles Archive