A Dozen New Ways to Optimize Your Next Workout

10.29.2014 • Fitness

We hear all the time to get more out of our workouts, but what does that mean exactly? Doing more with less. To optimize your workout means getting more from each minute you’re sweating than you ordinarily would. The HIIT workout trend of a couple of years ago was the definitive optimized workout — really hammer through some key movements in a short period of time. You get the full-body, calorie-torching workout on a schedule you can keep!

optimize workout


And recently we introduced the idea of a BPM — or beats per minute — workout, in which you move to the beat of songs at a tempo of 120 to 140 beats per minute, this optimal zone matches your heart rate during the ideal cardio workout.

For as many ways as there are to workout, there are ways to optimize that time.

Here are ten more ideas you may not have tried:

1. Follow a Plan. You won’t be left fumbling between moves or machines if you walk in to your workout knowing what A to Z looks like. “Organize your workout in to super sets or circuits,” suggests Chris Cooper, an NSCA-certified trainer. With this approach, you can immediately move on to what’s next without wasting time.

2. Cross Train. Introduce some versatility to your workouts, suggest the folks at Plyoga, because your body needs more than just yoga or just running. This approach trains different parts of the body on different days giving you a well-rounded fitness regimen that will yield greater results in strength, endurance, and appearance.

3. Slow Down. Sounds counterintuitive, but this slow weight lifting regimen is a novel way to work your muscles. “I’ll pick a weight that’s half what I normally lift for a 10-12 repetition set of a certain move and do an upper-body exercise (think shoulder presses or bicep curls) and go through the move very slowly,” prescribes Petrina Hamm, CPT. She takes 15-20 seconds to lift the weight, holding for another 15-30 seconds, and then taking another 15-20 seconds before bringing the weight back down. You put the muscle through constant stress through an entire range of motion, getting more out of that extended rep.

4. Use More Muscles. “The more muscles you use, the more calories you burn,” advises Maureen Kemeny, a certified fitness trainer. She suggests choosing exercises that involve as many muscle groups as possible.

5. Hard and Heavy. For the more advanced gym rat, this hard and heavy approach pushes your body to the limits without wasting any time. William Ferullo, a fitness and nutrition coach, uses this approach for compound lifts like squats, deadlifts, or overhead presses. He chooses the heaviest weight he can for 3-5 reps in 5 sets. Between each set he does as many pull-ups, dips, or other body weight exercises as possible. He never stops moving and quickly advances to the next action.

6. Mind Over Matter. “You can manipulate your own mind to get far more out of a workout,” says Jon Rhodes, a clinical hypnotherapist. He says that when you’re at the gym, imagine a crowd of people watching or cheering you on. Once your mind is there, the intensity and speed of your workout will increase as you try to, more or less, show-off for your adoring fans!

7. Set a Timer. If you’ve got a full 60 minutes at the gym, pool, or track, then fitness trainer Clint Fuqua says only give yourself 45 minutes. Set the timer and work to beat the buzzer! If you’re new to this approach, start by shaving 5 minutes off your time and work up from there.

8. Hire a Trainer. Nothing can keep you more focused on a well-organized workout than a trainer. They’ll make the most of the time you have available within the limitations of your body all while working toward an ultimate goal — being weight loss, a race, or overall better fitness.

9. Bike/Jog to the Gym. Get the cardio out of the way before you even enter the gym! Vivian Eisenstadt, MAPT says, “This way you get your cardio [without] feeling like a gerbil on the treadmill.” You save time by not driving around looking for a parking space, and you can get out of the gym sooner by not waiting in line for over-booked machines.

10. Ditch Distractions. There is a locker room for a reason, and that’s where you should leave your cell phone or magazines. Take a post-workout selfie if it’s that important, but don’t eat up time on the gym floor. Choose machines away from the TVs if the entertainment is too distracting. And workout alone to avoid gabbing with friends, which can slow the intensity and focus of a workout.