If there’s one thing most of us don’t have enough of, it’s time. Yet, we still need to make a few hours each week to stay fit. Numerous studies show that staying physically active improves the quality of life and may even extend lifespan. Therefore, we have to find ways to squeeze it in. On those days when time is limited, every exercise that you do should offer multiple benefits and the time you spend resting between sets should be minimal. One approach is to work out circuit style where you do a series of exercises with little rest between sets. But if you really want to power up your workout, choose your exercises wisely. Certain exercises offer substantial benefits because they work multiple fitness modalities. Here are some time expedient exercises you’ll want to include.
Time Expedient Exercises: Burpees
We love to hate them, but burpees are an exercise loaded with health and fitness benefits. When you throw your sweaty body into a burpee, you’re building strength, power, and getting your heart rate up all at the same time. That’s what you want when you have limited time to work out. Plus, burpees work multiple muscle groups in the upper and lower body. There’s a reason you feel exhausted after a set of burpees!
You think YOU have it hard doing burpees? Just imagine how exhausted a young man by the name of Cameron Corn must have been after breaking two world records. He completed the astonishing task of doing 10,015 burpees over a 24-hour period. You don’t need to do that many to get the benefits though. If you’re doing a circuit routine and want to elevate your heart rate for cardiovascular benefits, do a set of burpees after every exercise or every other exercise to keep your heart pounding. You’ll get a cardiovascular workout while you work on strength and endurance. How’s that for multitasking?
Time Expedient Exercises: Kettlebell Swings
Kettlebell swings are another move that packs a ton of benefits into a single exercise. When you swing a kettlebell, you’re moving a weight through space quickly and using your hips to generate the thrust. This helps develop power skills. Plus, with kettlebell swings, you work multiple muscle groups simultaneously, including your shoulders chest, core, glutes, and thigh muscles. If you use a lighter kettlebell and do high reps to increase endurance, you primarily work your aerobic energy system. However, if you use heavy kettlebells and do a lower number of reps for strength and power, you work your anaerobic energy system. Kettlebell swings are the ultimate time expedient exercise because you accomplish so many things with a single exercise. As with burpees, you can incorporate kettlebell swings into circuit training to keep your heart rate up and boost fat burning.
Time Expedient Exercises: Plyo Push-ups
Push-ups are an exercise that gives you lots of bang for the buck already, but add a plyo component and they’re golden. We know that push-ups work multiple muscle groups with an emphasis on the upper body and chest. To do one, place your hands on the floor just wider than shoulder width, as with a regular push-up. Then, raise your body into the standard push-up position, holding your core tight. Lower your body down as you normally would until your elbows are at 90 degrees. Now, extend your arms explosively so that your hands come up off the floor and you can clap them together. Once your hands land back on the floor, repeat the movement.
Plyo push-ups are challenging. Start by doing them on your knees until you can develop enough strength and power to do them on your toes. With this movement, you work multiple muscle groups and build power in your upper body. You really blast the fast-twitch muscle fibers with this move, so you develop strength and power quickly. It’s another exercise that gives you multiple fitness benefits, particularly if your goal is to develop upper body power and strength.
Time Expedient Exercises: Squat Jumps
Squats are a compound exercise that work multiple muscle groups, particularly the muscles in your lower body. Adding a jump to a squat turns a standard squat into a plyometric move. Plyometrics is when you follow an eccentric contraction (where the muscle lengthens against resistance) with a concentric one (shortening of the muscle). Eccentric muscle contractions are ideal for building muscle strength and power. With squat jumps, the lowering phase is the concentric portion and the jump, where you lengthen the muscle, is the eccentric phase.
By pairing concentric and eccentric movements in close proximity, also called the stretch-shortening cycle, you develop greater strength and power. Plus, you know if you’ve done them before, that squat jumps raise your heart rate. So, you’re getting multiple fitness benefits from a single exercise. Once you’ve mastered squat jumps, take it a step further and do box jumps, but save this move for when you’re more advanced. Squat jumps are an ideal addition to a circuit workout – or for a super-quick workout, choose a few strength exercises to do in succession and include sets of squat jumps between each exercise.
Time Expedient Exercises: Other Compound Exercises
If you’re short on time, focus on compound exercises that work multiple muscle groups at the same time, particularly ones that target the big muscles in the lower body. If you only have 20 minutes to work out, squats and deadlifts will give lots of return for the time you invest. For the upper body, dips, bent-over rows, and bench press are compound exercises that offer the most benefits when you have limited time to train. If you have to do a super-fast strength-training workout, pick two upper body and two lower body compound moves and do three sets of each.
The Bottom Line
You can still get a kick-butt workout in a short period of time, especially if you choose these time-expedient but effective exercises. Doing these exercises is time well spent and make the most of the time you have!
DrAxe.com. “Burpees: The Single Best Exercise Ever?”
ACE Fitness. “Five Benefits of Compound Exercises”|
ACE Fitness. “ACE Sponsored Research Study: Kettlebells Kick Butt”