10 things you're wasting time on at the gym

There’s a Rolling Stones song about having time on your side (historical note: they didn’t write it). And there are a lot of people who treat working out as though they have all the time in the world.

But most of us are busy people. In fact, I’ve read several surveys about reasons for not working out, and No. 1 on the list always seems to be “lack of time.”

There is merit in being efficient in the gym. First off, it gives you time for other, non-gym stuff in life. What’s more, it breeds greater mental intensity. So here are 10 ways you might be wasting time in the gym.

10. The Locker Room

If all you did were weights, do you really need to shower? Can you get away with a towel to the pits and a reapplication of deodorant? Do you have to get changed there, or can this be done at home? Look for ways to avoid the place altogether, or just minimize the time spent around so many naked guys.

9. Waiting for Equipment

Busy gyms can be motivating. There is an energy in the air, and it makes you want to partake. But if the place is jammed and there is no squat cage or bench press, or if all the chin-up bars are constantly occupied, then you may need to rethink your workout time of day. Alternatively, you need to look for ways to adapt your plans. If every squat cage is taken, and they don’t look like they’re going to be free any time soon, then consider doing something else that day.

8. Isolation Exercises

Let me use my chest, shoulders and triceps day as an example again. Almost 70 percent of the time for that workout is chest. The reason why is simple: shoulders and triceps also get worked hard while doing chest. Therefore, a lot of time spent on isolation (single joint) movements like lateral raises and triceps extensions just isn’t necessary. Same goes for my back and biceps day. Most of the workout is back, and biceps just get a little bit of work at the end, because they were already trained hard all along during the back workout.

7. Focusing on Machines

I’m not completely down on weightlifting machines, but they should be relegated to the “almost done” portion of your workout regimen. For legs, focus on squats instead of these devices. Machines don’t give you half the workout of free weights, and therefore waste time. My opinion is that machines are to be used toward the end of a workout, when your muscles are so blasted that you simply don’t have the strength left for proper free weight technique. In those instances, machines can be good just as a way to quickly finish things off.

6. Not Taking Advantage of Supersets or Compound Sets

There are supersets, compound sets or just doing your workout nonstop. When I do chest, shoulders and triceps, I need a break between the sets for chest, because it’s hard core stuff. But after that’s done, the shoulders and triceps are constantly alternated. I’m only taking a few seconds here and there for sips of water until the workout is done. It revs metabolism higher and results in a high-volume workout.
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5. The Water Fountain

If you’re constantly going from equipment to water fountain and back, the time wasting adds up. Especially if there’s a line. Just get a water bottle already.

4. Static Stretching

I like dynamic stretching as part of an effective warm-up for lifting, making movements that mimic the exercise I’m about to engage in. Static stretching before lifting has been shown to decrease strength, and I just don’t see it as something you do at the gym if you’re pressed for time. I’m not down on static stretching, but it’s time consuming when you could be doing other things, and no special equipment is required. Personally, I think the time for static is while watching TV -- it’s a great way to maximize your time, so that the gym is more about lifting.

3. Excessive Warming Up

While I always do a proper warm-up before lifting, working my way up to heavy, you don’t need to go overboard. What’s more, once you’re warm, you’re warm. You don’t need to do it for every exercise. As an example, if I’m doing chest, shoulders and triceps all in one workout, I only need to warm up for that first chest exercise. If I do three chest exercises in total, I don’t need to warm up for exercises No. 2 and No. 3, and I definitely don’t need to warm up for shoulders and triceps, because they were getting worked all along with the chest exercises.

2. Aerobic Warm-Ups

I’m a big fan of aerobic workouts, but there isn’t really a need to run on a treadmill or hit a stationary bike to get the blood flowing for lifting. If you really think this is necessary, just walk briskly while you’re on the way to the gym and change rapidly. A real warm-up is to do the exercise you’re about to do at a lighter weight. If you’re about to do bench press, then you warm up with bench press at lower weights and work your way up to the heavy stuff.

1. Talking

I get that social support is great for fitness motivation, but if you’re constantly chatting, it really distracts you from the task at hand: working out. What’s more, it’s important to time your rest breaks between sets appropriately: short breaks for endurance lifting (more than 12 reps), medium length breaks for hypertrophy (between six and 12 reps) and longer breaks for strength focused work (less than six reps). If you’re gabbing away all the time, you may end up taking longer breaks than necessary and doing less overall work in the gym.