Ask Stephie: Strength training: Time-saving tips for efficient workouts

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Strength training has numerous health benefits ranging from an increased metabolism to improved bone density. But does it have to take up all your free time to be effective? Absolutely not! It is not necessary to exercise for hours upon hours to get results. Working out smarter, and not harder, is the key message in this article.

Let’s begin by talking about the different types of equipment that are convenient and easy to use. Whether you have access to a fitness center or simply want to work out at home, your choices are practically endless. Free weights, stability balls, rubber tubing, and strength training machines can all be used efficiently. The following time-saving techniques can be used with any type of strength training equipment:

Supersets—This consists of performing two exercises back to back without a rest in-between. You can do two exercises for the same muscle group, such as lying dumbbell chest flies followed by lying dumbbell chest presses, or two exercises for two different muscle groups (usually opposing muscles) such as standing barbell bicep curls followed by standing straight bar triceps pressdowns.

Circuit training—A type of interval training in which strength exercises are done by moving from station to station or exercise to exercise without resting in-between. Each exercise/station can be timed for 15-60 seconds before moving to the next, or repetitions may be used instead. For example, there can be six to 12 exercises selected for a strength circuit, such as push-ups, pull-ups, squats, lunges, shoulder presses, calf presses, core abdominals and back extensions. The circuit can be performed in its entirety, then repeated any number of times. This allows the participant to make the session as long or as short as he or she wants.

Total body exercises—This may also be known as functional strength training in which only multi-joint exercises are performed. For example, combination moves such as a squat and dumbbell overhead press or a lunge and dumbbell bicep curl utilize two movements to make up one exercise. The idea behind this is that these total body exercise moves burn more calories in less time when compared to doing single-joint exercises separately, such as seated leg extensions first, then moving on to dumbbell bicep curls.

Keep in mind, also, that research shows for general conditioning and strength gains, one high-quality set done to muscle failure can provide as much benefit as multiple sets. For this to be effective, the set must be done with an appropriate level of intensity to allow for muscle fatigue.

An effective strength-training program should target each of the major muscle groups: chest, back, shoulders, biceps, triceps, legs, calves, abdominals and lower back. Be sure to allow for appropriate muscle repair and recovery, which is usually 48 hours.

If you want to maximize results and minimize your time working out, try these tips and focus on quality instead of quantity.

Note: Consult your physician before beginning any type of exercise regimen.

Stephie Steele is owner of Symmetry Fitness, LLC. She has been featured in IDEA Health & Fitness Source magazine and specializes in weight loss, sports performance, total body fitness, posture alignment therapy, strength training, core conditioning, cardiovascular and flexibility training. Visit her Web site at or e-mail her with questions at

from the Sept. 19 – 25, 2007, issue

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