Workout Routines for the Time Constrained
August 23, 2017 1:03 PM   Subscribe

I've been trying to lose weight and get in shape this year. So far, so good! I've dropped 25 pounds, and worked my way up to 25 pound dumbbells at the gym. I think I'm hitting the limit of my workout routine... and I don't have a lot of time I can spend at the gym. Where do I go from here?

So, right now I go to the gym on my lunch break at work. I actually picked my gym because it's literally across the street, so I need to have a damn good excuse not to go. (I hate going to the gym.)

At the gym, I do this Dumbbell Stopgap Program I found on Reddit. This usually takes me about 15 minutes, mostly because I only rest for 30 seconds between sets. This is all tracked and logged with the Gymatic iPhone/Apple Watch app.

After that, I go for about 15 minutes on the treadmill. I'm now able to run at about 5 mph for 10-12 minutes.

When it comes to next steps, I have two main concerns.

1. I want something I can fit into my existing schedule. I want something I can do in 30 minutes or less, three times a week. I'm willing to put the work in on the long-term to get results if it means I can put less work in on the short term, but I really don't want to go to the gym before or after work---especially before. (Ideally, I'd also be able to keep the cardio aspect of my workouts, but if I have to drop it for a good set of routines, I will.)

2. I'm an unathletic doofus who doesn't understand a damn thing about PR Max, Compound Movements, and all the other weightlifting terminology. I've tried reading Starting Strength and almost immediately began smelling burnt toast. What I really need is someone to just give me a set of exercises to do, some guide on how to do them, and a number of times to do them each. Preferably in either small words, or with video. The simpler, the better.

2a. I'm such a doofus that I don't even understand how I would track the weight on a barbell in my weight lifting app. If I put two 25 pound plates, one on each side, would that be a 50 pound barbell? Do I count the weight of the bar itself? I'm that lost.

So, with those personal caveats in mind, where do I go from here on my quest to build some strength and get rid of my spare tire?
posted by SansPoint to Health & Fitness (16 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
Sounds like you're doing great! I'll be watching with interest to see what people suggest, because I'm usually doing longer stuff.

Yes, you count the weight of the bar. Usually that's 45 pounds in the US, or 20 kg elsewhere. But probably ask a gym worker to make sure.

There are apps that will do the calculations for you, which is nice when you're winded and not thinking super great. I used the 5x5 workout app, but those routines took well longer than 30 minutes.
posted by dondiego87 at 1:13 PM on August 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

Stronglifts 5x5 is a super straightforward lifting plan that is very easy to do. You don't need to get into the details and "science" but it would be good to have a gym trainer work through the basic movements with the bar with you and how to adjust the squat rack etc.
posted by MadamM at 1:31 PM on August 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

What are your goals? My experience when trying to find a new routine is to really focus on what I want to achieve. Do you want to run for longer? Get stronger? Improve your endurance? Lose more weight?
posted by pazazygeek at 1:44 PM on August 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

I think you will love Jen Sinkler's Lift Weights Faster
posted by littlewater at 2:08 PM on August 23, 2017

Re (2), if it's a possibility cash wise, I might try finding a trainer who can make up a routine for you and run though it with you a few times so you understand how to do the movements. For your parameters, it seems like doing just a few exercises at a fairly high weight for not that many reps would be the best bang for your buck --- but if you're going to do that it's better to have someone show you how to do them in person, safely. It might cost a couple hundred bucks at the outset, but once you're comfortable you should be able to work on your own and then check in every few months to adjust as you get stronger.

re (2.a) yeah, you def get to count the bar, it's heavy!

Cardio-wise, you might want to look into tabata routines --- they're quick, but brutal. But it would let you get it over with quickly, and there are solid studies saying they can be quite helpful for increasing aerobic capacity.
posted by Diablevert at 2:36 PM on August 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

What are you goals? To lose weight and drop a pants size? To get ripped and have muscles? To be able to run up a set of stairs without gasping for air? Without knowing your goals, it's impossible to say where you should spend the limited amount of time you have.

In any event, I think you look at High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). It's a good way to pack in conditioning (less being out of breath) and weight loss (burning calories) into a shorter workout. The basic idea is you get on a treadmill (or I recommend an elliptical) and you'll jog comfortably for three minutes, and then sprint or jog at a steep incline for one minute, then go back to the easy exercise for three minutes, and then switch to the hard exercise for one minute, etc. Google will have more info for you, but it's designed to be a shorter workout vs. comfortably jogging for one hour. You could do HIIT for a half hour or less and get a great cardio workout.
posted by AppleTurnover at 3:55 PM on August 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

If you have just 30 minutes three times a week, and want to hit a bunch of birds at once (ie enough resistance to hang on to muscle, with a cardio element, within that time frame), you can't really do a progressive lifting program... (You could do upper and lower body on separate days and alternate. But eventually, as the weight increased, you'd need longer rest periods, and there'd be no time for cardio, you'd have to just walk or cycle more in your daily life.)

What does fit those constraints is something like a "metabolic conditioning" workout - moving quickly through major movements with dumbbells or a barbell, for time. (Zuzka Light has workouts like that. They vary a lot, though. See also barbell complexes, for something more repeatable.) So I'd recommend something like that.

Those routines do take a certain amount of comfort with the relevant movements, coordination, etc., so if that's a worry, it'd be worth getting a couple of sessions with a trainer to make sure you're covered for form / injury prevention. (Because, especially if you're a little on the clutzy side, like I am, it's easy to get tripped up when you're doing things for time.)

Might want to hire a trainer to assess you and make a plan for you, in any case!
posted by cotton dress sock at 4:26 PM on August 23, 2017

Response by poster: Sorry, have been away from stuff all afternoon/evening.

My goals are to lose weight and develop strength. I can’t get more specific than that because I don’t have any goals beyond that. I don’t intend to get ripped, but being able to lift heavy things is useful.

I’d really prefer not to hire a trainer. That shit is expensive. That’s part of why I just want a set or two of exercises to do in under 30 minutes.
posted by SansPoint at 12:23 AM on August 24, 2017

I think AppleTurnover has it - because you can just adapt your current treadmill routine to be a bit more HIIT eg intersperse your usual run at one pace with high incline or faster speeds for 30s, back to normal for 1min. I also sometimes do my own version of the bleep test, where every 30s I increase the speed a notch or two until I can't run any more. You can also alternate your weights and treadmill sprints - so basically just chop what you currently do up differently if your gym has the right layout.
posted by london explorer girl at 5:41 AM on August 24, 2017 [2 favorites]

Yes to HIIT. I find it easier when I run outside. Also running outside is way harder than the treadmill. Mixing up the routine is a great way to give your workout a boost. You end up using slightly different muscles in different ways.
posted by advicepig at 6:57 AM on August 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

Don't forget Fitnessblender on Youtube for HIIT exercises; they have hundreds of videos. A lot of the workouts are a little over 30 minutes, but have warm up and cool down incorporated. If you're not tired when you've finished a video, you're doing it wrong.
posted by greatalleycat at 11:02 AM on August 24, 2017

Response by poster: HIIT is good for the cardio aspect, but what about the strength?
posted by SansPoint at 11:12 AM on August 24, 2017

Many of the workouts incorporate dumbbells, but it's more of a cardio/strength mix. Some focus more on cardio, some are more weights based. If you want only weight training, you'll have to find another channel.
posted by greatalleycat at 11:18 AM on August 24, 2017

Response by poster: ... so I'm looking at this Fitnessblender channel and boy there's a _lot_ of videos.

I don't know where to begin. Honest. Can you just suggest one or two videos to check out for, say, one upper-body workout, and one lower-body workout?
posted by SansPoint at 12:09 PM on August 24, 2017

This one is only 26 minutes, but you will probably need longer to rest, it's nuts. This one if HIIT on steroids.
This one has an upper body focus with dumbbells. This one is a bit longer at around 38 mins.
If you live in an apartment or have knee issues, i'd seek out the videos with the keyword "low impact" as a lot of videos have a lot of jumping, burpees, etc.
posted by greatalleycat at 9:34 PM on August 24, 2017

1) Seconding Fitnessblender. Since you are having difficulty choosing, it might be worthwhile to shell out a couple bucks for one of their programs which spell out which workouts to use when (I've never used them, YMMV) for example the intro 30min ones:

2) For your treadmill time, it sounds like you need a program forcing you to do slightly more challenging intervals. Ignore the fact that this is from Women's Health; it's a fantastic workout, and you could definitely chop off the second half to make it more time-friendly.
posted by eglenner at 9:44 PM on August 24, 2017

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