The gym in January can be a frustrating place. As much as we want to encourage more people to get into fitness and a healthy lifestyle, it is a real test of patience when you’re having to form a queue for the one squat rack or find yourself tripping over an un-racked dumbbell for the sixth time that session.
Whether you are just getting started or a gym regular, you might find it beneficial to adapt your training style slightly over this period to be more time efficient and keep frustration to a minimum. There are a few ways that you can do this.
Supersets or circuit style training
Supersets allow us to accumulate a lot of volume in a short space of time. Generally, you will choose 2 or more exercises, and perform them in a mid-high rep range back to back (=1 set) with relatively short rest periods between sets. Supersets work very well in a crowded gym as you can design them so that you can stay in one spot, and effectively get double the work done.
• Cable, rope tricep pushdowns superset with face pulls
• BB upright row superset with front raise
• KB goblet squat superset with stiff legged deadlift
If your gym has the luxury of a studio space, you and a group of friends could book 30 minutes to an hour of time and sets up stations with medicine balls, battle ropes, burpees, and whole number of other exercises, for a quick but challenging way to get your resistance and cardio training done in one!
Dropsets and other intensity methods
These allow us to create more muscle damage without leaving the station we’re working at. If you find yourself reaching failure on a set, immediately drop the weight and continue repping until you reach failure again. Other intensity methods include iso-holds and forced negatives. A great example of this is on a lying leg curl. Have your training partner place downwards force on the pad as you bring the weight up or hold the weight at the top with the hamstrings tensed as they attempt to push the weight down, fighting against it the whole time.
Another strength to adding intensity to your sessions in this way, is that you can achieve a pump and push yourself, without having to use heavy weight that might put stress on the joints. A Nitric Oxide Booster will assist in filling the working muscles with blood, so that you get even more bang for your buck from this style of training!
Low volume, high intensity training
Disclaimer: this is for advanced trainees with a good capacity to recover.
This style of training, popularised by bodybuilders such as Jordan Peters, may only involve 1-2 working sets on each exercise. For this to be enough to illicit growth, you need to understand how to train to failure safely, and you need to be consistently logging your numbers.
Take the hack squat for example.
Regular approach (example): 5 sets of 8, increasing weight each time, during which you are becoming increasingly fatigued.
Low volume, high intensity approach (example): You may do around 3 warm up sets with increasing weight for enough reps to ensure that you are acclimatised to the load and your body is warmed up and ready to go, but without really pushing yourself. Your 4th set will be working set 1, looking to hit failure around the 6-10 rep mark. The final set will be a back off, looking to hit failure around 10-15 reps.
The idea here is that you are putting everything into a smaller number of sets. As this style of training is so taxing, you might find that training frequency (days in the gym) and exercises per session need to decrease. It does however mean that you can get through warm up sets quickly. Again, this style of training is not suitable for everyone, and, if in doubt, find a qualified coach to programme your workouts.
If your training revolves around chasing progressive overload, supplement with a joint support supplement to maintain joint, cartilage and bone health.
Lifting alternatives – calisthenics, sprinting…
If you are a bodybuilder, you will, of course, have to lift weights to achieve the results you want. Lifting weights isn’t the only way to build a strong looking physique though. Look at Olympic athletes. Sprinters, gymnasts and cyclists (don’t believe us? look up Robert Forstemann on Instagram) all display impressive muscular development. If the chaos in the free weights area is just too much for you to handle right now, explore other options. You never know, you might discover a new passion in the process.
These four methods are all ways to use your time in the gym for efficiently, especially when trying to work around the crowds. Remember to be patient during this time- it will ease off! If possible, avoid the post 5pm rush. To avoid walking in and being completely overwhelmed by the crowds, go into the gym with a plan… and a backup plan. You may have to be a little more flexible when it comes to swapping in alternative movements to avoid waiting (such as swapping a plate loaded row machine for a DB row) during this time.