Two of the most common goals when someone starts a fitness regimen are “burn fat” and “build strength.” And the most common reason for not reaching those goals: “I just don’t have time.”
I get it. Life is full of hurdles, and tacking time at the gym onto what feels like an already endless list of personal and professional to-do’s can feel challenging, if not downright impossible.
But it’s not only possible to get fit when you’re short on time, but you can actually achieve many people’s version of the holy grail of fitness — fat loss and strength gain — without spending hours in the gym.
The secret training formula is…well, it really isn’t a secret at all. Circuit training — also referred to as metabolic-resistance training, cardio-strength training, and my, personal fave, lifting weights faster — has been around for decades and has a slew of scientific research to back it up. High-intensity interval training (HIIT), or sprint-interval training (SIT), is part of the equation, as well.
(Jen coaching me through Sandbag Cleans. These are a great exercise to Lift Weights Faster!)
This approach to total-body conditioning involves cycling back and forth between max (or near-max) efforts and either moderate-effort activity or complete rest.
These high-intensity workouts are delightfully short — research shows that 10 to 30 minutes is all you need to reap the rewards — and despite their brevity, they’ve been shown to incinerate a high level of body fat and calories when compared with long, steady-state cardio workouts. (Meaning you don’t have to step foot on a treadmill unless you choose to.)
Now, shred-city results are awesome — but they aren’t the only benefit of this type of training. Here are some more reasons why lifting moderate weights quickly is so rad:
Brevity. I’m a huge proponent of making your exercise routine work for your schedule and your life. Luckily, fast doesn’t mean ineffective. A September 2013 study published in Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism found that as few as three HIIT sessions per week—involving less than 10 minutes of intense exercise within a session shorter than 30 minutes total (including a warm-up, recovery between intervals and a cool-down)—can improve aerobic capacity, skeletal muscle oxidative capacity, exercise tolerance, and markers of disease risk. It took only a few weeks for study participants, including both healthy individuals and people with heart disease or diabetes, to reap these rewards.
Up your aerobic fitness. Although circuit training will push your body into the anaerobic zone, tapping into an energy system that doesn’t use oxygen, improved aerobic fitness (normally associated with endurance training and steady-state cardio) is a pretty cool bonus. The reason for this is the way your body’s energy systems overlap, meaning you can build your aerobic base without ever using your aerobic system.
Burn more calories. A 2007 study published in the ACSM journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise showed that moving weight quickly is more metabolically expensive — meaning you burn more calories — than moving the same weight at a slower pace.
Speed up your metabolism. This extra burn happens both post-exercise and on the whole, meaning you can eat more food on a daily basis.
Decrease hunger. Just because you can eat more food (see above) doesn’t mean this type of training will leave you ravenous. On the contrary, lifting weights faster has been shown to produce more of the gut hormone peptide YY, which counteracts the hunger hormone ghrelin.
Improve your hormonal profile. Hefting weights at a maximum velocity also has a hormonal impact, increasing testosterone and human growth hormone (HGH), according to an October 2013 study published in Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism. (Testosterone builds muscle and boosts energy, while HGH improves your immune system, spikes your metabolism and supports muscle growth, too.)
Make real life easier. When you get stronger, daily tasks such as hefting boxes, bags, and children, become easier.
Boost bone density. Strength training, regardless of pace, has been proven to improve bone density, preventing osteoporosis and fractures.
Have fun. There are countless ways to mix-and-match movements, implements, work-to-rest ratios, and more, meaning boredom never has to be an issue when it’s time to work out. Bonus: You can get into great shape without having to take a single step on a treadmill, if you don’t choose to.
Recover more quickly. This type of training helps your body more quickly clear lactic acid from your muscles — keeping soreness at bay and prepping you for your next workout bout.
Hopefully, you’re itching to give this lift weights faster thing a try. First, a few important considerations:
Your intensity levels will change based on any number of factors — your increasing level of fitness, life stressors, how much sleep you got the night before, what you ate that day, and so on. That means some days you might be able to handle more; other days, less. Roll with that and listen to your body.
How much is too much? It depends and is gonna vary widely by person. As a very general guideline, you can probably lift weights faster anywhere from one to five times a week, depending on how your body handles it.
Rest is where the magic happens. Periodize your high-intensity training. Just as you would your strength workouts, you’ll probably want to dial back the intensity every six weeks or so. That doesn’t mean lay back and do nothing, but it does mean it’s important to give your body a chance to recover and reap the rewards of your training. “Rest is where the magic happens,” says my friend and strength coach Robert dos Remedios. That applies both during your workouts and in between them.
As with too much of any good thing, going all-out day in and day out can eventually lead to physical and emotional burnout. Pay attention to your body’s signals to know when tone it down and when to step it up. If you’re not certain, follow my general rule of thumb: Regardless of your fitness level, if it feels like too much, it probably is.
Ready to lift weights faster?
If you’re looking to amp up your conditioning in creative and productive ways, I’ve put together a mammoth 180-workout pick-and-choose library called Lift Weights Faster 2. Complete with a full exercise glossary that includes written descriptions and photographic demonstrations of nearly 270 exercises (from classic moves to more unusual ones — the Jefferson deadlift, anyone?), a video library that includes coaching on 30 of the more technical lifts, 10 challenge-workout videos, plus a dynamic warm-up routine, I’ve combined my training and athletic experience with my long background in magazine publishing to create a clear-cut, easy-to-use resource that you’ll want to turn to all the time.
Every workout is organized by the equipment you have available and how much time you’ve got, with options that last anywhere from five up to 30 minutes.
Lastly, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention I teamed up with my husband, David Dellanave, to create a strength program companion resource called Get Stronger Faster 2 to help you take your strength level to the next level. This completes the total workout package and helps you get results, faster.
For more info, click HERE.
Note from Molly: In the interest of full disclosure, if you snag Lift Weights Faster through my link, you’re helping support the free information I provide at MollyGalbraith.com.
As I’ve mentioned a million times before, I’m asked at least 20 times a week to review products, affiliate them, share them with my community, etc. And I say yes about 3 times a YEAR. That’s about .3%. That’s because it’s of the utmost importance to me to only promote the best of the best information, period. And not only that, it’s important to me TO PROMOTE this kind of information — like, to ACTIVELY tell the world about it, because I feel a moral obligation to share good stuff with the world, and drown out the bad information, with the good. And I believe that things like this do just that.
So — if Lift Weights Faster 2 seems like something you’d enjoy (and I’m pretty much promising that it is) please grab it through this link. And as a thank-you, I’ll automatically enter you into win one of 3 Gold copies of The Modern Woman’s Guide To Strength Training ($140 value).
Jen Sinkler is a longtime fitness writer for national magazines such as Women’s Health and Men’s Health. A former member of the U.S. national women’s rugby team, she currently trains clients at The Movement Minneapolis. Jen talks fitness, food, happy life and general health topics at her website, www.jensinkler.com.