“Going to the gym with no plan, either in your head or on paper, will ensure that you spend the first 20 minutes wandering around thinking about what to do,” says Turner. “By planning ahead you can ensure that your sessions are doing what they’re meant to and you get them done in a respectable amount of time. You can even work out how long each set will take and have your rest times planned out too. If you are doing ten squats with a three-second eccentric and one-second concentric it should take you 40 seconds a set. Add a 60-second rest period, and a set takes 1min 40sec. So if you’re doing five sets you should be done in 8min 20sec.”
The most effective exercises to turn to are compound lifts. Squatting and deadlifting as heavy as you safely can will tax the body much more: you’ll hit more than one muscle group, give your core a big workout, and burn more energy – the overall benefits of the bigger lifts far outweigh those of isolation exercises.
You can even turn your rest periods into productive time. “Instead of mucking around with your phone during your rest, work on mobility instead,” says Turner. “Rest periods are a great chance to do extra mobility work on your problem areas. If your hips are tight then spend your rest stretching to open them up before going back to your workout. This means you don’t have to spend ages at the beginning and end of your sessions mobilising and warming up, and you’ll get more recovery in throughout your training week.”
Unless you’re purely focusing on bodybuilding-style training, doing sessions that focus on one or two body parts isn’t the fastest way to progress. That style of training requires you to train about five or six times a week, which you may not have time for. “To get the most out of your sessions, opt for full-body workouts,” says Turner. “Use big compound lifts such as squats and deadlifts as your main lift, then add in accessory exercises after that and HIIT finishers. For example, a session could look something like the one outlined here.”
1A Back squat
With a barbell on your back and your weight on your heels, simultaneously bend at the hips and the knees until your thighs are parallel with the floor.
Start either at the top of a press-up or resting on your elbows, with your body in a straight line from head to heels. Contract your abs and hold that position.
2A Reverse lunge
With a bar on your back, take a big step backwards and simultaneously bend both knees until they are at 90°. Push back off your back foot and swap legs each rep.
2B Dumbbell bench press
Lie on a flat or incline bench and hold a dumbbell in each hand directly above your chest. Lower the weights to your chest, then press back up to the start.
2C Romanian deadlift
Stand tall, holding a barbell. Hinge at the hips to send the bar down the front of your legs until you feel a strong stretch in your hamstrings, then return to the start.
Take an underhand grip (palms facing you) and hang from a bar with straight arms. Pull yourself up until your chin is over the bar, then lower slowly under control.
Spend ten minutes doing some high-intensity interval training (HIIT) work such as bodyweight moves or cardio on rowing machine, bike or treadmill.
Finish your session with some direct abs exercises. Moves that work your entire abs and core, such as barbell roll-outs, will give you the biggest bang for your buck.