17 Smart Ways To Get A Better Gym Workout

Photographed by Aaron Richter.
By Laura Schwecherl

Hectic lives full of long workdays, dinner parties, and trying to do laundry means fitting in fitness may be hard. So if we’re headed to the gym, we might as well make the most of it. Whether it’s training the whole body at once or working out with a friend, here are 17 ways to be more productive.

Dodge Distractions
Smartphones can be a big time-suck. Avoid texts, calls, and Twitter updates by putting your phone on airplane mode. ("I’m doing a push-up…can I call you back?")

Avoid Rush Hour
Try going to the gym during off-peak hours to steer clear of crowds and avoid waiting for equipment. Extra points for going midday to stay productive all day long!

Know Where To Go
If you’re unfamiliar with the gym, scope out the scene before the workout. Figure out where all the equipment is, so you’re not running in circles looking for the kettlebells.

Related: Interval Training Workouts For Every Fitness Level

Download An App
Not sure exactly what to do at the gym? Don’t waste time wondering; use a fitness app to have a plan in your palm. Try a strength-training or running app to get started.

Turn On The Tunes
Studies show listening to music while working out can help people work harder, better, faster, and stronger.

Set A Goal

Figure out what you want to do at the gym before arriving. (Arms? Abs? Cardio?) Write down the number of sets or even a specific workout to avoid cutting corners.
Photographed by Aaron Richter.
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Stay Hydrated
Water can fight fatigue, too. Fill up your bottle or frequent the fountains to stay energized all workout long.

Fuel Up

Make sure you’re not running on empty. Try a pre-workout snack, like an apple and peanut butter or a protein smoothie.
Time Your Rest
Stay aware of the clock ticking between intervals or sets. That one-minute “rest” could turn into three or four minutes if you’re not conscious of how much time is slipping away.

Do Super-Sets
Want to really save time and challenge your body? Do two exercises in a row that focus on the same muscle group (read: super-set). Decreasing rest will engage muscles and burn more calories.

Add Resistance
To avoid the weight-room plateau, begin to increase your weight safely. Upping intensity will help build muscle, so you'll get stronger in no time.

Related: The 8-Week Barbell Program For Serious Strength Gains

Take A Class
Sign up for a yoga, Spinning, or even a Japanese-samurai-swordfighting class. That way, your workout gets a definite start and end time, help from an instructor, and accountability. (Thanks, classmates!) It'll be pretty hard to slack off.

Tabata
In a hurry? High-intensity interval training like Tabata can burn fat in no time. (Well, four minutes.)

Choose Compound Lifts
Kill multiple birds with one stone and work the full body all at once. Compound lifts, such as deadlifts and squats, will give muscles way more bang for their buck.
Photographed by Aaron Richter.
Run Intervals
Instead of spending an hour on the treadmill, try running intervals instead. Short bursts of intense running boost metabolism, build lean muscle, and burn more fat — in less time.

Pick A Partner
BYOF to the gym. Having a friend with you may increase accountability. Try these exercises and work out side-by-side.

Try A Personal Trainer
To prevent any sort of slacking (we’ve all been there) sign up for a session with a trainer. Science suggests this will motivate you to increase your workout's intensity.

Next: The Real Reason Your Muscles Are Sore After A Workout
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