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Time Friendly Workouts: What to do When You Are Crunched for Time

Man do I love the feeling of wrapping up a 60-75 minute workout, drenched in sweat, knowing I put in a solid day’s work for myself.  Unfortunately, between the drive to and from the gym, and time spent at the gym, I just don’t always have that much time to spend.  Does that mean I should just skip my workout that day… that week… that month?

We all have times where work, family, and other social commitments can get in the way of our desire to give our body what it so sorely wants.  That does NOT mean that we have to succumb to the demands of life.

Today I’m going to give you some ideas for creating your own time-friendly workout with some easy plug and play parameters.  I’ll also give you a complete time-friendly workout routine to get you started while you conjure up your own magic.

First, let’s start with the building blocks of a quick program.  This can change based on your fitness goals, but for today, we’ll keep it simple.

Building Block 1: Activation/Tissue Warm-up

Whatever your goal, you want to make sure that you give your tissues a fighting chance to do what you ask of them.  So, start with some self-myofascial work on a foam roller or softball to some targeted areas that are going to git ‘er done on that day.

Some examples of common muscles or body regions to hit are the glutes (ALL OF THEM!), thoracic spine, and the lats.  If I had to pick 3 to hit every time, it would be these.  Some others to consider, based on the amount of time you have, are pecs, quads, hamstrings, and calves.

Building Block 2: Core Work

Whether you are a desk jockey, high-level athlete, or somewhere in the middle, core work is always important.  I like to think of the core as our pillar of stability.  In other words, job number one is to resist or control motions.  In this vein, one way to classify core exercises is by the motions that they resist: anti-flexion (bending forward), anti-extension (bending backward), anti-rotation (twisting), and anti-lateral flexion (bending sideways).

When I build a typical program, I try to include at least 2-3 of those motions every day.  BUT, if you’re in a crunch (pun intended), let’s just make sure we get 1-2 in there.  I’m a big fan of the anti-rotation group, especially for golfers and others who rotate frequently and forcefully.  

Building Block 3: Speed Work (POWER)

Not everyone knows the true definition of power, which basically is strength and speed put together.  Just so the power nerd police don’t hunt me down, the real equation for power is Force ∗Velocity.  In other words, how fast you can do something with strength.  For golfers or other rotational sports athletes, this category is not optional.  However, if you are merely trying to stay fit and healthy, this category can become optional.  

One of the simplest ways to work on power can be by using body weight.  If you have healthy knees, rotational jumps are a nice way to begin building rotary power.  If you have access to a gym, using medicine balls in a variety of ways are some of my favorite ways to build power.  Take a look at the video below for two of my favorite med ball variations for rotary power.

Remember, our definition of power involves velocity, so think moving weight fast and you’ll be on the right track.

Building Block #4: Strength Work

At some point in your workout, you definitely want to build in some strength work.  I like to keep it simple with strength work, especially in a quick workout.  

In any program, there are four main strength moves. A squat, a hip hinge (dead lift), an upper body push (bench press) and an upper body pull (row).  There are endless variations within those categories, but for our purposes today, we want to make sure we cycle through each of the categories over the course of successive workouts for well-rounded strengthening.  In other words, one day’s strength move is squat, next day press, then hinge, then row.  The order is not relevant for today’s discussion, but the point is to avoid hammering one strength move while ignoring the others.

Programming sets and reps of your strength work is mostly dependent on the goal of your workout.  For example, if the goal of your workout is building muscle, then you want to do work in the 8-12 rep range, which should be challenging to complete, and done before doing power work to ensure you have enough gas in the tank for your main focus. Conversely, if power is your main focus, then do that first.  If your goal is ruthless strength, then you might do 3-5 reps per set.  See the chart below from the National Strength and Conditioning Association for general guidelines on rep schemes and intent.

Figure 1. Repetitions per set based upon training goal. Optimal results have been found with areas in yellow.

Building Block #5: Conditioning (5 minutes)

If we are talking about a time efficient workout, you definitely aren’t hitting the treadmill for a 20-minute run.  However, that doesn’t mean you can’t challenge your cardiovascular system in a positive way and do it in 5 minutes or less.  When I’m in a hurry, I like to challenge my cardio with short bouts of max effort, followed by bouts of rest.  For example, you might go full tilt on an exercise bike for 15-20 seconds, then coast for 40-45 seconds, off and on for 5 minutes.

This type of interval training not only is effective for making a cardiovascular impact but is extremely efficient and adaptable to just about any device or activity.  Some examples: exercise bike, rowing machine, stair stepper, elliptical, etc.  You can also change the interval period or duration based on how much time you have.

There you have it!  Those are the basic building blocks of building a quick, but a well-rounded program that you can perform in 20 minutes.  Within the time frames I set earlier, you can adjust them up or down depending on what the goal of your workouts are.  Are you focused on mobility?  If so, beef up the activation and tissue prep phase.  Do you want to really work on speed?  Beef up that section.  It’s an easy plug and play system.

Below is a sample program that you can do in 20 minutes and is built around lower body strength with very little equipment requirements. (Videos of these exercises can be found on our YouTube channel.)

Block 1: Activation/Tissue Warm-up (4 minutes)

Foam roll glutes, quads and thoracic spine (middle back)

4-way hip Burnout – 10 reps each


Block 2: Core Work (4 minutes)

Slide Outs – 2 x 15 reps

Pallof Press – 5” hold x 10 reps each side

Suitcase Carry – 50’ x 2 each


Block 3: Power/Speed Work (4 minutes)

Speed Pulls – 3 x 8 reps

Banded Rotations – 3 x 8 each side


Block 4: Strength (4 minutes)

Split Squats – 3 x 8 reps per side (Make sure to build in some rest breaks between sets)


Block 5: Conditioning (4 minutes)

Intervals on stationary bike

As always, if you have any concerns about your exercise capacity, consult with a medical professional before starting a new program to ensure you are safe.

If you would like more information about this topic or anything related to golf fitness and rehab, please do not hesitate to contact us at Par4Success.


Ted M Graham, DPT, TPI, SFMA

Founder, CEO

Chris Finn

P4S Golf
“We Give Golfers A Clear Path To Longevity In Golf – Low Scores, More Distance And Less Pain.”

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