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How to get the most out of a workout when you don’t have much time

Blog and workout advice from the lovely Jessica Dorrian, one of our awesome fitness instructors at SportUNE

In the business of life, whether we are studying, working, parenting, or all of the above, it seems hard to think about a workout let alone finding the time to actually do the minimum of 3 times a week that is recommended.

People often think to get a good full-body workout you need to have hours to spare for each workout. And if they can’t find time to get a big work out in, they just drop it out all together that day, which I  myself have been guilty of. But the truth is any workout is better than no workout!

To get in a good workout in a small amount of time there are three main things you need to decide on

  • What is your goal?
  • What type of exercises?
  • What style of workout?


First, you need to decide what your goal is for the workout. Are you wanting a whole body workout, for overall fitness or weight management? Or do you want a strength-based workout to increase strength and/or muscle? Once you determine what your goal is, then you can look at what type of exercises you are going to be doing.


I have found if you design your workouts with compound movements instead of isolation movements, you can work a whole range of muscles in a lot less time.

    • Compound – Uses more than one joint, therefore using multiple groups of muscles
    • Isolation – Uses only one joint, and therefore a limited number of muscles

Both compound and isolation exercises have their place, and can add great value to your workout, but if you want more bang for your buck, compound exercises would be the way to go. They not only let you work more muscle groups at once, but give you practical strength with functional movements that we use in our everyday life.

You can do compound exercises with any type of equipment, but I have found that using bodyweight, dumbbells or kettlebells are great for time-saving workouts.

Below are some great compound exercise examples for both dumbbell and bodyweight


  1. Bench Press
  2. Military Press
  3. Squat Variations
  4. Deadlift
  5. Lunge Variations
  6. Weighted Sit-Ups
  7. Dumbbell Clean and Press
  8. Or combinations of these – e.g. Dumbbell Lunge & Press


  1. Push-Ups
  2. Squats
  3. Lunges
  4. Chin-Ups / Pull-Ups
  5. Burpees
  6. Skipping
  7. Star Jumps
  8. Mountain Climbers

Or, if you’re a little more visual, like me, you can find some other great compound movements on the link below

Once you know your goal and your exercises then you need to decide on your workout.

Strength Based

Most strength workouts are designed using repetitions and sets. If you are time poor, you may want to just pick one lower body and one upper body compound lift to work on, though you can do more if you have the time.

If strength development is your main goal, you should work with heavier weights so you can only lift around 5-8 repetitions, and aim for 3 to 5 sets of each exercise. However, make sure the weight isn’t so heavy that it means you can’t lift with good form, or obtain full range in your movements.

**Note always work up to heavier weights making sure you warm your muscles up properly first.

Some great movement choices for strength are

  • Squats
  • Deadlifts
  • Bench Press
  • Lat Pulldown

As these compound movements use lots of muscles and can be extremely tiring.

Whole-body workout – for overall fitness

When it comes to ideas for the whole-body workout, choosing movements that work both upper and lower body is ideal, and I always like to throw in a bit of cardio as well. Most workouts can be done either by timing or reps.

  • Timing – choose the time you want to do each exercise for, and do as many reps as possible in that time
  • Reps – choose how many repetitions you want to do of each exercise before you move on to the next exercise

Designing your workout – choose how long you want to workout for, and then pick a group of exercises you want to do. Once this is done, there are lots of great ways in which you can arrange your workout.

Some great ideas for your workout layout is:

So that’s a few of the basics covered – I hope its helped a little!

So whether you have 15 minutes or an hour, you can still get a great workout in that can get that your heart pumping and hit all the muscle groups you are wanting.

Make sure to check out the Sportune Wellness Hub that has some great strength-based and Hiit workouts. Or connect with like-minded people in our Facebook group.