With the amount of time Americans spend at school or work -- hundreds more hours per year than that of other economically advances nations -- many women find it hard to schedule in a weight training session. If you have a few minutes, however, you can get pretty much everything you need out of a weight-training session. Provided you know how to exercise efficiently, 20 minutes per session should be plenty of time to build muscle and burn fat.
With only 20 minutes, you will not be able to hit every muscle in your body. The solution is to create three 20-minute training sessions that you can alternate. Every session should use only compound movements so as to integrate multiple muscles in each exercise. Free weights are preferable to machines, as they incorporate more muscles. To save time, use heavier weights at lower reps. You will be switching between exercises that hit different muscle areas to save on rest time. Divide your 20-minute weight training sessions into one for your upper body, one for your core and one for your legs.
Upper Body Session
The upper body sessions should focus on your shoulders, arms and chest. Begin with shoulder presses, either using dumbbells or a barbell. Perform six to 10 reps. Move directly to bench presses, using the same weights you were just using. Because shoulder presses are done from a sitting position, you only need to lie down to get into position. Switching from shoulders to chest will not require a resting period. Perform the bench press until failure if you have a spotter; stop before you feel you may fail if you have no one to spot you. Move on to curls, using the same weight you just used, but unloading the weight to something more reasonable. Curl until failure. Move to the dip bars or lever dip machine. Perform dips until you fail. This course of four exercises should take you no more than 10 minutes. Rest for a couple minutes and repeat these four exercises for a total of 20 minutes.
For the core session, you will focus on your abs, back and latissimus dorsi. Begin with pullups. Perform pullups until failure, rest one minute, and repeat the process twice. If you are not strong enough to do pullups, use cable pulldowns instead. Either way, this will take a total of six minutes. Move onto rows of any type; barbell bent-over rows, cable pulley rows and lever rows are all suitable. Row 12 reps, rest one minute, row 8 reps, rest one minute, then row 6 reps and rest one more minute. Finally, begin situps. Perform the situps in the same fashion as the pullups, performing until failure and resting one minute in between sets. The total session should take 18 minutes, plus any time spent moving around the gym.
This session should be slightly less intense, as it includes squats and deadlifts. So, use less weight than you think you can handle to prevent against unnecessary injury. Begin with squats, using dumbbells or bodyweight. Perform 12 reps. Rest two minutes and move on to deadlifts, using the same weight. Perform 12 and rest for two minutes. Perform calf raises, using the same weight or adding more weight if you know you can handle it. Perform 12 and rest for two minutes. These three exercises should cost you nine minutes, including rest time. Repeat the whole process once more for a total of 18 minutes.
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