What with family events, a hectic work schedule and all the other commitments you have, spare time can sometimes be a rarity. And you definitely don't want to be spending all of it in the gym. The good news is that you can build muscle and burn fat with just two workouts per week. The key is to train with intensity and consistency and make the most of your gym time.
To get the most bang for your buck in each session, perform full-body workouts. These involve hitting all of your major muscle groups -- quads, hamstrings, chest, back, shoulders and arms -- every time you're in the gym. Full-body training is the best way to maximize calorie burn and fat loss, according to trainer Marc Perry, author of "The Get Lean Guide." Hitting more muscle groups means you burn more calories and increase your metabolic rate.
Exercises, Sets and Reps
To further boost that all-important calorie burn, pick multijoint compound exercises, advises strength coach Rachel Cosgrove. These include squats, lunges, deadlifts, pushups, bench presses, rows and chinups. The premise is again that by working more muscles, you train harder and burn more calories. Forget that old myth about light weights and high reps for fat loss -- this is false. Training heavier causes tiny micro tears in the muscles, which stimulate muscle growth, writes trainer Shannon Clark on Bodybuilding.com. Training with heavy weights once again bumps your metabolic rate as well, leading to even faster fat loss. Pick five or six exercises and perform three tough sets of eight to 10 reps on each.
The dreaded cardio -- it's not essential for fat loss, but it does help. When time is of the essence, help is at hand with the form of high-intensity interval training. This involves short bursts of 30 seconds to three minutes as fast as you can, followed by an equal amount of time at a steady pace. Interval training is far more time-efficient than plodding away at a slow jog on a treadmill for an hour. Pick a cardio machine, warm up for three minutes, then go as hard as you can for 30 seconds, reduce your speed to a steady pace for 60 to 90 seconds and repeat this eight to 10 times. Finish with a three-minute cool down.
Space your sessions three to four days apart. You need a rest in between, as it can take up to 72 hours for your muscles to recover after a workout, according to the American Council on Exercise. Aim to lift heavier weights or perform more sets and reps each session and increase the intensity of your cardio. For best results, reduce your calorie intake to the stage you're losing around 1 pound per week. Building muscle and burning fat simultaneously can be hard to achieve, but this small decrease week on week should ensure you're losing fat without losing muscle mass. Also, be sure to check in with your doctor before starting a new exercise routine.
Mike Samuels started writing for his own fitness website and local publications in 2008. He graduated from Peter Symonds College in the UK with A Levels in law, business and sports science, and is a fully qualified personal trainer, sports massage therapist and corrective exercise specialist with accreditations from Premier Global International.