Chances are you have better and more fun things to do than waste your life at the gym. To get in, get the best possible workout, and get outta there ASAP, use these shortcuts from certified fitness trainer Angel Santiago, lead instructor at Drill Fitness in New York City.
1. Work your lower body before your upper body.
Your biggest muscles are in your legs. Because it takes more effort to move them, you burn more calories whenever you do exercises that involve your quads (the fronts of your thighs), hamstrings (the backs of your thighs), and your butt (you know where that is). When you work your lower body first thing, you have more energy to give it your all, so you can really power through the biggest calorie burners.
2. Stand on one foot.
Whenever you incorporate exercises that challenge your balance like standing on one foot or doing a hands plank with your opposite arm and leg raised, you fire up muscles in your abs, obliques, and mid-back, Santiago says. Meaning? You'll save time on core exercises later on.
3. Grab a weight.
Just holding a dumbbell or plate while you do lunges or crunches makes any body weight exercise harder and every rep more effective. This trick works for any body-weight exercise, like squats, reverse crunches (when you lift your legs in the air instead of lifting your shoulders off the ground), and so forth.
4. Grab a heavier weight than you normally would.
When you lift heavier weights, you automatically increase your exercise intensity. High-intensity exercise helps your body burn more calories even after you stop sweating, Santiago says. So if you're used to 5-pounders, heave-ho and grab a set of 10s. Then perform just 10 to 15 reps total, or work your way up to that. You can do it! (And no, it will not bulk you up.)
5. Count something else.
If you usually count reps, switch it up and do as many reps as you can in 30 to 60 seconds. If you usually time your reps, start counting. When you do the same exact exercises over and over again, your body gets really good at it, and you end up burning fewer calories than you did when the same exercises felt really challenging. Mix up the pace and quantity of your reps to avoid a fitness plateau, and see results much more quickly.
6. Use a Swiss ball instead of the floor or a bench.
When you do, say, crunches on the floor or on a bench, the flat, stable surface supports your back. When you lie on a Swiss ball or a BOSU ball (it looks like half a ball), there's a lot less support, so your core muscles really have to kick in to compensate. Stand on a BOSU ball while you do upper body exercises like front raises (just hold a dumbbell in front of your thigh with your palm facing your body, lift it straight up in front of you to shoulder-height, and lower with control).
7. Alternate between floor exercises and upright exercises.
Just getting up off the floor burns extra calories. And although many floor exercises (like mountain climbers) are just as intense as ones you do upright, it can be tempting to linger on the floor once you plop down. Of course, it's cool to take breaks when you need them, but extra-long breaks eat up time and ultimately extend your workout.
8. Ditch jogging.
9. Do two exercises at once.
Instead of doing plain bicep curls, add a squat or lunge to make it a compound movement. The more muscles you can use at one time, the more efficient your workout will be in terms of building strength, or burning calories if that's your goal. Need some inspiration? Try this full-body workout.
10. Alternate between high- and low-impact exercises.
Jumping exercises (jump squats, high knees, jumping jacks, jumping rope) are high-impact. Anything that entails keeping both feet or your butt on the ground is low-impact. When you switch between the two, you'll find that you can go longer without resting, which means you'll squeeze in more exercises in less time.
11. Listen to a playlist you love.
It tricks your body into working harder. Research suggests that rhythm may physiologically prep your body to take your workout to the next level. And it obviously makes you hate your workout less.
12. Alternate between cardio and strength training.
Unless you're training for an endurance race, there's no reason to do steady-state cardio, Santiago says. Do jumping jacks between floor exercise sets to conquer cardio and strength-training all at once.
13. Hydrate with ice water.
Science says that drinking super-cold water before and during your workout helps your body cool itself, so you can last longer without taking a break—especially in a hot, humid environment (like the gym). The fewer breaks you take, the more exercise you can squeeze into a time-crunched workout.
14. Overhaul your routine every four weeks.
Your body burns the most calories when you challenge it. But when you do the same workout two or three times a week for a month, your body adapts and gets bored. Trip it up with an entirely new workout routine (check out CosmoBody for ideas), or modify it for a little extra burn. If you're used to regular burpees (you put your hands on the ground, jump back into a plank, jump your feet back toward your hands, and stand up) add a jump when you stand. Or, if you're used to doing regular crunches on the floor, lie with your spine on a foam roller to introduce an element of instability, which makes every rep harder.
15. Spread out.
When you extend and elevate your arms and legs in an exercise such as crunches, you activate even the tiny muscles in your core to fight against gravity. This makes the exercise more challenging, so you exhaust your body (and finish your workout) more quickly.
16. Fuel up with a pre-workout coffee.
It's not cheating—it's a science-backed way to increase your energy output. Research suggests that a large cup of coffee (about 8 to 12 ounces with 179 milligrams of caffeine) can help you work out at a higher intensity without feeling like you're trying way harder.
While full-extension exercises like triceps kickbacks (lean forward at the waist, and hold a weight in each hand, and extend both arms to drive the weight behind you) incorporate the most muscles, momentum can make these moves easier. While pulsing isn't necessarily better than doing full-out extensions, tiny movements recruit the muscles in your core and keep your body guessing. (The same goes for static holds.) Because it's harder to work your body in new ways, you'll automatically get a more intense workout and exhaust your muscles more quickly. Try alternating between full extensions and pulses (or static holds) to boost your burn.
18. Do a group fitness class.
No matter how efficiently you think you work out on your own, you'll ultimately slow down when you're tired. But in a group setting where an instructor is cheering you on and the girl next to you is pushing through the pain, you might find the extra oomph to power through those last five reps. The result is a better workout—and assuming the class doesn't run over, it won't cost you any extra time.
19. Run outside.
Classic research suggests that when you run outside, you face air resistance that makes your body work harder and burn more calories than you would by running just as fast on an indoor treadmill. While you can increase the incline about 1 percent to compensate, real terrain engages your mind much more than any indoor cycling "hill" or treadmill incline, so you might end up running faster or farther or more frequently when you realize that running isn't actually so bad.
20. Work out whenever you want.
If you feel most alert in the morning, that's when you'll get your best workout, Santiago says. If you plan workouts for times when you feel best, you'll be more likely to arrive on time instead of procrastinating, give it your all, and ultimately get a more efficient workout.
The Tamad Girl's Workout
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.