Use the 80/20 principle in the gym

You're a busy person, right? Time spent doing one thing means that you can't spend time doing another important thing. So, when you go to the gym, you need to focus on getting the best use of your time, to get the best benefit, and then move on. In fact, if you could be that bit more efficient in the gym, it might be enough to swing the balance in favour of you actually going, instead of saying, 'I haven't got time to get though my entire workout, so I won't go'.

You've also heard of the 80/20 principle too, of course - that roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. Applying this rule in the gym means that you are trying to find the magic mix between exercise selection and duration to achieve maximal results in minimal time. Here are some tips to help you find that magic combination, rather that mindlessly progressing through your workout sheet.

1. Squats before everything else. The squat is the daddy of all resistance exercises. It targets every muscle group of the lower body and can provide a cardio workout too. Make sure you have decent technique, but do this before doing any other leg exercises.

2. Use compound movements. Rather than wasting valuable time on movements that only target one joint (e.g. the bicep curl), choose a compound movement that targets multiple joints, like a chin-up, or if that's hard, a seated wide grip cable row - elbow shoulder joint, biceps, lats, traps, rear deltoids, and forearms too).

3. Free weights rule. Step away from the weights machines. The same movement pattern performed with free weights will recruit stabilising muscle to assist with the movement. You will also work harder through your core (don't forget to engage), and you'll get a better overall training effect.

4. Use more intense cardio exercises. Try running or rowing to get the most efficient calorie burn for the time spent doing them.

5. Interval training works. Interval training - that is, periods of high intensity cardiovascular exercise interspersed with low intensity “recovery” periods - are more challenging, less boring and more effective than steady state cardio if fat loss and body composition changes are your goal. You reach a higher heart rate, and you'll also burn more calories during your workout. Your metabolic response and rate of oxygen consumption will remain elevated long after you finish - which is good. And you might not to spend that long doing it either.