10 Time-Saving Tips for Weightlifting Workouts

Weightlifting is a very time-dependent sport. Elite weightlifters train hours per day, for years. Even novice lifters looking to increase basic understanding, strength, and power may very well find themselves devoting hours per week in an attempt to perfect the snatch, clean, and jerk. Although progress can take thousands of training hours, thoughtful nutrition, and sufficient sleep/recovery, coaches and athletes can rework training cycles to become more time efficient while still increasing technique, strength, and performance.

Below are 10 time-saving techniques coaches and athletes can use when programming weightlifting cycles used for individual athletes or weightlifting classes.

1. Perform a Needs Assessment

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Every coach and athlete should have a clear understanding of the performance objectives of every training day. Most lifters do not have three hours per day to spend on mobility, technique, finishing the second pull, squat strength, and plyometrics. Coaches need to prioritize what aspects of training are most vital (pauses are various technical sticking points, collapsing in cleans, etc), and attack that first. When developing training programs, I find it beneficial to focus on either plyometrics and technique days, or strength and hypertrophy. When adding too many exercises and variations within a single session, time can be lost in transitions, constant warm-up sets, and the need to have athletes find a new groove as the move exercise to exercise.

2. Train One Competition Lift Per Day

While many coaches may disagree, I feel that some lifters can benefit from training only snatch or clean and jerk per training session (provided they are training 3+ times per week). During shorter training sessions, lifters may only have 30-40 minutes to get quality work in following a sound dynamic warm-up and technical work for that day. Instead of training both competition lifts, coaches and athletes can find and stay in their grooves throughout the training session. For example, an athlete would perform snatches, then transition to overhead squatting and snatch pulls. By not switching the movement patterns up, athletes may be able to better hone in on technique throughout the training session

3. Use A Stopwatch

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Time management is key when training on a time budget. Coaches and athletes should have time tables set up to evaluate the projected time duration of each training session and it’s individual segments to program more effectively and efficiently. By managing the clock, coaches and athletes can evaluate recovery between sets and monitor intensity levels (70-80% lifts will take less time to recover from than 85%+). During group sessions, coaches can monitor the flow of the group and make adjustments on the fly if need be to ensure all athletes get the most amount of quality work in that they can every training session.

4. Train Both Competition Lifts Per Day

In opposition to #2, training both lifts per day can be very beneficial for athletes who may have limited days to train per week. By programming both lifts in the same training session, you are able to get more repetitions in every week for both, which in the long run can improve technique and progress. Additionally, active competitors would benefit from training snatches and cleans in the same session as that is exactly what must happen during weightlifting competitions.

5. Warm-Up Faster

While mobility work, foam rolling, and 20-minute warm-up routines are important, many athletes may be abusing the warm-up segments, taking valuable time away from their training. When in a time crunch, athletes can perform 3-5 minutes of rowing, jogging, or cycling to elevate the heart rate, and then go into a dynamic warm-up. In the event there are particular mobility concerns, athletes can build those mobilization exercises into the unloaded barbell drills or dynamic warm-ups to conserve as much time as possible for the actual training session.

6. Program Barbell Complexes

Complexes may be one of the most time-saving techniques out there. The ability to program high pulls, power variations, behind the neck pressing, and even pause squat variations all into one nasty complex allows for creativity and freedom throughout a training session. Through using complexes, coaches and athletes can increase training volume, time under tension, and build in individual-specific assistance lifts; all of which are critical for technical and performance improvements.

7. Focus on The Fundamentals

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I often see weightlifters performing endless amounts of variations within training sessions, only to seem surprised that they are not even halfway done and are nearly out of time. While I agree snatch and clean variations, jerk complexes, and endless accessory lifts are all amazing at improving performance; coaches and athletes need to recognize that the fundamental movements should be the priority when time is a factor. Snatches, clean and jerks, squats, front squats, RDLs, and snatch/clean pulls are some of the most basic and effective exercises that can be done nearly every training session. Prioritizing the most effective movements are critical when training time is a limiting factor. In the event a lifter has a unique case where their priority may be something outside strength and general skill work, coaches and athletes can include certain assistance lifts into training regimens.

8. 20/20 EMOM Days

Popularized by the late Joe Mills, National Level Weightlifter and Coach, and Head Coach of Central Falls Weightlifting Club, 20 for 20 days are as straight-forward as it gets. Joe Mills would regularly have his athletes perform one lift every minute (EMOMs), with the end goal of going 20 for 20 on that day. To start, an athlete would load the bar with 70% of their max and perform 5 singles in 5 minutes, add  5 kilograms for the next 5 reps, add 2.5 kilograms for the next five reps, and end with progressive heavy singles for the last 5 repetitions.

For example:

  • 70kg x 5 sets x 1 rep = 0-5 minutes
  • 75kg x 5 sets x 1 rep = 6-10 minutes
  • 77.5kg x 5 sets x 1 rep = 11-15 minutes
  • 80kg x1 = 16th minute
  • 82.5kg x1 = 17th minute
  • 85kg x1 = 18th minute
  • ? = 19th minute
  • ? = 20th minute
  • *1RM = 100kg

Not only does this train valuable repetitions within the 70-85% rep range, it also can improve an athlete’s base conditioning levels and GPP due to the shortened recovery time between sets. Personally, these are my go to workouts when in a rush, on vacation, or simply trying to get quality volume in.

9. Program Pulls with Main Lifts

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Snatch and clean pulls are effective for improving explosive strength, balance over the midfoot, and isolating any weaknesses in technique during the pull. In time crunches, coaches and athletes can place pulls within complexes, often prior to the fuller versions (snatch high pull + snatch). Additionally, programming pulls within complexes allows coaches and athletes to increase training volume and perceived intensity while still using 70-85% loads.

10. Stretch and Mobilize at Home

The other 23 hours of an athlete’s day will greatly impact their ability to perform well during training sessions. I have found it highly beneficial to sneak in as much static stretching and mobility work as i can throughout my work day (I am actually stretching my hamstrings on the floor while typing this), which in turn allows me to prepare faster for training sessions. Simple stretches done while travelling, in the car, or while laying in bed can all help to minimize excessive time spent mobilization, stretching, and warming-up at the gym.

Final Words

To find progress in the world of weightlifting take time, a lot of time. Coaches and athletes can better prepare themselves for that progress by programming efficiently. Experiment with the above tips, and comment below with any other time-saving techniques that you have found beneficial!

Editors note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein are the authors and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.

Featured Image: @mikejdewar on Instagram