Tip: The 20-Percent Experiment

Get a better workout every single time you walk into the gym. Here's how.

Are You a Gym Bee or a Gym Mosquito?

There's this old saying: "The bee is praised, but the mosquito is swatted." The gist is, they're both very busy, but the bee is making honey while the mosquito is just flying around being a dick. Or something like that.

It's about productivity. Being busy isn't necessarily being productive, and that goes double when you're in the gym.

Try this:

  1. Figure out how long a typical lifting workout lasts.
  2. Take that number in minutes and subtract 20 percent.
  3. The next time you do that workout, try to finish in the slightly shorter timeframe.

Here's what that would look like:

  • A 120-minute workout would get 24 minutes subtracted from it. New time cap: 96 minutes.
  • A 60-minute workout would lose 12 minutes. New time cap: 48 minutes.
  • A 30-minute workout gets dropped by 6 minutes. New time cap: 24 minutes.
  • Because you don't want to be a gym mosquito: appearing to be busy but not really getting much accomplished. Maybe you're too chatty, or maybe you get lost in Magical Phone Land without realizing it. Maybe you're reading The Secret on the bench press and someone should kick you in the balls for occupying the bench too long and also for reading The Secret.
  • Because you're a little chubby and out of shape right now... and taking 12 minutes between sets of curls isn't helping to keep your conditioning up.
  • Because your work capacity sucks. And being able to do more work in the same amount of time – or an equal amount of quality work in the same time – is a measurement of progress. And progress is good. We like progress.
  • You'll probably notice that you had a fantastic workout! Really. The new time cap didn't affect the number of exercises, sets, or reps you had planned to do. You simply trimmed the fat from your session.
  • Your focus will be sharpened. They say that there's no such thing as true "reality TV" because we unconsciously alter our behaviors when we know a camera is running. The same can be said for clocks. Just knowing the countdown timer on your iPhone is ticking away will cause you to concentrate, focus, and not get distracted... no matter how good she looks in those yoga pants.
  • If a time cap DOES affect your workout, it's probably a sign that your conditioning has slipped. Keep the deadline, try harder, and that will fix itself.

Want to really make this work? Adopt this rule and stick to it:

"When my time runs out, I have to stop right where I'm at and leave the gym, even mid-set."

We love to train, and cutting a planned workout short is a punishment. Chances are it'll only happen once. You'll figure out fast where the "junk minutes" of your workout are found and chop them out next time.

Chris Shugart is T Nation's Chief Content Officer and the creator of the Velocity Diet. As part of his investigative journalism for T Nation, Chris was featured on HBO’s "Real Sports with Bryant Gumble." Follow on Instagram