Timed Workouts – Ways To Track Progress and Reach Goals


For those who have dabbled in Crossfit, the use of timing a workout is nothing new, but for the rest of us we only think of racing the clock for things like 5K races or if we need to finish a workout in time to catch Dancing with the Stars. But racing the clock in any workout has massive benefits that just can’t be ignored.

Benefit #1
Workouts and progression become crazy simple. There are two different ways you can race the clock. One is to set a specific time (5 minutes) and see how much of the exercise you can do. The other is to have a set workout (like doing 100 pull ups) and see how fast you can do them. Either way, the result is the same. You’re attempting to do more work in a set period of time.

Benefit #2
No guessing about progress. It’s so simple to see and track progress with a timed workout. You just strive for a better time or more work in the time limit. If you can do either of those things, you’re automatically assured progress in your training.

Benefit #3
Self motivation to push hard without a partner. We all know it’s easier to push our limits when we have a coach or trainer pushing us. However when we workout alone, it’s tough to dig for that extra 1% that can help jump us up to the next level. With timed workouts, you automatically have that push from the stopwatch and unlike a lenient coach or training partner, it won’t ever give you an inch.

Benefit #4
You can use timed workouts for any goal and any workout style. It doesn’t matter if you’re a powerlifter or a newcomer who wants to cure years of sloth and junk food. You can use any form of exercise you choose at any duration and any intensity. So be creative and use the exercises that fit you best. You have no limitations on exactly what you can and cannot do.

With that said here are some of the basic timed workout styles that are popular, including some of my personal favorites:

#1: A.M.R.A.P. 
Simply set up a circuit of choice and set the timer for a specific amount of time. Your mission is to complete As Many Rounds As Possible (AMRAP) before the buzzer goes off. I’ve found that using 4 minutes per exercise is a pretty good amount of time. So if you have four exercises in your circuit, then 4 exercises X 4 minutes = 16 minute time.

#2: The 3 Minute Test
This one is my favorite when I’m not in the mood for circuits. Simply set a timer for 3 minutes and see how many reps or distance you can cover in that 3 minutes. You can alter the time but I’ve found that 3 minutes is the Goldilocks time for me. It’s not too short to make me feel like it’s an all out sprint, but it’s not too long to make me feel exhausted and worn out afterward. It’s just right. Plus, it provides for a quick workout when I’m short on time.

#3: Interval Workouts
For this one you might need two timers. You have one timer set for a specific time (like 30 seconds) and then you have a second timer for your rest periods (another 30 seconds). You then select how many rounds you want to do (5 rounds) and you keep track of how much of the total exercise you can do in those rounds.

There are an infinite number of timed workouts you can create but those basic ideas should get you started. I recommend giving yourself a few new timed workouts each month and then spend the month improving your time on each, once or twice a week.

One more thing. It goes without saying that good technique and form is of utmost importance but racing the clock can have a tendency to make even the most disciplined exerciser move like a cat on a hot tin roof. To keep my technique from eroding like the California coast, I set parameters in a way that I can’t cheat. For example, when I do push-ups, my chest has to touch the floor and my elbows must lock out or it doesn’t count.

So grab a stop watch or a gym timer and have fun. I personally guarantee you will see progress with using timed workouts.

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About Author

Matt Schifferle

My name is Matt Schifferle and I'm an A.C.E. Certified Personal Trainer, CrossFit Level 1 coach, underground strength coach and I'm a 5th degree black belt in Taekwon-Do. I specialize in outdoor and playground based underground and CrossFit style bootcamps. See my profile page for more information!

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