If you're busy climbing the corporate ladder , then you don't need me to tell you it can be tough to find time to work out. But here's why you should:

  • Exercise has been shown to increase productivity , focus, and energy levels at work, thereby enabling you to get more done

  • It also keeps you healthier, which means you'll be able to keep your head in the game instead of abusing sick leave policies and developing a reputation for chronic absenteeism

  • Replacing fat with muscle builds confidence, which can empower you to go after your loftiest goals

Bottom line: Exercise is really (really) important for anyone looking to advance their career. But the question still remains: Is it possible to build strength and maintain a busy work schedule?

When you employ these six strategies, the answer is a definitive "yes".

Set clear-cut goals

There's no way to know if you're gaining muscle if you don't assess your baseline level of fitness and identify what constitutes "progress". So before you adopt a new strength routine, start by getting clear about what you're hoping to accomplish from your workouts. This is especially important if you're trying to build muscle within serious time constraints, because your goals will help you clarify where to direct your energy.

For example, you might start by identifying three to five exercises that you want to improve on (such as pushups, deadlifts, and curls). Then, define what progress would look like for each of these exercises. Maybe it's transitioning from knees-down pushups to knees up, adding an extra 40 pounds to your deadlift, or increasing the number of reps you can perform at a certain weight while doing curls. Whatever your goals, they will help you know where to devote your limited time and energy resources.

Lift heavier

This is one of the quickest and most surefire ways to maximize strength gains: Regularly increase the weight you lift to challenge your muscles more, thereby requiring more muscle growth from your body.

Of course, don't just head to the gym and try to deadlift 400 pounds. It's critical to make sure you're able to lift safely. So challenge yourself on a regular basis, but only up to a point where you're still able to maintain proper form.

Employ compound exercises

Compound exercises engage the muscle at multiple joints, thereby utilizing a ton of muscle mass. This allows you to save time at the gym: Instead of working each section of muscle in isolation, you can target large swaths of muscle simultaneously to increase the efficiency of each training session.

You're probably already familiar with plenty of compound exercises, even if you didn't know the term. Common compound movements including deadlifts, squats, presses, rows, pulls, and chin-ups.

Combine strength training with HIIT

If you want to maintain cardiovascular stamina and build strength in a short amount of time, then combining strength training with high intensity interval training (or HIIT, which involves short, intense bursts of activity interspersed with recovery periods) is the way to go.

If you're really concerned about strength gains, research suggests you're better off lifting before doing cardio. But if you're strapped for time, you can tackle two birds with one stone by starting with HIIT and making the recovery periods active by adding in some strength training. For example, you might perform high-intensity activity in the form of burpees and then do a few presses during the recovery period.

By combining these two exercise modalities, you can torch fat, maintain cardiovascular fitness, and continue to progress toward your strength goals.

Change up your diet

At first glance, this might seem like a less compelling strategy for muscle gain than "lift heavy things". In reality, diet and muscle gain are inextricably linked. If you want to see strength gains fast, then it's essential to eat in a way that facilitates muscle development. To that end:

  • Eat nutrient-dense foods such as vegetables, lean proteins, moderate amounts of healthy fats, and healthy (not refined) carbs
  • Stay hydrated at all times
  • Before intense training sessions, consume a pre-workout snack that combines healthy proteins and carbs
  • After each training session, consume a protein-rich post-workout snack

Don't neglect rest

Your muscles don't get stronger while they're being challenged--that happens afterward, when your body repairs the muscle. This repair process happens during periods of rest, so it's important to incorporate rest days into your workout routine.

This is great news for busy workers: If you go hard during your training sessions a few times a week, you can spend the other days catching up on work at the office instead of sweating it out in the gym.

The last piece of the puzzle? Make sure you're tracking your progress. Keep a written record of the exercises you've performed, the weights you used, the reps you completed, and how you felt during and after your workouts. This way, you'll be able to monitor your progress and plan your next challenges so you continue to progress toward your goals.