Powerful Workouts In 30 Minutes or Less

iStock_000006214708LargeOur lives are full of complications and obligations that do nothing but eat up time. If you live in a large metropolitan area, you can expect upwards of two hours to be eaten up by drive time – time that could be spent in the gym. No one can blame you trying to avoid wasting another 60 to 90 minutes in the gym.

Make Time for Workouts with Shorter, More Effective Routines

If you’re the guy who goes to the gym, does a 60 minute workout, then hits the treadmill for 20 to 30 minutes, you’re the guy we’re talking to here. We would wager that if you don’t have that time in a day, you probably skip the gym altogether, vowing to make up for it in future workouts where you plan to kill yourself a little more.

Unfortunately, there’s no such thing as shoring up do-overs. It’s actually better to get into the gym for under 30 minutes than to skip a workout today, and somehow think you’ll make up for that lost day with a longer workout the next. Longer workouts aren’t a makeup for skipping a workout, they simply cause more fatigue that could potentially cause injury or force an “overtrained” body state.

Tips to Pare Down Workout Times

  • Compound + Non-compound: Do a power move (compound exercise) with a finishing exercise for each body part.
  • Vary repetitions: Compound exercises should be 4 to 8 reps at 85 percent of 1RM; high reps in your other exercises
  • Vary set types: Do super- or giant-sets in place of traditional 4×8 workouts per exercise
  • Take certain sets to failure: Drop sets conserve time, yet work the muscle to exhaustion rapidly.
  • Move continuously: Move from one body part to another, taking zero rest time, yet allowing the first body part to rest while you work the second.
  • Add Pliometrics: Boost intensity by adding jumps in between sets of legs, such as jump lunges, or squat leaps in between sets of extensions
  • Sprint between sets: If you’re working upper body, get on the treadmill during a rest and run a 1 minute top-speed sprint or crank elevation to up intensity.
  • Pick up the pace: Walk rapidly between stations – every second counts

Now we’re not telling you that you should do these kinds of workouts all the time. But in the interest of scheduling a busy life, it may be worth your while to know how to scale back to get the best benefit.

If you have 30 minutes or less, you can accomplish quite a lot just by alternating sets of different muscle groups. For instance, if you’re doing a set of incline dumbbell press, move straight over to a flat bench and do a set of French press with an EZ-curl bar. Then move immediately back to your incline bench to do a second set of presses, and so on.

By adding sprints to fill time in between sets – particularly when the muscle groups you’re working fall within the upper body – you can accomplish a great deal.

The key to burning calories within a short time period is boosting intensity. In this case, that would mean working harder than normal by increasing your “perceived exertion.”

Perceived exertion means going from sweating a little to sweating a lot, or going from being able to talk during a treadmill session, to not being able to talk at all because you are so out of breath.

There are two ways in which you can do this: Pliometrics and sprints. We suggest both. For example, when do leg extensions, immediately do squat jumps between sets, then resume extensions.

Sprints will also boost intensity and be an apt replacement for the cardio you normally do to burn fat. Sprints can actually burn more calories during workouts, and keep heart rate up to benefit metabolism and fat loss.

And unlike longer duration aerobic exercise of moderate intensity, you’ll accomplish more in a shorter period of time. In turn, you’ll also increase both your aerobic and anaerobic capacity, which will benefit you enormously when it comes time for longer, more grueling mass-building workouts.

Try not to think of a shortfall in time as a reason to skip a workout and make up for it later in the week. Instead, use the time you have to maximize intensity and add new skill sets into the mix. Most looking to build mass would probably not think to use pliometrics or sprints – particularly on a leg day – as a workout game-changer. But that’s just what this can be if you use these short workouts regularly as part of a busy schedule.


Muscle Group: Legs (Quads and Hamstrings)
Sprints: 3 minutes of sprinting on incline (Heart rate of 180 to 190bpm)
Warm-up squats: Bar-only squats 1 x 40 (Take 1 minute rest)
Squats (75 to 85 percent of 1RM): 4 x 10 (Pliometrics: Lateral, and forward box leaps in between sets). 1 minute rest
Leg Extensions (75 percent of 1RM; decreasing weight by one plate each set): 3 x 8,10,12 (Pliometrics: Squat leaps
Stiff-Legged deadlifts: 3 x 12 (Pliometrics: Lunges with leap changes in leg (no weight) 2 x 15-20)
Sprint: 2 minutes

FACT: Studies show that short, intense periods of high-intensity exercise actually may burn more calories than traditional moderate-duration/ medium-intensity cardio, while also improving muscle performance and oxygen capacity.
FACT: Short bouts of intense exercise cause an appreciable increase in citrate synthesis – the enzyme that marks how effective a muscle is at utilizing oxygen.

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