30-minute resistance training workouts for the time-poor

Posted by Dayne Hudson in Workouts

Estimated reading time: 6mins

30-minute resistance training workouts for the time-poor | Bulk Nutrients Blog

Workouts for the busy person

Firstly, it might seem that skipping the gym to get everything done is better.

But it's not.

Research shows exercise actually increases productivity and reduces stress. So, by actually going to the gym, you'll then be able to use your time more effectively to get tasks done.

Moreover, exercise improves our mood and wellbeing, which can help our attitude when it comes to dealing with tasks.

It seems counterproductive but taking a step away to train (and doing it quickly!) seems to slow down time, and give us more energy and a better attitude.

Moreover, we're learning more about how exercise can help us with depression, anxiety , cognitive impairments, and fatigue.

With what we know around exercise and mental health, the entire population should be making time to fit it in consistently. 

Training quickly when you're busy 

Research shows we need about 10-20 sets per week for maximal muscle growth for large body parts.

With this in mind, we want to be aiming for a minimum of ten sets for our body parts, which is exactly what we'll be doing.

We'll be training muscle groups together that are not reliant on each other whatsoever, where minimal rest is no issue. For example, training back and hamstrings together.

A blistering set of hamstring curls, for example, doesn't really affect our ability to perform a lat pulldown. 

So, with each day (soon to be outlined in the program below) we will choose two muscle groups. There are two different set ups of 5 exercises, with each one supersetted. In total, that's 20 sets and 10 per muscle group per workout. For example:

Back and hamstrings

Set up 1:

5 x Lat pulldowns -----> supersetted with 5 x seated hamstring curls (15 seconds rest between exercises, just keep going one to the other).

Set up 2:

5 x hammer strength rows -----> supersetted with 3 x lying hamstring curls, and on the final 2 sets, Russian curls.

That's 20 sets and 10 sets per muscle group.

I've done this workout in about 22 minutes! You simply don't stop at all (except for 2-3 minutes between the set ups) as you don't feel like your back has a too big impact on your hamstring training. 

Also, the hamstring curls and lat pulldowns tend to be close by in a lot of commercial gyms; meaning you don't have to walk as far to get where you need to go. This also means there's less chance of bumping into any gym buddies for a 5-10 minute chat, which sucks up more of your time!

Let's take a look at a hypothetical weekly program with all of this in mind:

Monday:

Quads and shoulders

Set up 1:

5 x squats -----> supersetted with 5 x hammer strength shoulder presses (Remember: 15 seconds rest between exercises, just keep going one to the other).

Set up 2:

5 x leg extensions -----> supersetted with 5 x dumbbell side raises. 

Tuesday:

Chest only!

5 x bench press

3 x incline barbell press

2 x cable flies (go for a big stretch, 15-20 reps to absolute failure).

Wednesday:

Back and hamstrings

Set up 1:

5 x Lat pulldowns -----> supersetted with 5 x seated hamstring curls.

Set up 2:

5 x hammer strength rows -----> supersetted with 3 x lying hamstring curls, and on the final 2 sets, Russian curls.

Seated hamstring curls are a fast and efficient way to train.
Seated hamstring curls are a fast and efficient way to train.

Thursday:

Triceps and glutes

Set up 1:

5 x tricep pushdowns -----> supersetted with 5 x hip thrusts

Set up 2:

5 x skull overs (barbell or dumbbell, whatever you prefer) -----> supersetted with 5 x hip abductor machine. 

Friday:

Repeat any day of Monday-Wednesday that targets any weak points, or muscles you simply like training.

Or to ensure total rest in order to train ANY muscle group, take Friday off and train on Saturday with a split you've already performed, or a NEW split of your choosing!

Other splits I like:

- Triceps and hamstrings

- Back and quads (this can be tough for rest periods, which can mean the workout is closer to 30 minutes)

- Shoulders and glutes

You can get creative here; do what you feel is best!

This still leaves two days off. And if you want to train every muscle group only once, then it gives you three days off if you train Monday to Thursday.

Now, this might not be the best program for absolute maximal muscle growth and strength, but it isn't recommended to do as such.

I must be clear; it's to enjoy the mental health benefits that exercise brings whilst still allowing for muscle maintenance, and the time for you to get through your tasks. 

The mental health benefits of training can help us relax and get our tasks done more efficiently.
The mental health benefits of training can help us relax and get our tasks done more efficiently.

Some of you (depending on factors like training experience) may grow muscle with this program, but it isn't the primary goal.

Given research shows 13-minute workouts and 1 set (and 2 for larger muscle groups like back and legs) is enough for muscle maintenance, this program still ensures you're not just "scraping by."

The bottom line is life gets busy and we don't need to spend over an hour in the gym. We can train two totally opposing muscle groups to perform 20 sets in total, and 10 per muscle group. Given we need 10-20 sets per week for muscle growth, this is a good strategy. This should take around 20-30 minutes and give us the mental health benefits of training without seemingly taking up too much time. With an improved mood and less stress, we're free to tackle the tasks we need to.

References:

  1. Basso JC, Suzuki WA. The Effects of Acute Exercise on Mood, Cognition, Neurophysiology, and Neurochemical Pathways: A Review. Brain Plast. 2017;2(2):127-152. Published 2017 Mar 28. doi:10.3233/BPL-160040 
  2. Jindo T, Kai Y, Kitano N, Tsunoda K, Nagamatsu T, Arao T. Relationship of workplace exercise with work engagement and psychological distress in employees: A cross-sectional study from the MYLS study. Prev Med Rep. 2019 Dec 9;17:101030. doi: 10.1016/j.pmedr.2019.101030. PMID: 31890476; PMCID: PMC6931185. 
  3. Lautenschlager NT, Cox KL, Flicker L, Foster JK, van Bockxmeer FM, Xiao J, Greenop KR, Almeida OP. Effect of physical activity on cognitive function in older adults at risk for Alzheimer disease: a randomized trial. JAMA. 2008 Sep 3;300(9):1027-37. doi: 10.1001/jama.300.9.1027. Erratum in: JAMA. 2009 Jan 21;301(3):276. PMID: 18768414. 
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  5. Rethorst CD, Wipfli BM, Landers DM. The antidepressive effects of exercise: a meta-analysis of randomized trials. Sports Med. 2009;39(6):491-511. doi: 10.2165/00007256-200939060-00004. PMID: 19453207. 
  6. Schoenfeld BJ, Contreras B, Krieger J, Grgic J, Delcastillo K, Belliard R, Alto A. Resistance Training Volume Enhances Muscle Hypertrophy but Not Strength in Trained Men. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2019 Jan;51(1):94-103. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000001764. PMID: 30153194; PMCID: PMC6303131. 
  7. Schoenfeld BJ, Grgic J, Krieger J. How many times per week should a muscle be trained to maximize muscle hypertrophy? A systematic review and meta-analysis of studies examining the effects of resistance training frequency. J Sports Sci. 2019 Jun;37(11):1286-1295. doi: 10.1080/02640414.2018.1555906. Epub 2018 Dec 17. PMID: 30558493. 
  8. Wipfli BM, Rethorst CD, Landers DM. The anxiolytic effects of exercise: a meta-analysis of randomized trials and dose-response analysis. J Sport Exerc Psychol. 2008 Aug;30(4):392-410. doi: 10.1123/jsep.30.4.392. Erratum in: J Sport Exerc Psychol. 2009 Feb;31(1):128-9. PMID: 18723899. 
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