The first group did the entire workout in one day, while the other group spread the workout over three days. All participants were experienced trainees. The workout consisted of three sets; group one did all three sets one day per week, while group two did one set three days per week.
Group one on average gained four pounds of muscle, while group two gained more than double that at nine pounds. On top of group one achieved only 62 percent of the strength improvements of group two.
So, what’s my point? If you workout three times a week, it’s better to make your workout shorter than to cut down on the frequency of your workouts. Thirty-minute workouts are one way to accomplish this. Thirty-minute programs also demand less of your time and, if you’re working with a trainer, your wallet. Initially, some of my clients have been resistant to thirty-minute workouts because they believe they are only going to get “half” of a workout. In all honesty, this is not the case.
My 30-minute workouts are intense, full-body workouts. Some people may even achieve better results with a shorter session. You may be thinking, “Heck, my workouts sometimes take 90 minutes, how could I do a 30-minute workout?” Consider the fluff in your current workout. How many times do you stop to get a drink? How much socializing are you doing? How much rest do you take between sets? How intense do you lift during a set? Subtracting these intensity vampires out of your workout may cause you to rethink your workout time.
1. High-Intensity Training
High-Intensity Training is a training technique specifically designed for 30- minute sessions. HIT, as it’s often referred to, is a term thrown around by many training enthusiasts. In my case, I’m referring to doing 1 set of multi-joint movements (chest presses, leg presses, lat pulls) to momentary muscular failure for 6-12 reps. Momentary muscular failure means you can no longer physically move the weight. Your form must be pristine, and your last rep should be brutally difficult to maximize the effectiveness of this program.
Unless you have someone spotting you, you should use machines with HIT to prevent injury. This protocol has been scientifically proven to both increase lean mass as well as decrease fat tissue. Specifically, this type of training will develop muscular strength as well as hypertrophy, or muscular growth. Even one set is extremely effective, because you activate the maximum amount of muscle fibers to push your muscles to the limit during that set. Plus, you’re done after 30 minutes, so it’s very efficient. The protocol is as follows:
– 1 set
– 6-12 reps
– 2-3 second positive rep
– Distinct 1/2 second pause at top
– 3-4 second negative rep
– Controlled 1/2 second pause at bottom
The disadvantage of this regimen is the sheer brutality of the set. If you don’t have some tolerance for muscular discomfort due to the build-up of lactic acid, this program is going to be a challenge for you.
2. Tabata Training
Tabata training is an intense 4-minute interval protocol utilizing 20 seconds of work with 10 seconds of rest.
Squat for 20 seconds
Rest 10 seconds
Repeat 7 times for a total of 4 minutes of work
This type of training is named after Dr. Izumi Tabata, who studied this protocol at the National Institute for Sport and Fitness in Tokyo, Japan. What he found was amazing: After just 6 weeks of testing, subjects increased their anaerobic threshold 28%, and also increased their VO2 Max 14%. On top of that, the EPOC (look at my article on cardiovascular exercise an intensity for details on EPOC) created from this workout substantially increased the number of fat calories burned after exercise.
In a 30-minute workout, you could feasibly do five tabata intervals using different movements like squats with overhead presses, dead-lifts with rows, push-ups and pull-ups. This would allow10 minutes total for rest between sets, warming up and stretching post-workout. Weights should be light to moderate to allow for completion of eight sets. This type of training is much more cardio-based than HIT. In fact, it can be thought of as the anti-thesis of HIT. Movements are typically fast and explosive, and several more sets are used.
Just like HIT, tabatas are not for the faint of heart. They are extremely difficult and trainees should have a base of at least eight weeks of resistance training under their belt before trying tabatas.
3. Supersets and Giant Sets
Supersets are two exercises back-to-back with little or no rest. Giant sets are three or more exercises in a row with little or no rest. There is a multitude of ways to do supersets and giant sets. You can do two exercises for the same muscle group for hypertrophy and strength. You can pair an upper and lower body exercise with an abdominal exercise to create efficient circuits that challenge your cardiovascular system.
You can do a combination exercise like a lunge with a row, directly into push up, followed by torso rotations. There are endless combinations. By minimizing rest, you lessen the time you are working out as well as pushing the intensity through the roof. This means shorter workouts as well as an increased fitness level.
Here’s a sample workout:
Repeat each circuit twice for 10-15 reps. (Do exercise A1 directly into A2, etc. Repeat circuit A. Rest. Move to circuit B.)
A1 Cable lunge with row
A2 Push up
A3 Swiss ball prone jackknife
B1 Dumbbell squat with curl, rotate and overhead press
B2 Pull up
B3 Dynamic side plank
C1 Dumbbell single arm deadlift
C2 Bench dip
C3 Swiss ball reverse hyperextension
Looking at these two workouts, you may be asking yourself, “Well, I can’t do an effective 30-minute workout because I’m not at that level yet.” That’s not necessarily true. Thirty-minute workouts can be designed for novice trainees. However, they’re not ideal. There are a lot of exercises to learn in the initial stages of training, and in this case, one-hour sessions are probably the way to go. If you do have a base fitness level, consider shortening your workouts. You may be surprised to find you get better results compared to your one-hour workouts.