The Most Effective 30 Minute Muscle Building Workout
March 23, 2020
A Variation of this Muscle Building Workout article Originally Appeared on T-Nation.com]
- With a smart Muscle Building Workout, you can cut your gym time in half and increase your gains at the same time.
- Intense workouts done three days a week with greater discipline, focus, and compliance will yield much better results than long-duration workouts done sporadically due to your crazy schedule.
- This muscle building workout includes high-frequency muscle stimulation, explosive rep speed, disciplined rest periods, progressive overload, big movements, and ramp loading.
Before going any further, grab a copy of your chiseled muscle cheatsheet. This step-by-step guide gives you everything you need to know to add 10-15 pounds of pure muscle.
The average lifter’s training program is fat and bloated, meaning it’s full of “fluffy” exercises that don’t lead to improvements, has ridiculously long rest periods, and inefficient warm-ups that rob you of time you don’t have.
In short, a lot of time is spent in the gym, yet gains are slow to nonexistent.
The good news is, you can cut your gym time dramatically – maybe even down to 30 minutes – and start building muscle mass again.
The 6 Keys to an Efficient Muscle Building Workout
Gaining muscle isn’t complicated. It requires focused and consistent execution of the basics over time.
There are better methods than crushing your body with crazy, long-duration workouts. Short, intense workouts will yield much better results, if you do them right.
Check out the six elements of a more efficient workout below, then I’ll give you a sample program that puts it all together.
1. High-Frequency Muscle Stimulation
A 2010 study analyzed training frequency and the anabolic response. They found that repeated bouts of resistance exercise and protein ingestion trigger an anabolic response and growth. If you’re short on time, you may have the ability to train frequently (5-6 days per week) but for a limited time.
As a new dad, I found this to be the case. I couldn’t spend an hour in the gym 3-4x per week, but I could definitely hit the gym more days with shorter, 30-45 minute workouts. By training more often, you’ll increase the frequency in which you train muscles. When this happens you create more pulses of anabolic hormones and increase muscle protein synthesis in the muscles you’re training.
While total volume is still a critical factor in building muscle, splitting the volume you train your muscles into multiple workouts can lead to better strength gains and in my experience, a better muscle building workout due to better recovery and training focus.
Related: High Frequency Muscle Building
2. Explosive Rep Speed
Lifting weights explosively has been shown to boost muscle-fiber activation. When you turn on more muscle fibers you can train a greater number of muscle fibers to create a better muscle-building response. But you can’t chase heavy weights all the time.
A better option is a blend of the following:
- Lift heavier weights
- Lift lighter weights faster (or move your bodyweight faster)
Since most lifters can’t go heavy every single workout, hammer explosive intent on every rep. This way, you’ll force your body to generate maximum tension during each rep.
By moving weights as fast and as hard as possible on the concentric (way up), you’ll recruit more muscle fibers and maximize nervous system recruitment for greater performance without crushing your joints. Your exercise technique is crucial. Control the eccentric and do not sacrifice form for speed.
3. Disciplined Rest Periods
First, let’s redefine rest. Stop swiping away on Tinder between sets and get mentally locked in to destroy your workout.
Instead of conventional rest, we’ll just dial back in-between sets of heavy/explosive exercises with mobility and stability work, and also include agonist/antagonist supersets with moderate rep work.
This way, you’ll boost performance without increasing the risk of injury and maximize efficiency.
4. Progressive Overload
Training with high focus and progressively adding weight to the bar will create the anabolic response necessary for growth. I’ve provided general guidelines for loading in the plan below, but you’ll need to add weight to the bar over time (and record it).
5. Big Movements
Dominating the big, multi-joint movement patterns is the meat and potatoes of training. This is especially true if you’re short on time and looking to maximize your efficiency in the weight room.
You know what works for you, so use squat, deadlift, press, and pull variations that best suit your training goals.
Switching between squats and front squats or switching between trap bar deadlifts and conventional pulls is fine, but stay consistent for at least 4 weeks with exercise selections. Too much variation will plateau your training as much as never changing exercises.
6. Ramp Loading
Through gradually increasing resistance and managing fatigue, ramp loading supercharges your strength.
Ramp loading is the process of gradually increasing the weight on the bar. Ramp loading runs in opposition to straight sets where you use the same weight for every single set.
Ramp sets work well with shorter workouts because they serve as an intelligent warm-up while boosting top-end strength.
Related: Ascending Loading
Is 30 minutes enough to build muscle?
30 minutes can be enough time for an incredible muscle building workout if you train with enough intensity and focus. There is no wiggle room for messing around if you’re busy. Therefore, these total-body workouts to maximize training efficiency. They include the big lifts early in the training session, as well as a “time permitting” session should you find yourself with more time than originally planned.
Use whichever three-day split works for you. Just make sure you allow at least 36 to 48 hours of rest between workouts.
The most effective 30-minute workout
|A1||Dumbbell Jump Squat *||2||5||45 sec.|
|A2||Incline Plyo Push-Up (video below)||2||5||45 sec.|
|B1||Power Clean or High Pull||3||3|
|B2||Plank||3||30 sec.||60-90 sec.|
|C1||Bench Press * *||3||5||60 sec.|
|C2||Lunge||3||5 / leg||60 sec.|
|D1||Farmer Walk||3||30 sec.|
|D2||Timed-Rep Dips||3||30 sec.||30-60 sec.|
* Dumbbell Jump Squat — Simply squatting down and exploding up while holding a pair of dumbbells.
* * Bench Press — 65%, 75%, 85% 1RM.
|A1||Push Press or Military Press *||1/3||8/5|
|A2||Groiner (video below)||3||5 / side||60-90 sec.|
|B||Deadlift *||1/3||8/5||120 sec.|
|D1||Side Plank * *||3||30 sec.|
|D2||Timed-Rep Biceps Curls||3||30 sec.||30-60 sec.|
* Push Press or Military Press and Deadlift — 65%, 75%, 85% 1RM.
* * Side Plank — Per side.
|A1||Back Squat/Front Squat *||1/3||8/5|
|A2||Kneeling Thoracic Mobility (video below)||3||6||60-90 sec.|
|B2||Dumbbell Bench Press||3||8||90 sec.|
|C1||Kettlebell Crosswalk (video below)||3||30 sec.|
|C2||Single-Leg Hip Thrust||3||6 / leg||30-60 sec.|
* Back Squat/Front Squat — 65%, 75%, 85% 1RM.
Optional Bonus Day
Because low intra-workout volume may hinder hypertrophy related to metabolic stress, you might want to schedule an extra training day to hit the “mirror” muscles with higher rep work.
This is schedule-dependent and should take place later in the week after the 3 workouts have been completed.
Time Permitting Exercises
As long as you complete the top three exercises of the day, you’ll see results. Time permitting, you’ll still have the option to do more work.
Most lifters that start paying attention to their rest periods are able to squeeze in much more work than they thought possible. Paying greater attention to rest periods that match your goals is a vastly underrated source of overload.
But What About Cardio?
If your goal is to gain muscle, your focus shouldn’t be on cardio. Too much cardio will negate your gains in the gym and hinder recovery. That said, no one wants to stay soft as the Michelin man.
If you can make some time, choose one of these:
- Low-intensity cardio only, such as incline walking for 20-30 minutes, 2 times per week.
- High-intensity methods like sprints, complexes, or sled work 10-15 minutes a day, 2 times per week after training
And if you want the perfect program to leverage these lessons?
The Minimalist Muscle Blitz is the golden ticket for achieving your dream physique simply, efficiently, without wasting time, and without spending a minute longer than necessary in the gym or kitchen.
Simply head here and grab your program.
- Phillips et al, The Anabolic Processes in Human Skeletal Muscle
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