Tip: Quick Workout, Serious Results

Strapped for time? Get a great workout anyway. All it takes is twenty minutes. Here's what to do.


Time is the biggest barrier lifters face when it comes to consistency and progress. It's inevitable. Life gets in the way of your quest for more strength and muscle. You've got to find a way to work around it. That's where this strategy comes in.

You need about 20 minutes, and you can literally do it in a plug-and-play fashion for any training split imaginable.

The workout is made up of two extended drop sets. It's brutally intense. It's a mix of old school "blood and guts" HIT training, drop sets, rest-pause training, and cluster sets... all rolled into one.

Choose one compound and one isolation exercise, or two compound exercises depending on the type of split you're doing. Here are a few examples:

For Chest Day (featured in the demo video below):

Go with some variety of a chest press for the sternal pec fibers and some variation of a machine or cable flye for either the clavicular (upper) or costal (lower) fibers.

For Push Day:

Pick a compound chest-dominant exercise and either a compound shoulder-dominant exercise or a lateral raise. You could also reverse it. Choose a compound shoulder-dominant movement followed by either a compound chest-dominant exercise or cable/machine flye variation depending on what muscle group you want to prioritize.

For a Chest and Triceps Day:

Choose an incline, flat, or decline press and some triceps pressdown, extension, or dip variation.

For a Chest and Back Day:

Choose a compound flat, incline, or decline movement and a row or lat pulldown variation.

For a Pull Day:

A lat pulldown and a row, a row and a lat pulldown, a lat pulldown and a straight-arm pulldown, a row and a rear delt machine/cable flye, etc.

For a Back and Biceps Day:

Choose a row/lat pulldown and some curl variation.

For a Shoulders and Arms Day:

Pick a compound vertical pressing exercise (will get both shoulders and triceps) and some curl variation.

For an Arm Day:

Pick a curl variation and a close-grip bench, dip, extension, or pushdown variation.

For a Leg Day:

Pick a compound quad-dominant lift (hack squat machine or leg press makes a lot of sense here) and an exercise for your posterior chain (leg curls or weighted 45-degree back extensions work well here, NOT a deadlift variation).

Get the picture?

After a couple brief ramp-up sets, choose your working weight. If you've been using big compound lifts in your normal program, you can just plug them in here and estimate based off the training weight you generally use.

Estimate a 6-10 rep max. The higher the rep max you use, the more brutal this is. If you choose a 10-rep max, you'll end doing 50 total reps. Do the following:

  • Do 6-10 reps to true muscular failure. Let's use 200 pounds for 6 reps as an example.
  • Rest only as long as it takes you to cut the weight by roughly 50%. So we're at 100 pounds now.
  • Now DOUBLE the amount of reps that you got on the first set. That's 12 reps. But don't worry. You can take 5-20 second breaks until you complete all 12 reps.
  • Cut the second set weight by 50% again (this is your rest period), and do the same number of reps as you got on the second set. That'd be 50 pounds now for another 12 reps. Follow the same mini-rest guidelines if you don't get all of them in one shot (which you probably won't).
  • After a 2-3 minute rest, move to your second exercise and do the same protocol. Then get the hell out of the gym to deal with whoever or whatever competing demand is chewing up your time.

Here's what this entire workout looks like on a chest day, using one compound exercise and one isolation exercise. I ended up getting 9 reps on my initial set, so my reps went 9-18-18 (45 total reps). On the flye, I got 7 reps initially, so my reps went 7-14-14 (35 total reps).

Hammer Strength Chest Press

Low-Hi Cable Flye

This protocol works best with dumbbell, cable, and selectorized (weight stack) machine exercises which can quickly be adjusted. Don't make the mistake I did in the above video by using a plate-loaded machine or a barbell movement (though a Smith machine could be an option).

You want to be able to cut the weight and transition from drop set to drop set. And you certainly don't want to have to stop to do plate math. Being able to slip a pin on the stack – or having a pre-determined number of dumbbells ready to go when you start – makes a ton of sense and keeps the intensity even higher.

You may like this so much you'll want to use it frequently. Do me a favor and don't.

This is brutally intense and, therefore, hard to recover from. You want to reserve this protocol for emergency situations on your most time-strapped days.