How can you build a muscular body without spending two hours in the gym? Intense training methods and time management.

The Training Methods

1 – Rest-Pause Training

Rest-pause training works well when trying to build size and strength concurrently. As a refresher:

  • On the final set of an exercise, leave one or two reps in the tank.
  • Rest only 15-30 seconds to replenish ATP-CPR stores.
  • Continue doing small sets with 15-30 second breaks until you double the number of reps or reach technical failure.

The result? You lift a heavier weight for more reps, created a greater overall training response. With rest-pause training you'll lift heavy enough to train high-threshold muscle fibers and create progressive overload to build size and strength without spending half the day in the gym.

Here's What To Do

  1. Pick your training focus for the day. Let's say you have an upper-body workout and the bench press is your go-to lift.
  2. Warm up by doing 3 sets, ramping up in weight with 3-5 reps per set to fire up your central nervous system. Then move to the rest-pause set.
  3. Your rest-pause set will use about 85% of your one-rep max, or a weight you can do for 5-7 reps, depending on your strength levels and muscle fiber composition. Go a little heavier if you're purely focused on strength rather than size gains. About 85% is the sweet spot for a mix of both.

Example if your 1RM is 315 pounds:

Warm-Up

  • 65% x 5 = 205 pounds
  • 70% x 5 = 220 pounds
  • 80% x 3 = 250-255 pounds
  • 85% = 270 pounds

Rest-Pause Set

270 pounds x 5 reps, rest 15-30 seconds, then...

  • Do 1-3 reps, rest 15-30 seconds.
  • Do 1-2 reps, rest 15-30 seconds.
  • Do 1-2 reps or as many reps as needed until you double the rep goal.

Here's what it looks like:

Use a spotter and stop sets earlier if your rep range is compromised or you reach technical failure. Once your rest-pause exercise is complete, you can rest easy knowing you've creating a stimulus for progressive overload. Maximize whatever time you have left in the gym to hit the other components of your workout.

Sample Workout

  Exercise Sets Reps Rest
A Bench Press 4 5/3/1/1 1 min.
Warm-Up: 205x5, 225x5, 255x3 Then Rest-Pause: 270x5, 270x3, 270x1, 270x1
B1 Dumbbell Shoulder Press 3 12/10/8  
B2 Chin-Up 3 12/10/8 1 min.
C1 One-Arm Row 3 12/10/8  
C2 Dip 3 12/10/8 1 min.

2 – Time Block Training

This involves creating a circuit, a certain number of reps per exercise, and doing as many sets as you can within the selected timeframe.

For example, let's say you have 15 minutes left to train. Set a 15-minute time block and do as much high quality work as you can within the allotted time.

With time blocks, you have the freedom to choose your own pace. You could keep the weight lighter and push for a faster tempo and more total work. Or you could keep consistent rest periods, push the weight a bit heavier, and do less total work.

There is a fair amount of autoregulation involved, but it allows you to train based on how you're feeling on any given day within the time you have.

Physiologically, doing more work in less time can increase metabolic stress and muscular damage, both of which play a role in building muscle.

Here's What To Do

You finished your squats and have 15 minutes left before you need to hit the showers. In this case, set your exercises in circuit fashion for 15 minutes and complete as much work as you can.

15 Minutes

  Exercise Sets Reps
A1 Incline Dumbbell Bench Press AMAP 8
A2 Chest-Supported Dumbbell Row AMAP 8
A3 Incline Dumbbell Biceps Curl AMAP 8

Do as many sets as you can in that 15 minutes.

3 – Cluster Sets

Clusters are similar to rest-pause training: you're resting between reps in order to train at the same volume with a higher intensity. Cluster sets are used with a higher relative intensity, often as high as 80-90%. As a result, you'll lift a heavier load for more reps than you otherwise would.

Let's say your goal for a workout is to hit a muscle group for 25 total reps. You could use a 5x5 loading scheme, or you could perform a 5x1-1-1-1-1 cluster set, with 10-15 seconds rest between every microset.

Both schemes are going to put you at 25 reps, but because the cluster set is broken into multiple smaller sets with rest built in, you'll be able to use a heavier weight.

Cluster sets are great for size and strength because they allow you to move near-maximal loads for higher reps, thus increasing the total amount of work performed.

Here's an example:

  • Sets/Reps: 5x-1-1-1-1-1
  • Rest Between Reps: 15 seconds
  • Rest Between Sets: 2-3 minutes
  • Percentage of 1RM: 80-90%

Here's What It Looks Like

  • Weight: 275-285
  • Set and reps scheme: 5x5 (cluster 1's)

  • Set One
  • 275x1: rest 15 seconds
  • 275x1: rest 15 seconds
  • 275x1: rest 15 seconds
  • 275x1: rest 15 seconds
  • 275x1: rest 2-3 minutes

  • Set Two
  • 280x1: rest 15 seconds
  • 280x1: rest 15 seconds
  • 280x1: rest 15 seconds
  • 280x1: rest 15 seconds
  • 280x1: rest 2-3 minutes

  • Et cetera

Continuing on, you could add weight to each subsequent working set, ramping up heavier on each set.

4 – Blended Training

Blended training is a term I coined for combining heavy strength training with carefully planned timed sets. You'll both preserve muscle and incinerate fat.

This style of training supports muscle maintenance in a caloric deficit and knocks out the best bang-for-your-buck lifts like chin-ups, squats, presses, and deadlifts.

Also, because blended training allows for high-reps, you'll experience muscle growth through metabolic stress. Metabolic stress is the result of working at a high intensity when your body switches to the anaerobic metabolism for the delivery in ATP.

When you reach this intensity, stored energy breaks down and releases metabolic byproducts of energy synthesis and muscle contractions that, in turn, cause more stress to your whole body.

For this reason, you should keep rest periods short and intensity high to the point where you can't have a conversation without breaking up your words due to a lack of oxygen. All of these by-products trigger the release of growth hormone and further stimulate growth.

Combine the two types of training in one exercise and you have blended training.

Here's What To Do

If training four days per week, pick two upper-body exercises and two lower-body exercises. These will be your "heavy" strength exercises each week. After your main strength work, you'll cap off workouts with time blocks. If time is of the essence, you must be intensely focused with each session.

  • Upper Body: Overhead press, chin-up, bench press, dip, row
  • Lower Body: Clean, squat, deadlift, lunge

Day One: Upper Body

  Exercise Sets Reps Rest
A Bench Press (rest-pause)     15 sec.
3x5 warm up, then 1x5-7 rest-pause set. Total rep goal: 10-12 reps, 75-85% 1RM.
B1 Dumbbell One-Arm Row 3 40 sec./arm 30 sec.
B2 Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press 3 40 sec. 30 sec.
B3 Feet Elevated Push-Up 3 40 sec. 30 sec.

Day Two: Lower Body

  Exercise Sets Reps Rest
A Deadlift (clusters) 5 5 2-3 min.
Each set performed 5x1-1-1-1-1 with 15-30 seconds rest after each single, 80-90% 1RM.
Timed Set: 15 Minutes
B1 Dumbbell Split Squat AMAP 8/leg  
B2 Dumbbell Goblet Squat AMAP 10  
B3 Hollow Body Hold (see video) AMAP 45 sec.

Day Three: Upper Body

  Exercise Sets Reps Rest
A Overhead Press (clusters) 5   2-3 min.
Each set performed 5x1-1-1-1-1 with 15-30 seconds rest after each single, 80-90% 1RM.
B Chin-Up 3 5 90 sec.
Timed Set: 15 Minutes
C1 Dumbbell Incline Bench Press AMAP 12  
C2 Dumbbell Chest-Supported Row AMAP 12  
C3 Incline Biceps Curl AMAP 12  

Day Four: Lower Body

  Exercise Sets Reps Rest
A Squat (rest pause) 3 5-7 15 sec.
3x5 warm up, then 3x5-7 rest-pause set. Total rep goal: 10-12 reps, 75-85% 1RM.
B1 Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift 3 45 sec. 30 sec.
B2 Goblet Bulgarian Split Squat 3 30 sec./leg 30 sec.
B3 Ab Wheel Rollout 3 1 min. 30 sec.

Here's what the goblet Bulgarian split squat looks like:

Time Management

The key to making progress? Consistency. The key to staying consistent? Maximizing the time you have and making training a priority instead of an afterthought. Here's how:

Train first thing in the morning.

If something is important, schedule it first in your day before life's other demands kick in. Those with the most demands and responsibilities get the best results when they wake up and hit it.

Script tomorrow tonight.

Finish your day by taking 15 minutes and planning for the next day. Try to plan by the hour. You won't always be perfect, but having a plan for what needs to be done (and at what time) will dramatically improve your training consistency.

Train more on the weekends.

In many cases, moving your hardest training day or days to the weekend gives you ample time to train and reduce stress during the workweek. Heck, you might even have to step away from the vodka Red Bulls and focus on recovery Saturday and Sunday, you bar-star you.

Related:  The Busy Guy's Guide to Getting Lean

Related:  The Very Best 20-Minute Workouts