This article and the workout video that goes with it will show you a new way to gain muscle, without spending all your time in the gym. 

The problem many people have with hitting their goals in the gym is a lack of time. We’re taught it’s nearly impossible to see muscle growth without hitting the gym every day, often with training sessions that require up to two hours of time. That’s absurd for anyone, especially busy people. Luckily, this mindset is also false.

Stick around and I’ll show you how to build muscle with as little as three 30 minute workout sessions per week.

I know. This sounds clickbaity. Don’t worry, though. This isn’t some P90X, Insanity, get abs in 30 minutes BS. This type of training is not for the lazy. It’s for the busy, the ambitious. Just because you lack time doesn’t mean you lack work ethic; it means you have priorities.

The (Time) Economical Way To Build Muscle 

Honesty time: the workout we filmed to go with this article was filmed before COVID, and I’d planned on gearing the writings toward those of you who are too busy with work, kids, passion projects, etc to make it to the gym every day. 2020 changed that. It changed me. It changed all of us.

The workout and the style of routine it fits within is for everyone who wants to live a balanced life and enjoy summer for a change. No going to the gym every single bucking day. No obsessing over whether you’ll lose all your progress. That’s so 2019. 

This workout (routine) will allow you to make gains in strength, muscle mass, and if you’re cognitive about eating smart, even fat loss. It’s centered around the concept that if you truly give your workouts everything you have, you won’t need to clock in for hours every day.

Muscle Growth: Tear and Repair

As you should all know by now, one of the primary ways muscle growth occurs is by tearing the muscle protein fibers down, then providing them adequate nutrition to allow them to repair and rebuild stronger and bigger. (For a more in depth look on the process, go here.) Where I think a lot of people go wrong is that they let things like gym addiction, body dysmorphia, fear of lost gains cloud their judgement. I’m guilty of this too, by the way. Almost all of us are. 

It took me nine years to learn that taking rest days doesn’t mean I’m lazy or I’m losing gainz. It means I’m adhering to the “process.” And once I started listening to my body…holy hell. The difference was astounding (to me at least). I didn’t gain fat, and I gained more muscle than I had since I was just a young buck.

The way I did that was, as stated previously, the process. 

  • Day 1: Train & Tear
  • Day 2: Rest & Repair

That’s right. One day on, one day off. 

And now I’m challenging you to try the same thing. For some of you, this might be a relief to try out, and others might have difficulty with it, but I can damn near guarantee its efficacy. What’s better is that now you’ll have days where you can actually go out and enjoy the summertime instead of constantly wondering how you’ll find time in your workout routine to fit life in.

Plus, you can always use your rest days to do something active outside like hiking, frisbee, biking, etc. 

Full Body Workouts

These workouts will be full body workouts. No, not like Crossfit or WODs or whatever (I’d be doing you a disservice by advising on such routines). They are modeled after workout styles that the old school guys like Steve Reeves, Leroy Colbert, and Arthur Jones implemented. There will still be squats, bench, cable curls, galore, but instead of just performing sets because that’s how many sets you think you have to do, you will be treating every working set like it is the last set you will ever perform. 

Seriously. Every set. Requires your full attention. Don’t look around for the cutest person in the gym (unless it’s to motivate you to push yourself harder). Hell, meditate a bit between sets if you must. The goal here is to reprogram how you approach your workouts. No more wasted half-ass sets. It’s called working out for a reason. Because you have to work. That’s the only way to make real gainz AND stay lean. 

Part of the reason for full body is that this makes you so way less likely to accumulate fat on your rest days, since your system will have so much repairing to do. Not to mention hormone responses and all that jazz. Anyway, let’s get started.

Chest Quest

The reasons I personally prefer starting these sorts of training sessions with chest are as follows:

  • Beginning with delts can greatly decrease any chest pressing movements
  • Training arms first…just don’t. Although that can work, and actually pretty effectively if your arm growth is your priority, it’s suboptimal for overall muscle development
  • For back and legs, it’s easy. These are the two most taxing muscle groups to train. Starting with them is ensuring you won’t have the same energy the rest of the workout.

Let’s not shit ourselves, chest can get kind of boring. Sorry “bros” it just can. Press and fly. Incline, then decline, and repeat. But, since I’m as ADHD as a first grader who’s just experienced a Mocha Frappuccino, I add variety wherever possible. 

In this workout, we focused on isolating the pecs with same cable crossovers, moved onto a compound movement with incline dumb bell presses, and went to champagne presses to help develop the middle chest.  

Giant Sets for Giant Gainz

The exercises below are performed in what’s called a Giant Set. A giant set is essentially a longer super set. Perform each exercise to failure, then move on to the next one without resting. 

Arthur Jones (the guy who created Nautilus) had his guys do these all the time, and today, Milos Sarcev continues the practice. Also, with great results.

If you have time to do two working sets, that is absolutely fine. Rest 2-3 minutes between each Giant Set. You will want the extra recovery time if you want to make the most out of your training.

ExercisesSetsRepsRest Time
Cable Crossover1-210-152-3 minutes
Incline DB Press1-26-82-3 minutes
DB Champagne Press1-28-122-3 minutes
Push-ups 1-2AMRAP2-3 minutes

Bombing Back

After effectively working the chest, we changed our focus and aimed our sights on hitting as many areas of the back as possible. When it comes to back, I prefer lots of variety. No workout is complete without hitting both the width and the thickness. 

Although adjusting angles frequently is important, as a rule of thumb I generally suggest pulldown type movements for width and rows for thickness.  

ExercisesSetsRepsRest Time
Straight Arm Lat Pulldown1-2 10-152-3 minutes
Bent Over Barbell Row1-28-122-3 minutes
Machine Lat Pulldown1-28-122-3 minutes
Alternating Arm Lat Pulldown1-28-122-3 minutes

Lamentations of Lifting Legs 

With Chest and Back out of the way, it was time to lay waste to Kelsie’s legs. Obviously if legs are your priority for growing then you’ll want to give them their own day, but making gainz for them does not require a crazy amount of sets. Some of the best gainz I’ve made on legs has been by doing less volume, increased intensity, and added frequency. 

The following exercise is one of my favorite ways to ensure I’m effectively tearing a muscle group apart in as little time as possible. 

Hack Squat Fatality Set

These are best with a partner, but can be done by yourself as well. If you don’t have a partner, I’d recommend doing them with a pin loaded leg press machine instead of plate loaded. 

The most important thing is to set up your weights according to how many drops you will perform in the collective drop set. As an example, when setting up Kelsie’s set, I asked her what her estimated 6-8 rep max would be. With that knowledge, I simply calculated about how much weight we’d want her to drop by each subset. Typically I’ll have a pupil drop by 10-15%, sometimes less since this set involves a total of 8 drops (the average drop set will include a paltry 2-4 drops, pfft, puny mortals).  

If you look this calm, you’re probably doing it wrong

With hers, I did mix it up a little bit. Partially because I was feeling merciful, partially because I didn’t want her getting too accustomed to the percentage drop. But, if I’m being totally honest, it’s really because the gym we trained at lacked in dimes. I originally wanted to have her do 12 drops…

Note: I don’t personally recommend doing this sort of drop set with barbell squats; they are already a taxing exercise and the risk simply isn’t worth the reward. Likely, a lifter will hit technique failure before muscle failure. Technique failure on squats…yeah, no thanks. This is not to say you should avoid drop sets on barbell squats altogether, it would just be more optimal (in my opinion) to do a single drop of approximately 60% in weight. e.g. 305 x 6 >> 135 x 12-20. This is fun because you get the best of both worlds; strength and volume.

Eight drops make up nine subsets within the drop set’s whole. Here is what it looks like broken down.

  1. 205 x 6
  2. 195 x 6
  3. 185 x 6
  4. 175 x 6
  5. 165 x 6
  6. 140 x 6
  7. 115 x 6
  8. 105 x 6
  9. 95 x 6

Deltoid Domination

I had Kelsie finish this workout off with some old school high volume training for the lateral head of her deltoid. The reason behind isolating the lateral head instead of doing something for the front delt or rear delt in this scenario: 

  • Presses work front delts 
  • Pulls will stimulate the rear delts.

Although neither will get full attention, the lateral head is the head that would be neglected most in a standard push-pull routine. And when it comes to aesthetics, come on. Who doesn’t want a sexy deltoid cap? 

Volume Training

When I say volume training, I’m not referring to the typical four sets of eight to twelve reps. I’m talking really high volume (in comparison). This is, of course, not a new concept. Here’s a fun little bodybuilding history lessons: 

Vince Gironda: The Iron Guru
  • Before the Olympia contest even existed, Vince Gironda regularly had students do as many as 10 sets for 10 reps with only 15-30 seconds of rest between each set, helping them achieve pretty remarkable results.
  • Arnold would regularly perform 5 sets of 15 reps, and even more extreme was Serge Nubret, who would regularly do 8 sets of 12-20 reps for each exercise in his deltoid workouts. 
  • Charles Poliquin popularized the idea later with “German Volume Training.”
  • These are just a few of the folks who’ve seen crazy results with higher volume. 

Kelsie’s shoulder workout consisted of: 

DB Seated Lateral Raises9 sets12-15 repsRest Time: 20-30 seconds

Modifications:

As you may have noticed, there’s no arm training, abdominal training or calf training in this particular workout. We’re trying to do as much as possible in as little time as we can. However, you can easily throw calves in as your warmup. For abdominals, train them at the end or throw them into a little morning workout routine along with some Sun Salutations on your rest days. 

If you really want to hit some arms, treat them like dessert. Pump out a bicep-triceps superset at the end of the workout. Examples:

Biceps

Alternating DB Curls1-2 sets6-8 reps1-2 minutes
Barbell Curls1-2 sets8-121-2 minutes
Alternating Hammer curls1-2 sets10-151-2 minutes

Triceps

Cambered Bar Skullcrushers1-2 sets6-8 reps1-2 minutes
Close Grip Bench1-2 sets8-12 reps1-2 minutes
DB Overhead Triceps Extension1-2 sets 10-15 reps1-2 minutes

Optimization:

Ideally, you will be lifting every other day with this routine (perhaps with two rest days in between). With these sorts of workouts I suggest splitting it up into an 8 day routine. On the ninth day, repeat the routine.

If your primary goal is to gain strength in certain exercises (like squat, deadlift, bench), then perform those two exercises two times a week. But for the rest of us vain folk, staying well rounded is imperative; switch up what exercises you perform for each muscle group every workout.

For Day 5, where I wrote Specialization Day, you can take one of two routes, or a mix of both. They are:

  1. Detail Day: This means hitting all those muscle groups you may have neglected in the other day. Calves, abs, forearms, rear delts, traps, etc.
  2. Prioritization Day: If you have one muscle group that you obsess over growing or you find doesn’t grow as well as other muscle groups, this is the day to lift only that muscle group. Go berserk on this day, and pull out every technique you know. High Volume. Heavy and low reps. High reps with little rest time. Peak contractions, drop sets, slow tempo work. You get the idea. 

Example Workout Week

Day 1: Full Body

Giant Set
Cable Crossover
Incline DB Press
Incline Champagne Press
2 x 10-15
2 x 6-8
2 x 8-12
Rest Time: 90-180 seconds
Giant Set
Straight Arm Lat Pulldown
Bent Over Barbell Row
Machine Lat Pulldown
2 x 10-15
2 x 6-8
2 x 8-12
Rest Time: 90-180 seconds
Drop Set
Hack Squat
1-2 x 6 (6-8 drops)
Rest Time: 90-180 seconds
All The Pump
DB Lateral Raises
8 x 12-20
Rest Time: 15-45 seconds
Planks2-3 x 30-90 seconds
Rest Time: 30 seconds
Side Planks2-3 x 30-90 seconds (per side)
Rest Time: 30 seconds

Day 2: Rest

Day 3: Full Body

Superset – Dropset
DB Flat Fly
DB Flat Press

2 x 10-15
2 x 6-8 (3 drops)
Rest Time: 90-180 seconds
Drop Set
Underhand Lat Pulldown
(Or pull-ups)
2 x 6-8 (5 drops)
Rest Time: 90-180 seconds
Giant Set
Front Squats
Walking Barbell Lunges
Lying leg curls
Romanian Deadlifts
2 x 6-8
2 x 8-12
2 x 8-12
2 x 10-15
Rest Time: 2-3 minutes
Giant Set
DB Military Press
DB Arnold Press
DB Alternating Front Raise

2 x 6-8
2 x 8-12
2 x 8-12
Rest Time: 90-180 seconds
Seated Calf Raises4 x 8-12
Rest Time: 30-60 seconds
Decline Sit-Ups3 x 15-20
Rest Time: 30-60 seconds

Day 4: Rest

Day 5: Detail Day

Superset
Pec Dec Reverse Fly
Rope Face Pull

3 x 10-15
3 x 10-15
Rest Time: 1-2 minutes
Triset
Barbell Curls
Alternating Hammer Curls
Alternating DB Curls

2 x 6-8
2 x 6-8
2 x 8-12
Rest Time: 1-2 minutes
Triset
DB Skull Crusher
Close Grip Bench Press
Bench Dips


2 x 6-8
2 x 6-8
2 x 8-12
Rest Time: 1-2 minutes
Superset
Barbell Wrist Curls
Barbell Reverse Wrist Curls


2 x 20-30
2 x 20-30
Rest Time: 1-2 minutes

Leg Press Calf Extensions2 x 10-15
Rest Time: 1-2 minutes
Seated Single Leg Calf Raises2 x 12-20
Rest Time: None. Perform one leg after another without rest

Day 6: Rest

Day 7: Full Body

All The Pump
Leg Extensions

8 x 12-20
Rest Time: 30-45 second
Super Set
Barbell Bench Press
Wide Grip Pull-ups (or lat pulldown)
2 x 8-12
2 x 8-12
Rest Time: 90-180 seconds
Super Set
Incline Machine Press
Cable Row

2 x 8-12
2 x 8-12
Rest Time: 90-180 seconds
Giant Set
Barbell Front Raise
DB Upright Row
DB Lateral Raise
DB Reverse Fly
DB Military Press

2 x 8-12
2 x 8-12
2 x 8-12
2 x 8-12
2 x 8-12
Rest Time: 2-3 minutes
Hanging Leg Raises2 x 8-20
Rest Time 30-60 seconds
Back Extensions2 x 12-20
Rest Time: 30-60 seconds

Then, on Day 8 you rest. Give this workout a try. You can mix and match, throw in any exercises you prefer, or add in more volume on days you have more time. What matters most is putting in the work!

 Supplementation

The part you’ve all waited for. What supplements to take to make the most out of your quest for gaining lean muscle mass while still maintaining a healthy body fat percentage.

  • All Bulk No Bloat (ABNB): Easily one of the best supplements to ever grace the earth, ABNB can improve nutrient transportation, increase glycogen uptake, accelerate protein synthesis and muscle recovery, modulate hormones, and optimize mitochondrial function.
  • RACKED iBCAA: Everyone knows what BCAAs do, they help with muscle recovery. RACKED uses instantized BCAAs for better absorption. What truly sets RACKED apart, however, is that it’s designed to scorch fat; it does this with a combo of thermogenic, and three ingredients — Acetyl L-Carnitine, Carnitine, and Gamma-butyrobetane HCL — to trick your body into using fat stores for energy.
  • Pre-Workouts Bucked Up, the detox pre-workout Black, the hyperfocus formula BAMF, or for you stim junkies, WOKE AF: You can’t go wrong with any of these cheat code pre-workouts
  • PUMP-OCALYPSE: Not just another pump product, PUMP-OCALYPSE is packed with Peak O2, a trademarked blend of adaptogen mushrooms that have shown to increase to strength over time.
  • Six Point Creatine: the champion, this creatine supplement is the goal slayer.

For your convenience, I’ve included a link to each product’s page. Click it and I’ll transport you on over. For more information on any of the products, click on any of the links within a respective product’s description.

Strength, Lean Muscle Mass, and Free Time: GAIN ON!

Enjoy this summer, live in the present, and take massive strides forward toward your overall goals. All without spending hours upon hours in the gym. 

Take it to the next level with the perfect stack. All you have to do is follow me through this interweb portal.

Author IG: loganlpeterson
Email: [email protected]

Logan Peterson

Logan Peterson is an avid writer and an unprofessional, non-competitive bodybuilder. Logan has several degrees, all of which he made up to sound more credible (for obvious reasons, Legal said he can’t list them). In truth, he simply has an insatiable curiosity. After eleven years of obsessive research, he knows too much about fitness, nutrition, and supplementation for his own good. Despite all appearances, he’s fiercely nerdy. Outside of fitness, his passions are reading and writing; his genre interests run the gamut from litrpg to satire. Due to ADHD, he’s currently working on several novels, and will likely publish all of them at once. And yes, he wrote his own bio...in third person.

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2 comments

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  • Hello,
    I really found this video insightful. I am very busy so this is actually a very thoughtful guide for us hustlers. I do shift work, am a husband/dad of two kids and I go to school part time. So man on behalf of us with priorities, thank you!