Learn the best tips & hacks for shorter strength workouts that still produce big gains. Save time in the gym while getting stronger. Learn practical, effective methods to maximize gains in minimal time.
Shorter Strength Workouts: Increase Efficiency
Many people are busy and short on time. They recognize they need to exercise.
You can train with limited time and still get strong. Which method you choose depends on available time and your preferences.
In this video and in the text below, we explain different methods for shorter yet effective workouts. Learn the tips, tricks, hacks, and methods to save time but not lose gains!
Shorter Rest Periods
Shortening rest periods may be the first thing to look at to effect shorter strength workouts.
Many people spend too much time resting.
Yes, in an ideal world or in a situation where you are an elite strength athlete looking to eke out every possible gain, resting 10+ minutes between sets makes sense.
For the vast majority of lifters, however, this is not the case.
Look to rest 2-3 minutes between sets. The greater intensity of the work sets, the more muscle mass involved in the lift, and the higher the degree strength is the primary purpose of the work sets, the longer the work should be.
For example, biceps curls done for hypertrophy only need about 1 minute of rest.
Deadlifts approaching RPE 9, however, require longer rest periods to allow for greater recovery.
In general, though, keeping rest periods 2-3 minutes is about right. Have a timer that is not your phone, and set the timer as soon as possible after the work sets.
4-Day Split (More Frequent Shorter Workouts)
We’ve discussed this elsewhere. This produces shorter more frequent workouts than 3 full body workouts.
Supersets & Circuits
Supersets and circuits, similarly to reducing the rest periods, reduce inter-set recovery but are a great approach for shorter strength workouts.
Supersetting involves pairing two exercises, typically that minimally interfere with each other.
For example, perform a set of bench press and then a set of barbell rows, then rest.
While the barbell rows do use up energy that you nee for the next bench press set, the rows primarily work the muscles of the upper back and biceps, and the bench press primarily work the muscles of the chest and triceps (many of the muscles trained in the two exercises are antagonists).
Circuits typically involve 2 or more workouts and may or may not have prescribed rest between exercises. Circuits are an especially great way to perform accessory work.
For example, a lifter may perform a set of tricep pushdowns, then a set of bicep curls, then a set of lateral raises, and then immediately repeat.
The exercises minimally interfere, the lifter will likely experience some conditioning effects, and the diminished hypertrophy effects will be relatively small.
One Lift a Day – Extremely Short on Time
This is a method for shorter strength workouts for someone with an extremely busy schedule.
This may involve literally only performing work sets for one exercise, such as a deadlift, or it may come with only one compound lift and then some quick assistance work.
This allows for extremely short workouts, done more frequently, for someone who has to squeeze the workouts into a tight schedule.
Warm Up During Work Sets
This tip for shorter strength workouts requires you to have two bars. It’s a simple way, however, to shorten your workout without changing programming.
It takes advantage of the fact that warm ups don’t require much energy or effort. In between your work sets, complete a warm up set of your next exercise.
It’s really that simple.
AMRAPs & Myo Reps
AMRAPs and Myo Reps shorten strength workouts via a different training methodology. They’re also a form of autoregulation.
For compound movements, such as squats or deadlifts, AMRAPs are typically performed with an RPE cap (e.g. RPE 8.5). For accessory work, such as dumbbell curls, they can be performed to failure, as these exercises are less stressful (and if the goal is hypertrophy, higher RPE is required).
Myo reps involve an initial set followed by back off sets with minimal rest.
You might perform a set of 5 at a certain RPE (e.g. Pause Bench 1×5 @ RPE 7) and then you can perform sets every 30 seconds until you can no longer hit at least 3 reps per set.
Similarly, instead of stopping when you can’t perform a certain number of reps per set, you may aim to hit a certain number of total reps in the back off sets (e.g. 15 reps in as few sets as possible).
Recovery between sets is minimized, but you can get a lot of work in quickly.
Dynamic Training (Lift Fast for Shorter Workouts)
We’ve discussed this elsewhere. This enables shorter strength workouts by performing work sets at a relatively low intensity, but with reps performed as fast as possible while maintaining good form.
This may look like Bench Press 10×3 @ 60% e1RM. You perform each set every minute on the minute (EMOM).
This requires meticulous attention to time. The lifter needs consistently good form. Lastly but critically, the lifter must lift with 100% effort each rep.