Ask The $250/Hour Trainer: How Can I Train Effectively With Limited Time?

I train professional athletes, I train A-list celebrities, and now I train you! Learn how to train on a time-crunched schedule!

I'm only able to get to the gym three days per week, and I only have about 45 minutes (max) each session. What's the best way to utilize my time?

Joe: Your best bet is incorporating a total-body resistance-training program three days per week on non-consecutive days. Below are two different examples I've found to be efficient and effective for leaning out while increasing lean mass.

Each program lasts four weeks, or 12 total training sessions.

In the first program, try increasing the intensity (i.e., load) of each exercise once you can perform the maximum number of sets and reps as prescribed. In the second program, try increasing the resistance over the course of the four weeks--but also decrease your between-sets rest by 5-to-10 seconds each week. By Week 4, you'll be performing the entire circuit with little or no rest between exercises!

Before diving into the programs, let's define terminology I've used in the examples below:

  • Sets: The number of times a particular exercise will be performed.
  • Reps: The number of times the movement will be performed within the set.
  • Repetition Maximum (RM): The number of reps per set that can be performed at a given resistance with proper lifting technique.
  • Tempo: The speed of movement of the repetition. I like the four-digit approach popularized by strength coach Charles Poliquin. (i.e., 21X0), where:
  • First Digit: the eccentric phase of the movement
  • Second Digit: the end of the eccentric phase of the movement
  • Third Digit: the concentric phase of the movement
  • Fourth Digit: the end of the concentric phase of the movement
  • X: Explosive
  • Rest Period: The number of seconds taken between sets.

Note: Before starting the strength-training portion of your session, always spend about a 5-10 minutes performing a dynamic warm-up.

Example 1
Total time for first superset ≈ 9 minutes (max sets, reps, and rest)
Total time for second super set ≈ 9 minutes (max sets, reps, and rest)
Total time for tri-set ≈ 14 minutes (max sets, reps, and rest)
Total workout time ≈ 42 minutes (including dynamic warm-up)

In the second example, I will use the same exercises as above, except this time we will perform them in a giant circuit.

Example 2
Giant Set
Total workout time ≈ 42 minutes (including max sets, reps, rest, and the dynamic warm-up)