What Is The Best 20 Minute Weight Training Workout?

What is the best 20-minute weight training workout? Find out what other people from the message boards think ...

TOPIC: What Is The Best 20 Minute Weight Training Workout?

The Question:

Many of us could be short on time and unable to perform an averaged length workout. If only there was a faster weight training workout ...

What is the best weight training routine 20 minutes or under?

For big gains fast, should one lift a short amount of time and really intense, or a longer time with moderate intensity?

Bonus Question: In your opinion, what is the best length for a weight training workout?

Show off your knowledge to the world!

The Winners:

      1st place - 75 in store credit.
      2nd place - 50 in store credit.
      3rd place - 25 in store credit.

To use your credit, e-mail Will @ will@bodybuilding.com for more info.

1st Place - ho_124

In today's modern world, the lives of people have become much busier. Fewer and fewer people have time to spend some solid time in the gym because of school, university and whatnot. Because of this reason many people use it as an excuse to not get in the gym. Other's feel that they won't get any benefits if they don't spend some quality time in the gym. But just like the saying goes "Nothing is impossible to do".

It still is possible to gain some mass and get stronger by spending only 20 minutes working out. And yes it still is possible to look good and get your fitness level up by spending 20 minutes in the gym working out. However just don't be surprised if size and strength gains come slower and you're not looking as sharp as you would look like. The obvious reason is that you won't be spending as much time in the gym to maximize your gains.

Just be ready to make slower progress and reach your goals later than you normally would. Don't be discouraged by this, it is better to do some training than no training. If you think you won't be able to gain some muscle think of it this way. If I did cardio three times per week for 30 minutes rather than doing it six times per week for an hour would I still have some fitness and benefits of cardio?

Also, a large portion of your gains depends on your diet. So if you started bulking while on a 20-minute workout plan, then you would still gain muscle mass since you are doing some training, but just not as much. However you shouldn't use a 20-minute workout as an excuse because you're too lazy to spend some solid time in the gym.

This should be a last resort to either maintain your fitness levels if you're busy or if you're limited in time. It shouldn't be used long term or else you won't be able to work certain parts of a body part effectively. For example if you use this for the rest of your life, your inner, outer and lower biceps will rarely get worked.

Training Routine

What is the best weight training routine 20 minutes or under?

Before you go to the gym and start pumping iron for 20 minutes, you should know some training techniques that will save you time. There are also modifications that should be made to accommodate the limited time in the gym. The goal right now is to stuff as much into your training schedule as possible.

You don't have to worry about over-training since your spending so little time in the gym; the chances of it happening are very slim. That means you should be pushing yourself to your maximum in every single set wherein the goal is to fatigue yourself as much as possible to stimulate muscle growth.

So now let's review some techniques that should be used when on a 20-minute workout plan.

There is also one other thing I should cover here. You should be doing a proper warm-up since you will be pushing yourself intensely for 20 minutes. If you don't warm-up then your muscles could go into shock since you're doing so much work in so little time. Also it will help you push to your maximum in the gym because your muscles are pumped and ready to train.

In other words you're getting your muscles ready to be trained. It's like this, if I had two groups of soldiers and one I trained before sending them off to war and the other group I just sent them off; who do you think would survive better? Obviously the group that prepared before going into war.

Another thing I want to stress is that there is no best weight routine that is for me and you. You have to decide what you like and which techniques to use. I have no clue what will work for you so you must do it yourself and pick out what you want.

Techniques and modifications you should use to save time and that also help in muscular growth (Right now there isn't time for those fancy techniques that take more time like rest pause training). You can still use cheating, negatives, partials and forced reps too, it's just that I won't talk about them because they don't make you spend more time or save more time.

1. Supersets & Tri-Sets
(Doing Supersets & Tri-Sets Is HUGE And Shouldn't Be Ignored; They Are Your Best Friend.)

    These techniques are important to implicate into your training schedule. Since we have limited time and it is our goal to stuff as much as possible into your workout plan, then it is important to use these training techniques.

    I might even go as far to say these are essential for an effective training program in 20 minutes. The reason being is that you can stuff a bunch of exercises together without having any rest meaning that you can get a lot more done than if your had taken rest between sets.

    To perform this you take a 2-or-3 exercises depending on the kind of set (e.g. Superset = 2 and tri-set = 3). It is simple, all you do is perform all those exercises without any rest in between, then take a rest and do it again.

    Techniques With The Superset:

      The superset is effective in saving time. It can be used in two main ways. First is working different body parts. All you do is select two body parts you want to work, then select exercises for them. Do the two exercises that work the body parts without rest in between.

      After one "superset" rest and do it again. This is mainly to save time rather than a muscle-building technique. The second way to do supersets is by working one body part twice consecutively. Just take a body part, let's say the pectorals, do two consecutive exercises with it and rest, then repeat.

      This is a muscle building technique as well as time saver. Since the muscle is fatigued more than it would be with rest in-between sets, then it will grow bigger and stronger since it is put under more stress.

Super Set Video Guide:


      These are arguably better to use than supersets given the fact that there are only 20 minutes to pump the iron. It will save more time than supersets and will fatigue your muscles to a greater extent which is a good thing since there are only 20 minutes to simulate as much as possible a full workout.

      Again like supersets there are two ways to use tri-sets. The first is to work three different body parts. This is harder to do since if you work your pectorals then your triceps, your triceps might have already been worked by doing pectorals. Remember the point in this is to work different body parts that aren't affected by the previous exercise.

      So if you plan to do pectorals, triceps, then biceps, make sure you use exercises that don't use any of the other body parts in the tri-set. This is a reason why I don't like using tri-sets because you can't do compound movements and you have to sometimes use weird combinations of body parts.

      There is one advantage however other than how it saves time. When you do that many exercises in a row without working any of the other body parts in the tri-set, then it is possible to do the tri-set without ANY rest at all. So if you need to do the tri-set x3 then you can do it three times in a row without resting since your other body parts are already resting when your dong other exercises.

      This might sound suicidal and you will be dead tired after doing it but you only have 20 minutes. The second way to do tri-sets is by working the same muscle in three sets without rest. This will save you loads of time and will fatigue your muscle to the extreme resulting in muscle growth stimulation.

      Make sure you rest after one tri-set or else you will probably die. If you want to, you can have ten seconds between each set then have a larger rest time after the tri-set. I feel that this will work more effectively. This works well with shoulders since you can do the posterior, lateral and anterior shoulders in a tri-set.

2. Drop Sets & Strip Sets

    Let me get one thing clear. There are many ways to do drop sets/strip sets, but there is only one way to do it to save time. To do this you select an exercise and do it close to failure or to failure.

    Then take a lighter weight and do it again to failure or short of it. The max you should do is three consecutive sets for one exercise which is similar to doing tri-sets.

    This saves loads of time and it also stimulates muscle growth by fatiguing the muscle effectively. Always keep in mind we only have 20 minutes to simulate a solid workout. If you need an example, here's a simple one. Say your doing curls with 40 pounds and you complete eight reps but are unable to complete another rep.

    Move the weight down to 30 pounds and pump out till failure which could be let's say eight more reps. Then move the weight down to 25 pounds and pump out till failure, which could maybe be six reps, then rest and do it again.

Drop Set / Strip Set Video Guide:

3. Compound Movements

    This is important given the fact that we only have 20 minutes. I know you've probably heard this many times but right now it is most important and I'm going to make a short point of it.

    Compound movements stimulate the body to put on more mass, which is what we want. That is why you should pay extra attention to putting as many compound exercises in your program as possible.

    Put more compound exercises than you normally would in a regular workout plan. One reason why you should do this is because of the limited time. If you bench press then it works your triceps, pectorals and your shoulders.

    This is good since you only have 20 minutes so you've hit three muscle groups. But if you just do isolation exercises, in the same time you will have only hit one muscle group.

4. Rest In Between Sets

    Resting in-between sets is also important, it will either help you complete a twenty minute workout if done right or will waste your time if you take too much rest. It's like the difference between life and death but for your workout. If I had an hour to workout I would take longer rests because I have the time to. But right now there is not time to rest however long you want.

    You want to minimize the time resting so you can stuff as many exercises into your program as possible. At first you might not be used to it, but it is necessary and you will get used to it. So I would say keep rest at the MAX 45 seconds. The ideal rest time would be maybe 30 seconds even 20 seconds and no I'm not insane.

    There is also another benefit to taking shorter rest times. The reason is because it promotes hypertrophy. I don't know all the science behind it but if you need more proof, well, powerlifters take 3-5 minutes of rest to avoid muscular growth.

Rest/Pause Video Guide:

The Workout

Remember the workout that I think would be best for a 20-minute workout probably won't be the best for you. That's why you have to take certain techniques and put them into your workout plan. There is also one more thing you should note. Since you're doing less training your recovery will be faster and you won't need as much rest from day to day. That is one thing to keep in mind when making your own workout schedule.

Remember there are probably a million ways you can do this, so don't be scared to make different changes. I will show each an example of a few good ways you can organize your workout schedule so you have a better idea of how to put yours together.

Workout 1 - Shortened Regular Program

    In this program it is almost like a regular workout program just that the sets are reduced as well as the exercises. There is also a lot less rest between sets which is a huge factor in reducing time. I believe this is the best since it simulates a regular workout very well and concentrates on getting you very fatigued in a short intensive period of time.

    You will also find I use a lot of supersets in the 20-minute workout. Feel free to reduce sets or whatnot to accommodate your needs. It might look like a lot but when you do supersets and have 30 seconds of rest it goes by way faster. You might even find that you're hardly getting any rest which is OK.

    You won't over train since its only 20 minutes. One other thing you should note is on supersets; it will be normal to feel drained and almost like you got hit by a car because of the intensity and limited rest time. This is a type of workout that is more aggressive towards actually trying to gain something rather than just maintain.

    Be warned that it requires lots of concentration since it is more demanding. There is no dicking around here which means no checking other people out and running all the way across the gym for water every exercise. Bring a water bottle. One thing I recommend doing is bringing all the equipment you need to one place.

    For example if your going to be doing wrists curls, chin-ups and bench press bring the dumbbells and leave them at the chin-up station. Then do your bench press, rush over to the chin-up station, do the chin-up and then you have the dumbbells ready to do the wrist curls. This will save you time especially if your gym is big.

    Monday - Biceps, Triceps, & Lower Wrists

    Tuesday - Legs & Lower Back

    Wednesday - Rest

    Thursday - Chest, Back & Upper Wrists

    Friday - Shoulders & Traps

      This is more complicated to do. First you have to do a tri-set for all your shoulder heads. After this tri-set you do an exercise for the traps and go back to tri-sets for shoulders. Then you finish off with the other trap exercise. This is a heavy day.

    • Military press: 6-12 reps x2-3 - Front deltoid
    • Bent-arm lateral raises: 6-12 reps x2-3 - Middle deltoid
    • Bent over laterals: 6-12 reps x2-3 - Back deltoid
    • Barbell shrugs: 6-12 reps x2-3 - Upper traps
    • Incline shrugs: 6-12 reps x2-3 depending on time - Upper traps

    Saturday - Wrists & Abs

    Sunday - Rest

    Again I really want to stress that you don't have to follow this exact program. You can take out exercises, change sets or do whatever suits you better.

    I want to say again this program can be done in 20 minutes because of all the supersets and the lowered rest time. If you still can't pull it off take some exercises off or reduce some sets.

Workout 2 - Upper Body & Lower Body Workouts

    This is a program more for maintenance rather than trying to gain something. I can almost guarantee if you do this you won't gain much even if you're bulking. You still will make some strength gains and maybe even a little bit of size gains but will be much less than normal. It will be a lot less intense and resting time can be increased just a little bit maybe by 15-20 seconds.

    This is useful for example if you have to all of a sudden stop the amount of training time because lets say you have exams or for some reason you can't train for a full time for a certain period of time. If you don't want to lose your fitness and your gains then you can maintain it long enough to get back into full time training.

    Again this can probably be done a million ways. If you for some reason have to use it long term, make sure you switch-up the workout plan every 2 months or so. When you do this, use different exercises to hit different body parts since not all of them are hit effectively because of the lack of time and exercises.

    Monday - Upper body.
    Supersets Should Be Used.

    Tuesday - Rest

    Wednesday - Lower body.
    Supersets Should Be Used. Superset Between Upper Legs & Calves.

    Friday - Upper body

      Tri-sets for the abs should be used. Then tri-set for the lateral shoulder and wrists. This takes a lot less time than you think.

    • Weighted sit-ups: 6-12 reps x2
    • Decline reverse sit-ups: 6-12 reps x2
    • Dumbbell side bends: 6-12 reps x2
    • Bent-arm lateral raises: 6-12 reps x2
    • Palms-down wrist curl: 6-12 reps x2
    • Palms-up wrist curl: 6-12 reps x2

      Click Here For A Printable Log Of Workout 2: Friday.

    Sunday - Lower Body

Workout 3 - Total Maintenance Workout

    This should only be used if your time is limited, even less than 20 minutes and you want to slow the process of de-training which is losing strength and size because of not training. This should never be used long term because it will hardly give you just a little benefit in strength and practically no visible size gains.

    The reason why you shouldn't use this for long is because some body parts aren't worked directly which means they won't be worked that effectively; meaning that they will be detrained a lot faster than other body parts. So use this for the max a few months if you don't have the time. You should be using all compound movements.

    Monday - Upper Body

    Tuesday - Lower Body

    Wednesday - Rest

    Thursday - Upper Body

    Friday - Lower Body

    Saturday - Rest

    Sunday - Rest

    For big gains fast, should one lift a short amount of time and really intense, or a longer time with moderate intensity?

    There is no set time on how long you should workout in the gym for. It differs for each person. One person may like to spend a longer time in the gym compromising some intensity while others may like to have one short intense workout.

    In my opinion I say you should go for a medium/high intensity workout that lasts longer. The reason being is that you can get enough rests between sets so that you don't feel really fatigued for most of the workout.

    You can also fit more exercises and sets into a workout this way and train a body part to its maximum potential. If you only train for a short time then you can't do as many exercises and sets and it you also feel rushed and tired for most of the workout. I don't know about you but I go to workout to relieve tension from the day and enjoy it.

    I don't go to rush myself and feel like I'm doing some brutal ultra high intensity cardio workout. I can almost guarantee no one loves doing cardio as much as lifting weights. There is nothing wrong with working out in that short of time. Working out longer lets me socialize with other people, and think about my day, in essence it lets me unwind.

    Working out for longer also doesn't affect the intensity level that much. When I workout that long I don't feel like my intensity is totally gone for the last few sets, I still feel that I can push to my full potential.

Bonus Question:

In your opinion, what is the best length for a weight training workout?

In my opinion the best workout time is someone from 45-60 minutes. It lets me do my exercises at a comfortable pace without feeling to rushed which helps me concentrate on what I'm doing better. If you work for 20-30 minutes then you may feel rushed and rest time will be reduced which will result you in feeling more fatigued and less willing to start another set.

Fewer sets can be performed meaning that your body parts may not be worked as effectively. If you go over 60 minutes then you run the risk of over training and sending your body deeper into a catabolic state. Weight training taxes your recovery systems a lot, that's why the training length should be kept less than sixty minutes because if you go over your body may not be able to recover quickly enough.

Also your gains may not be as good if you go over 60 minutes because you're sending your body farther into a catabolic state as if you worked out for 45 minutes. For example if one person worked out for 45 minutes and another worked for 1 hour and 30 minutes, then that's 30 more minutes that the body is being sent into more of a catabolic breakdown state. That means it will be harder to reverse the body's state to go into anabolism since the body has spent more time going into catabolism.

2nd Place - ravadongon

Not everyone has the wealth of time to workout in. Some of us are strapped for it to say the least. The only chance for you to workout may be your hour lunch break, or 20 minutes before you go off to work in the morning, or after school before you get down to your homework.

When you get this brief period you realize you need to make the most of it, but the question is how can you make the most of it? What type of routine will you use? What intensity will you lift? How long should it last for? Will it fit within your time limitations? etc.

All these questions will be answered ...

Training Routines

What is the best weight training routine 20 minutes or under?

Here are 3 weight training routines that can easily be completed in around 20 minutes or even less (not including warm-up and cool down). It is important that you warm and cool down properly before all workouts so you train at your best, with safety.

Make sure you use good form on all exercises and put an effort into making progress every session, by either increasing repetitions or increasing weight, so you can achieve progressive overload, which stimulates muscle growth.

You can alternate between the 3 routines every now and then when you are getting bored of the same routine. Without further ado, here are the 3 routines:

Routine One - 2 Day/Week

Routine Two - 3 Day/Week

Routine Three - 4 Day/Week

    Monday - Upper A

    Tuesday - Lower A

    • BB Front Squats or Leg Press - 2 x 8-12 (60-90 seconds rest between sets)
    • Weighted Hyperextensions or DB Romanian Deadlifts - 2 x 8-12 (60-90 seconds rest between sets)
    • BB Standing Calf Raises or Machine Seated Calf Raises - 2 x 8-12 (60-90 seconds rest between sets)

      Click Here For A Printable Log Of Routine Three: Tuesday.

    Thursday - Upper B

    • BB Incline Bench Press or Weighted Dips - 3 x 4-6 (90-120 seconds rest between sets)
    • DB Military Press or BB Seated Shoulder Press - 2 x 6-10 (60-90 seconds rest between sets)
    • CG BB Bench Press or DB Floor Press - 2 x 6-10 (60-90 seconds rest between sets)

      Click Here For A Printable Log Of Routine Three: Thursday.

    Friday - Lower B

    • BB Deadlifts or BB Back Squats - 3 x 4-6 (90-120 seconds rest between sets)
    • BB Stiff-Legged Deadlifts or Leg Curls - 2 x 6-10 (60-90 seconds rest between sets)
    • Weighted Decline Crunches or Weighted Hanging Leg Raises - 2 x 6-10 (60-90 seconds rest between sets)

      Click Here For A Printable Log Of Routine Three: Friday.


        Personally I'm not a huge fan of training 4 days per week, but I know many who are, and enjoy training more often. This routine is probably best-suited to people who enjoy higher frequency training, but think they don't have the time available to do it.

        The workouts are of similar length to routine #2, lasting around 20 mins.

    For big gains fast, should one lift a short amount of time and really intense, or a longer time with moderate intensity?

    Personally I think you should vary your intensity if you want to keep making good, consistent gains, so your muscles do not overtrain or adapt to your workouts. There are a few ways in which you can do this. You can switch between periods of high intensity and low intensity by periodization, or you can vary your intensity during your workouts.

    What I like to do is have one compound lift each session which I will lift at around 90-95% of my 1RM (my max effort lift), training at a high intensity, and the rest of my lifts I will complete at a lower intensity, lifting at more around 70-80% or my 1RM.


    Weight Lifted

    Reps (1-10)

    One-Rep Max

    70% 1 RM
    80% 1 RM
    90% 1 RM
    95% 1 RM

    It is also important that you don't train at high intensity all the time, as that will lead to overtraining, so either take a rest every now and then from training or so, or de-load every 4 weeks (work at a lower intensity), so you don't halt your progress.

Bonus Question:

In your opinion, what is the best length for a weight training workout?

In my opinion the optimal length for a weight training workout is 30-45 minutes (not including warm-up and cool down), if your goal is to gain strength and muscle mass. Firstly it is a time in which you can cover all areas and muscle groups sufficiently and train at a good level of intensity.

Secondly, because science supports it, as going past the 60-minutes mark of your workout sees a decrease in testosterone and an increase in cortisol levels, which leads to catabolism, i.e. your body burning your muscles for fuel, which is counterproductive for making strength and mass gains.

Training in this time bracket has also been known to form muscle memory accustomed to strength and mass training, while training for well over an hour forms muscle memory accustomed to endurance training, which isn't exactly what you want as a bodybuilder or weightlifter, as it is of no benefit to you.

Thank you for reading and enjoy your training,

3rd Place - perldog007

Many of us could be short on time and unable to perform an average length workout. If only there was a faster weight training workout ...

What is the best weight training routine 20 minutes or under?

Twenty minutes is a tough one. According to the folks that market the bowflex, that's all you need! It never worked for me. What does provide noticeable gains for almost everybody is to concentrate on one body part or one compound movement and get in some good sets.

Some of the best "day after burns" I have felt have been after short workouts focused on one body part.

I am a huge believer in stretching before and after a workout. A good but quick stretch can be done in less than two minutes.

A great warm-up from Franco Columbu's "Winning Bodybuilding" is to take an empty bar and do twelve to fifteen standing military presses with it. According to Dr. Columbu, this warms up all of the muscle groups.

Now we have about fifteen minutes left. Eight repetitions with two seconds for the contraction, one second squeeze at the top, and a 2-second negative with 30 seconds between sets will take exactly three minutes for three sets of eight. So, theoretically we have enough time for five upper body exercises of eight reps with three sets.

Twelve repetitions at the same cadence will take four minutes to do three sets. We can do four exercises if we can transition from the pre-workout stretch to the warm-up in less than a minute.

So let's take a whack at a workout for our newest client. We'll call him Norm. Norm is a busy guy. He has a gym membership but with the time it takes him to get there, change, and then shower and change before going home, he can only work out for 20 MINUTES! The good news is that in the gym we have lots of equipment to choose from.

Norm really wants big guns so we will start with arms on Monday, the priority principle ...

We will make sure that Norm stretches before and after all workouts, and that he does his warm-up so he doesn't get injured and stop paying us, his valued trainer.

1. Monday

  • Triceps pulldowns, 8 reps, 3 sets.
  • E-Z bar curls, 8 reps, 3 sets.
  • Seated barbell triceps extensions, 8 reps, 3 sets.
  • Seated hammer curls, 8 reps, 3 sets.
  • Wrist curls, 8 reps, 3 sets.

    Click Here For A Printable Log Of Monday.

2. Tuesday

3. Wednesday

4. Thursday

5. Friday

(Norm probably has his weekends filled}

Of course we would like to have more time, but if 20 minutes is all we have we can still get in a workout that will make a difference. Norm will see results from this workout for a couple of months, giving us plenty of time to track his progress and make the next rotation up. Since our trainee is seeing results he will remain a client. Win/Win.

For big gains fast, should one lift a short amount of time and really intense, or a longer time with moderate intensity?

Yes. We need both for maximum gains. Concentrating on short intense workouts with occasional longer moderate workouts will likely yield the best results for most folks. If forced to choose one or the other I would have to say short and intense.

Bonus Question:

In your opinion, what is the best length for a weight training workout?

When time is not a factor, my entire workout including stretching and warm-up lasts about an hour. This is what I am most comfortable with, so if for no other reason than the placebo effect this is the best duration for me.