Hit It and Quit It

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It’s one of those days again: You’ve got a busier than normal work schedule ahead of you, a holiday party after that and then, well, the day’s over. Normally, you’d be able to find 45 minutes to an hour to spend in the gym, but not today. So what do you do?

Have a quickie. We’re not talking about that kind of quickie (though the cardio benefits should not be overlooked). We’re suggesting you get in and out of the gym quicker than ever — and still get a great pump — with one of the following 20-minutes-or-less workouts. They may not be the best muscle-building workouts you’ve ever had, but they’ll tide your muscles over until you’ve got more time for a full workout.

Tough But Timely Upper-Body Workout
Being short on time doesn’t have to mean going light. But if you want to throw around some real weight, you’ll have to limit the number of exercises you do. This upper-body blast sticks to basic movements that will hit maximal muscle fibers in a short amount of time. And if you have a few more minutes before it’s time to leave, include a few supersets for arms.

How to do it: Perform all exercises as straight sets. Rest one minute between all sets.

Muscle Group

Exercise

Sets

Reps

Chest

Incline Barbell Press

4

6-10

Back

Barbell Bent-Over Row

4

6-10

Shoulders
If there's still time to spare...

Arnold Press

4

6-10

Biceps/Triceps

EZ-Bar Curl
superset with
Lying EZ-Bar Extension

3 3

8-12 8-12

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Upper-Body Dumbbell-Only Circuit

One of the best ways to maximize training efficiency is to minimize the amount of time you spend walking from one exercise to the next. In this workout, you won’t move from the dumbbell rack. Plus, it’s a circuit, which means you’ll be lifting more than you’re resting.

How to do it: Perform the three exercises back-to-back-to-back with minimal rest. After completing all three exercises (one circuit), rest one minute. Complete as many circuits as possible in 20 minutes.

Muscle Group

Exercise

Reps

Chest

Flat-Bench Dumbbell Press

10

Back

Dumbbell Bent-Over Row

10

Shoulders

Dumbbell Overhead Press

10

Tough But Timely Lower-Body Workout

Who says you can’t train legs in 20 minutes? Sure, it won’t be your most hypertrophy-producing workout ever, but if you can find a power rack, a barbell and some plates, these tried-and-true moves will have your legs screaming in no time.

How to do it: Perform all exercises with straight sets, resting no more than one minute between sets. On squats and lunges, you’ll probably need to go lighter than normal.

Muscle Group

Exercise

Sets

Reps

Quads/Glutes/Hams

Barbell Squat
Barbell Lunge

3
3

12
10 pre leg

Hams/Calves

romanian Deadlift
superset with
Standing Calf Raise

3 3

12 15

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Full-Body Timed Workout

To make sure you don’t run late, you’ll do each exercise in this workout for a specified amount of time, not sets and reps. Machine exercises were chosen to avoid time spent racking free weights. Machines also use fewer stabilizing muscles, which helps overload the target muscles that much more.

How to do it: For each exercise, choose a weight that causes you to fail at 10 to 12 reps and do as many reps as possible in four minutes, resting when necessary. Rest one minute between each exercise.

Muscle Group

Exercise

Time

Reps

Rest

Chest

Chest Press Machine

4 min.

max

1 min.

Legs

Leg Press

4 min.

max

1 min.

Back

Machine Row

4 min.

max

1 min.

Shoulders

Machine Overhead Press

4 min.

max

1 min

Quick and Dirty Back Workout

Sure, you’ve probably squeezed in a 20-minute back workout before, but how many times did that back workout include five different exercises and 15 total sets? Pull-ups followed by two pairings of pre-exhaust supersets keep the training pace quick and the muscle fibers of your back exhausted.

How to do it: Rest one minute between sets of pull-ups as well as between each superset. To save time on the first superset, keep the dumbbells you’re using for pullbacks right next to the barbell you’re rowing with.

Exercise

Sets

Reps

Wide-Grip Pull-Up

3

to failure

Streight-Arm Dumbbell Pullback
sperset with
Barbell Bent-Over Row

3 3

10 8

Straight-Arm Pulldown
superset with
Lat Pulldown

3 3

10 12

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Quick and Dirty Chest Workout

Two pressing moves, some dumbbell flyes and cable crossovers — with a set of push-ups to failure after each exercise — will have your pecs feeling like you spent a lot longer than 20 minutes training them. Your chest will be hit from all angles — and with high and low reps — for pure exhaustion.

How to do it: Rest one minute between sets of incline presses and Hammer Strength presses, and increase weight each set. Rest only 30 seconds between sets of flyes and crossovers. Rest one minute after sets of push-ups.

Exercise

Sets

Reps

Rest

Incline Dumbbell Press

3

12, 10, 6

1 min.

Push-Up

1

to failure

1 min.

Hammer Strength Chest Press

3

12, 10, 6

1 min.

Push-Up

1

to failure

1 min.

Flat-Bench Dumbbell Flye

2

10

30 sec.

Push-Up

1

to failure

30 sec.

Cable Crossover

2

12

30 sec.

Push-Up

1

to failure

30 sec.


20-Minute Arm Blast

It doesn’t take long to get a great arm pump, one that will lead to bigger guns in the near future. In this workout, you’ll hit two big moves with straight sets before graduating to supersets to finish things off.

How to do it: Rest one minute between straight sets of close-grip bench presses and barbell curls as well as between supersets. On dumbbell curls and extensions, perform reps with both arms simultaneously to speed things along.

Muscle Group

Exercise

Sets

Reps

Rest

Triceps

Close-Grip Bench Press

3

6-8

1 min.

Biceps

Barbell Curl

3

6-8

1 min.

Biceps/Triceps

Dumbbell Curl
superset with
Lying Dumbbell Extension

3 3

8-10 8-10

- 1 min.

Triceps/Biceps

Cable Pressdown
superset with
Cable Curl

2 2

10-12 10-12

- 1 min.

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Fast and Furious Fat-Burning Intervals

Twenty minutes is certainly enough time to get your cardio in, but low-intensity, steady-state cardio won’t induce nearly the fat-burning effect that high-intensity interval training will. This short but intense workout allows you to combine weight training and cardio to get leaner in no time.

Exercise

Choose one of the following: a lifting exercise like power cleans, dumbbell snatches, step-ups or jump squats (using light weight); a calisthenic exercise like jumping jacks, burpees or jumping rope; or a plyometric move like box jumps.

Workout

Warm-Up: two to three low-rep sets

Alternate between 30 seconds worth of reps and 30 seconds of rest for 15 minutes

Cool-down (low intensity): two to three minutes of walking or jogging

10-Minute Abs

So maybe you have even less than 20 minutes to spare but still want to get some kind of workout — anything — accomplished. Try this 10-minute midsection meltdown, which can be done either at the gym or at home.

Exercise

Sets

Reps

Rest

Double Crunch
tri-set with
Reverse Crunch
tri-set with
Standard Crunch

2 2 2

12 15 20

- - 30 sec.

Weighted Sit-Up*

2

20

30 sec.

Plank

2

30 sec.

30 sec.

Rest 30 seconds between each tri-set as well as between sets of sit-ups and planks.

*If you’re at home and don’t have a weight plate or dumbbell, add about 25 pounds of weight via a small bag filled with magazines or books.

Timesaving Strategies

• Be flexible, resourceful Don’t waste precious time waiting for the bench press to open up. Drag an adjustable bench over to a power rack and set up there or do Smith-machine presses. If the lat pulldown you were hoping to use is taken, go find a pulldown Cybex machine or switch gears and do barbell or dumbbell rows.

• Go big When time is of the essence, don’t focus too much on isolation (single joint) exercises. Stick mostly to compound (multi-joint moves), which hit more muscle mass and give you more “bang for your buck.”

• Rest little Standing around resting between sets isn’t the best way to maximize your time when you’re in a time crunch. Employ circuits, supersets, tri-sets, drop sets and the like as much as possible. These techniques help increase training volume while decreasing rest.

• Train at off hours If you’re hoping to get a fast, efficient workout with few interruptions, going to the gym between 5 and 7 p.m. (lifting rush hour) probably isn’t the best idea. If you can swing it, go very early in the morning, late at night or in the middle of the afternoon when the place is dead and you can bang out your sets unimpeded.