In June 2021, the scientific journal Sports Medicine published management about how to reduce the time for power loads.

Scientists and trainers from Norway and the USA have taken a detailed look at what exercises and methods can be used to make workouts short but effective.

How many times a week to practice

As a rule, strength training includes 8-10 exercises, each of them is performed in two to four sets of 3-12 repetitions, with a rest of 2-5 minutes between them. One lesson takes from 45 to 60 minutes, training is held two or three times a week.

However, for muscle growth and strength, a smaller amount is enough. Several research have shown that both one and three sets per muscle group two to three times a week increase strength and volume in the same way.

But it only works in the short term. If you do this constantly, the muscles will not grow as much as with more sets. Yes, in one meta-analysis calculated that one to four sets would provide a 5% increase in muscle, while five to nine would increase muscle by 7%, and more than 10 by 10%.

To save time and still not lose a lot of growth, use something in between: try to do at least four sets per muscle group per week.

But how to distribute them is up to you. For example, if you have one full day off, you can arrange a long workout and complete almost the entire norm in one go. Or choose frequent, but super-short sessions of 15 minutes and evenly distribute the weekly volume.

If you can’t do four sets for all muscle groups, give preference to pumping your legs – strong thigh muscles require more load than arms, shoulders and chest. For example, you can do three sets per week on your legs, and leave the upper muscles one at a time.

How many reps to do and what weights to work with

Muscles are equally good are growing and when working with heavy shells (more than 60% of the one repetition maximum (1RM)) for a small number of repetitions (less than 15), and for longer sets with a small load.

But in the latter version, for good growth, it is necessary to bring the muscles to failure, while when using submaximal weights, this not necessary.

To shorten your workout, use 70-85% of your 1-rep max and do 6-12 reps per set. Such sets will help to develop strength and build muscle mass.

If you manage to do only at home, choose the number of approaches and repetitions with which you can bring the muscles to failure. This can make your workouts longer in time, but it will certainly provide a good increase in muscle mass.

What exercises to do

It is better to focus on multi-joint movements – those that involve several muscle groups at once. For example, squats, lunges, bench presses and deadlifts with a barbell and on simulators.

Such exercises not only save time, but also faster increase strength indicators than options with the participation of only one joint (flexion of the arms with dumbbells, extension of the legs on the simulator).

In one meta-analysis found that if you add single-joint movements to the upper body with multi-joint movements, the muscles will grow no more than when performing only the first ones. So does it make sense to spend time bending your arms with dumbbells?

In fact, just three multi-joint exercises will help to engage almost all the major muscle groups: deadlift, bench press, and moving to the legs. For example, squatting with a barbell on the back, bench press and traction to the chest on a block simulator.

In the gym, choose bilateral exercises – on both limbs at once. To increase your workload at home, you can try unilateral movements, such as one-legged squats or one-arm push-ups.

How much rest between sets

Rest between sets is needed so that the muscles have time to get rid of lactic acid and replenish the supply of chemicals necessary for a full contraction.

As a rule, before the next approach, they wait 3-5 minutes (or even more if an interesting interlocutor is caught), but this is not at all necessary.

AT meta-analysis 23 scientific papers have found that even a short break of less than 60 seconds can provide a good increase in strength. But for optimal results, it is still better to rest a little longer.

If you are a beginner, 1-2 minutes will be enough to restore strength and complete the entire planned volume. Trained people may need more – from 2 minutes between sets.

What methods can be used

There are several training options that will help reduce the time of work and at the same time better load the muscles.


Supersets are two or more exercises that are performed back-to-back with little or no rest. Most often, movements for different muscle groups are combined in such a combination, so that some have time to rest while others work.

Try adding the following exercises to your superset:

  • bench press and barbell row to the belt in an incline;
  • push-ups on the uneven bars and pull-ups;
  • leg press in the simulator and abduction of the legs back in the simulator;
  • squats and lifting the pelvis with support on the bench in the Smith machine.

This training method maybe be no less effective than the traditional option with rest after each set.

In one research in 15 trained men, 8 weeks of supersets of bench press and deadlift provided the same strength gains as traditional sets. At the same time, the superset group spent half the time on training.

However, you should not do heavy multi-joint exercises with free weights one after another: squat with a barbell on the back or chest, deadlift, bench press, as well as movements with heavy dumbbells. Due to the fatigue of the nervous system, you can not cope with a large weight and get injured.

Drop sets

A drop set is a method of working with weights in which the athlete performs a set to muscle failure, after which he reduces the working weight and does the next set without rest. However, this is of little use at home, since shells with different weights will be needed. But if you have collapsible dumbbells or resistance bands with different resistance, you can try.

To start, do as many reps as you can with your working weight. Then take the projectile 20% lighter and again do the approach to muscle failure.

You can use both the regular drop sets described above and the triple sets with two weight changes and three mini sets.

Two research confirmed that drop sets are as effective (or even more) effective for building muscle as traditional reps with rest and the same weight. And at the same time they take several times less time.

When it comes to exercises, for safety’s sake, it’s best not to take options with free weights: bench press or standing with a barbell or dumbbells, squats with a barbell. When you are tired, you can not cope with the weight and get injured.

Instead, try safer options: chest press on a seated machine, traction on a block to the chest and stomach, flexion and extension of the legs in the simulator, leg press in the simulator.


Rest-pause is a strength training method in which you perform a heavy weight exercise until muscle failure, then rest for 20 seconds and continue working in this way until you have completed all the planned repetitions.

Compared to conventional long-rest sets, this option reduces while exercising somewhere by 85%, it better loads the muscles and provides them with a good stimulus for growth.

For example, in experiment one group of participants performed three sets of six reps with 80% of the one rep maximum and a break of 2–3 minutes, and the other group did the same 18 reps, but using the rest-pause method.

The time difference was 22 minutes, and the increase in strength was the same. Moreover, in the rest-pause group, the thigh muscles increased much more.

But at the same time, due to a short break and work to failure, this training method is perceived quite hard and is suitable only for well-trained people.

How to warm up

Warm-up can be divided into two categories:

  1. General – 5-15 minutes of light cardio to raise the temperature of the muscles.
  2. Special – set with light weights before a strength exercise to improve neuromuscular communication.

A combination of these two types of workout helps increase the one-rep maximum, however, such a large weight is rarely used in training.

When working at medium intensity (80% of 1RM), the benefits of a general warm-up are less obvious. For example, in one research 10 minutes on a stationary bike or 10 reps at 50% of the load didn’t help the participants get more reps or delay the onset of squat and curl fatigue.

In a different experiment found that a specific warm-up increased peak power in the chin row. And it doesn’t matter if they do a common one before that or not.

Besides, in meta-analysis 21 scientific papers found no evidence that a general warm-up helps protect against injury.

So if you’re saving time, you can skip your 5-10 minutes on the treadmill and jump straight into a specific warm-up for your first strength exercise.

How to do a hitch

For many athletes, a workout is sure to end with stretching, whether they have mobility issues or not.

At the same time, none of the cooldown types, including passive stretching, It has significant benefits for post-workout recovery, does not protect against injury and delayed muscle pain. So you can safely skip this point and at the end of the last set go home.

What is the result

  1. Do four sets per muscle group per week. If you have time, do 10 sets per week.
  2. Use a weight of 70-85% of 1RM and work for 6-12 reps.
  3. If you train with your body weight or expanders, train to muscle failure.
  4. If you are a beginner, rest 1-2 minutes between sets; if you have experience in strength training – from 2 minutes. The larger the muscle group and the more difficult the exercise, the longer the rest required.
  5. Give preference to multi-joint movements that involve several muscle groups at once.
  6. In the gym, choose bilateral exercises – on both limbs at once. Use humiliating ones at home to increase the load.
  7. Choose the frequency of classes based on your capabilities. In conditions of total workload, allocate 10-15 minutes for short workouts; if more time appears, work to the maximum. Alternate modes as you please.
  8. Use drop sets, rest pauses, and supersets to increase muscle volume and stimulate hypertrophy. For beginners, it is better to try these methods on simulators to reduce the risk of injury.
  9. Limit your warm-up to one to two sets of light weights before a heavy strength exercise.
  10. You can skip the hitch.