Today at the dentist, he was telling me about how he used to go to the gym and how he only has between 6 and 7 am in the morning to work out. He told me it has been very hard for him to get in the gym between all the work he has and spending time with his family. We all have these problems from time to time in our lives, and for some of us, we have these problems more often than not. So when 24 hours just is not enough time, how can we make time to get a workout in?

For those of you who cannot commit to an hour a day three to four times a week for whatever reasons, there is a solution for you…. that is not dropping the gym like it was hot. Go to the gym and exercise in shorter intervals. You can try squeezing in thirty minutes of exercise three to five times a week in effort to still get in your workouts.

The rationale that someone must be in the gym for at least an hour to get a “good” workout is not completely accurate. There are some people in the gym who are there for two hours but don’t accomplish very much at all.  There is a great saying “train smarter, not longer.”  It is all about the quality of work that you put in, not the quantity.

Here are a few things to keep into perspective while trying to squeeze in a 30-minute workout.


With limited time to get a workout in, you need to figure out what exercises are most important to reaching your goals.

 Break up your exercise program into core exercises, main exercises and assistance exercises.

Core Exercises – All exercises that work out your core. Just no crunches, sit-ups or ab machines. Unsure what to do for core work? There will be a post for that soon to come.

Main Exercises – (Also referred to as core exercises) this term is used for all the exercises that are essential to meeting your goals.

They are you major exercises, and will be slightly different based on your goals. For those wanting to increase strength and athletic performance: dead-lifts, squats, pushups, pull-ups and row variations are a necessity.

For those wanting to lose weight and have general fitness goals: dead-lifts, squats, pushups, pull-ups and row variations are all for you.

But why do I have the same exercises for both populations? Because these exercises are the staples to any exercise program, regardless the goal. The difference really becomes how one designs the rest of the exercise program. If these exercises are not in your workout plan, time to reconsider.

 Assistance Exercises – Term used for all other exercises you use besides you core and main exercises.

I am not referring to machine chest presses or your favorite leg abduction and adduction machines. I am referring to other body weight exercises that you will through in around your main exercises that will help compliment them. (Single leg work, burpees, other row variations etc…)


The most basic way to program for shorter workouts is to either:

A) Pair up exercise sets into three to four exercises.

With this type of program, you should select at least one exercise from each of the categories above; Core, main and assistance exercises. If you decide to do a fourth exercise select from the assistance, or choose a mobility/activation exercise. Mobility exercises help pattern the movement for your major lift so you can have greater muscle activation during your exercises.

 Keep these rules in mind in order to gage how much time your workout will take.

Start with a mobility circuit (5 minutes): Pick three mobility drills that will best compliment your major lifts for the day. This allows your body to be better prepared for your workout. Also, if you spend time in the beginning of the workout to do it, you can add extra assistance or power work into your workouts.

 Each exercise roughly will take you one minute to complete. So if you have three sets of six exercises planned for the day that will take you roughly 18 minutes to complete.

And finally plan for a three minute rest at the end of each set. If you are doing three sets, it will be a total of six minutes rest (since you will not need to rest at the end of your last set).

Calculate all that up and you just did mobility work, six exercises and had adequate rest periods all in 29 minutes.

Circuit one Mobility (two sets)

 1. Supine Internal Rotation Stretch x 30 seconds

2. T-Spine Rotational Mobs x 10 each side

3. Glute Bridge x 10 with 2 second holds

4. Prone Y’s x 10 reps

Circuit two (three sets)

 1. Deadlift x 6 reps

2. Supported T-Bar Row x 8 reps

3. Side Plank x 40 seconds

Circuit three (three sets)

 1. Reverse Lunge x 8 each side

2. Incline Dumbbell Press x 8

3. Stability Ball Plank x 1 minute

B) Do Circuit Training with timed work to rest intervals.

 For this type of training program you can pick as many exercises as you want. For me personally, I like anywhere between five to ten different exercises. This type of training is better for conditioning as it will spike the heart rate to sprint like levels if done at the appropriate intensity.

The work to rest intervals will be determined based off your current fitness levels. You can start with a 2:1 rest to work ratio. Meaning two minutes of rest compared to every one minute of work. As you get better, you can work to a 1:1 ratio, or if a 2:1 ratio is too challenging, try a 3:1 rest to work ratio.

For example:

If you choose ten exercises within your circuit and use a 2:1 rest to work ratio, it will take you exactly thirty minutes to complete if you’re resting one minute and working thirty seconds.

The way this works is you select your ten exercises; you start from exercise one, do as many reps as you can in thirty seconds. Rest for one minute, Do as many reps as you can within 30 seconds for the second exercise, rest one minute. And repeat through all ten exercises. That is one set.  Repeat the whole process over from exercise one to complete a second set. That’s 20 sets of very hard work in 30 minutes.

Was this post helpful, enlightening, the purest, greatest thing you ever read? How do you squeak in a workout when you get too busy?  Let me know, leave a comment below!

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