We like fast. That’s why we drive through Starbucks, order toilet paper on Amazon Prime, and are attracted to the concept of the 30 minute workout. (or 7 Minute Workout, if you like it super fast)
I get it.
My patience falls on the spectrum somewhere between Common-House-Fly and Sugar-Laden-9-Year-Old-at-the-County-Fair.
A 30 Minute Workout is a great idea conceptually – get in and out quickly, get back to your job/family, optimize your hormones for muscle gain and fat loss – but it can be hard to execute due to the limited time frame.
In short, quicker workouts need to be MORE PERFECT. There’s less time for dicking around, putting together random smatterings of exercises, or using anything less than perfect exercise pairing and design.
This is especially true if you’re doing a 30 Minute at Home Workout. The basic rule is that the shorter the training session, the more efficient and well designed it has to be.
Your workout will need to include different things depending on your training goal, but let’s look at a few different guidelines for workouts that are less than 45 minutes long.
30 Minute Workout Guidelines
- Superset or Circuit Everything
- Adhere to Strict Rest Periods
- Exercise Selection – Compound then Isolation
- The Rule of 10
1. Superset or Circuit Everything
Time is of the essence, so it’s important to utilize every second of our 30 minutes well. First of all, ditch your phone, you don’t need to check your email while you’re lifting.
Then we need to be doing all of our exercises in a circuit format. This means that as soon as we finish one exercise, we go to the next one. Ideally, you should be going back and forth between 2-5 different exercises per circuit.
This will allow you to get more done in less time. Especially true if you’re finishing a chest exercise, and rather than waiting for your chest to be ready for the next exercise, we can jump into a back or leg exercise – or any muscle group that’s fresh. It’s best if you can take a very limited amount of rest between exercises in the circuit, then rest a bit after finishing the whole exercise circuit.
Benefit: More work in less time = leaner body, better cardiovascular conditioning, and more muscle.
2. Adhere to Strict Rest Periods
It can be tempting to take more rest each time you finish a hard circuit, but simply leaving the rest periods open to be “as long as I want” is detrimental to a fast paced effective 30 minute workout.
For this reason, it’s good to keep a watch or a clock running to give yourself accountability with your rest.
- Pure Fat Loss: 30 seconds between circuits
- Muscle Gain/Staying Lean: 45-60 seconds between circuits
- Building Strength: 2 Minutes + between circuits
If you’ve designed your workouts well, you shouldn’t be resting between exercises within the circuit, only as much time as it takes you to move from one to the other.
Benefit: Keeping yourself honest with rest periods will result in a more effective, faster workout.
3. Exercise Selection – Compound then Isolation
When doing a fast and effective workout in the gym or at home, it’s important to prioritize compound movements. That means the exercises that use more than one joint – squats, deadlifts, pullups, pushups.
These exercises involve the full body, not just a single joint and muscle group. These types of exercises also burn more calories and teach you to use your full body. Which is great since you’re interested in becoming more ninja.
Since it’s difficult to just do purely compound moves in a circuit, (we’ll talk about more in the Rule of 10), doing isolation moves after finishing compound moves is the right way to structure your circuits.
- For Muscle Building: circuit similar exercises (Pullups –> Rows –> Bicep curls)
- For Muscle Gain/Staying Lean: circuit upper body or lower body exercises (Rows –> Pushups –> Biceps –> Triceps –>)
- For Fat Loss: circuit upper and lower body exercises (Squat –> Row –> Lunge –> Pushup)
Benefit: Starting with compound movements burns more fat and builds more muscle than doing just single joint exercises
4. The Rule of 10
RPE stands for Rate of Perceived Exertion, which sounds confusing, but is just the pretentious way of saying “how do you feel on a scale of 1-10?” (If you’ve ever worked out with me, than you know I’ll tell you a 10 is your hardest workout ever, and a 1 is just walking around, looking at stuff.)
So the big idea here is to keep yourself out of the 9 and 10 range on your personal RPE scale by modifying your exercises accordingly.
Do this by making sure that the exercises in your circuit don’t add up to 10 or more.
For example if you think Bulgarian Split Squats are a 7 in terms of hardness, don’t put those back to back with Single Leg Squats if those are an 8. It’s much better to combine them with an easier move. Maybe a machine hamstring curl, a band row, or a plank.
As with everything, there are exceptions: For example if you pair a hard exercise like a front squat (8 out of 10) with an easy mobility exercise, like a quad stretch (1 out of 10), you can jump back up to a harder exercise for the 3rd or 4th exercise in the circuit.
Benefit: By keeping your exertion level at an 8 or below, you’ll be able to go harder, longer. This will help you get the most out of your 30 Minute Workout.
Takeaways and Example Workout
By using my guidelines, you can design a great 7 Minute Workout, 10 Minute Workout, or 30 Minute Workout at home or at the gym.
Short workouts more frequently are also associated with longer life expectancy, leaner bodies, and better hormones. Your naturally produced growth hormones and testosterone peak at about 45 minutes, then drop off after 60, so a 30 minute workout is a great boost to your energy and ability to build muscle. These are also one of the things I correlate with maintaining weight loss in my Lean for Life Blueprint.
I put together an example workout that you can check out if you’re looking for a badass at home 30 minute workout.
Home 30 Minute Workout (<– click to view workout pdf with clickable video links!)
Everything you need for this workout comes with Bod in a Box. And also an additional 3 months of training programs with links to video explanations. Make it easy on yourself. I’ve already done all the work!
Enjoy! Hit me up with any questions or comments.