Do you struggle to find the time to get to the gym? Does spending an hour in the gym seem like a waste of time…?
That’s because it is.
By choosing the most effective compound exercises for strength and muscle gain, 30 minutes is all you need to gain the benefits from weight training.
You want to utilise the exercises that are going to maximise results in the shortest time period. If the goal is to increase strength and muscle gain to sustain a healthy active lifestyle…not to win physique of the year…this approach is perfect!
If you are just starting out in the gym or have been working out for some time, use these exercises as a foundation for building strength and performance:
This is an upper body pulling exercise targeting the latissimus dorsi and rhomboid musculature (muscle located between the shoulder blades).
Free weight alternative: Bent over row
An upper body pushing exercise targeting the pectoral muscles and triceps.
Free weight alternative: Bench press
This exercise activates majority of the muscles in the upper torso – front and back, gripping muscles are also activated particularly the forearms.
Body weight alternative: Wide-grip pull ups
When done correctly this exercise will engage all of the muscles in the upper body.
Free weight alternative: Barbell overhead press
This covers virtually every muscle group in the lower body and is performed sitting down with hips flexed slightly more than 90 degrees.
Include 1 warm-up set followed by 3 working sets consisting of a 6-10 rep range. Ensure sufficient weight is applied so failure is reached during the last couple of reps, don’t short-change yourself by not working to failure.
Muscle growth occurs when the fibres around the muscle are torn through sufficient time-under- load. It’s essential you reach failure during each working set as this is where the majority of the muscle fibre damage will occur; this is the primary objective of strength training.
Maximise results with this technique
To the untrained eye/body these exercises seem basic, they are often overlooked because of their simplicity. Machines for these movements are a staple at most gyms so there should be no excuse for lack of accessibility.
The key to maximising your results lies in the quality and speed of each rep.
Perform each rep as slow as possible, pay particular attention to the eccentric movement (the lowering of the weight), people often miss the benefits from the exercise because they lower the weights too quickly.
There is substantial information out there to suggest moving faster during reps diminishes strength gains. Keep your movements slow and controlled, your goal is to weaken the muscle by having it under load for 6-12 seconds per rep.
Don’t over train
“The bottom line is that a single set taken to a point of positive failure is a sufficient stimulus to trigger the growth and strength mechanism of the body into motion. Additional sets produce nothing but more time spent in the gym.”
― Doug McGuff,
Recovery is almost more important than the workout itself, if you fail to recover properly before your next workout you will do more damage than good. Ensure you are recovering correctly by eating the right foods, drinking lots of water, and most importantly sleeping for 7-8 hours.
Sufficient rest between workouts is vital to allow your muscles to fully recover – depending on the intensity of your workout, a full recovery can take up to 4-7 days.
Over-training can lead to unnecessary stress on your body which can have negative effects on your energy and immune system.
So: Know when to rest!
Performing this workout once a week with high intensity will provide sufficient frequency to obtain all the necessary benefits from strength training.
As your strength increases ensure to up the resistance (the weight). You want to continue to stress the muscles – plateauing will occur when the muscles become complacent with the exercises, by increasing the weight you ensure the desired stress response is still achieved.
Don’t get lazy with your workouts!
Realise before you set fitness goals: muscle growth is limited by the genetics inherited by your parents – everyone grows muscular at different rates and sizes, your unique genetic make-up determines the rate at which your muscles grow.
Try to avoid comparing yourself to others, remove the ego aspect to weight training; treat this as an investment in health and longevity rather than appearance.
You’re much more likely to enjoy exercise when you adopt this view.