Between work, family, and a social life, shorter workouts are becoming more of a need, with 30-minute workouts, in particular, becoming increasingly popular.
In this post, I’m sharing three methodologies you can take into your own training program to speed up your workouts based on a 2010 study by Robbins and colleagues.
To kick us off, let’s talk about one of my favourites, supersets. Supersets, or paired-set training, is where you perform two or more exercises in succession of each other with minimal rest in between.
You can use supersets by pairing exercises that target the same muscle group, like bench press with chest flys, or by pairing different muscle groups, like bicep curls and tricep push-downs.
The study involved 15 trained males who performed high-intensity loaded bench press and bench pulls in either a superset or traditional manner for 8 weeks. Results showed that both groups had similar improvements in various measures of strength and power, but the superset group completed their workouts in about half the time as the traditional training group (1).
The key here is that the group who performed supersets did this when training to failure at an 8-12 rep max. This means in order to make your workout effective, you’ll need to keep the intensity high.
The second method is drop-sets. Drop-set training is where rest time between sets is minimized by performing a traditional set, reducing the weight, and immediately performing another 1-3 drop sets at a 20-25% reduction in weight, with all sets performed to muscle failure.
The rationale behind this method is that it elicits more metabolic stress and potentially heightened muscle damage, which in turn would increase muscle growth.
The same review found that drop-set training can induce increases in both strength and hypertrophy in about half the training time of a traditional training method, but that it may be inferior for strength compared to traditional sets (1). Specifically, 16 untrained men participated in a program for 6 weeks consisting of triceps-push-down training using either drop-sets or traditional sets.
The traditional group performed 3 sets to failure at a 12RM, while the drop-set group performed one set with an initial 12RM, then reduced the load by 20% each time failure was reached for 3 times, with no rest between drops.
While the drop-set group showed a slightly greater increase in triceps muscle size, the traditional group had a greater increase in 12RM strength. This mean drop-sets can produce similar muscle growth results, in almost half the training time (1).
Lastly, we’ll look into rest-pause training. The rest-pause method is a training technique that involves taking short breaks during sets to allow for higher loads, higher concentric velocities, and higher power outputs.
This can be done by performing 4–6 sets of single repetitions or by performing one set to failure with subsequent sets performed to failure with short inter-set rest of about 20 seconds.
A study conducted by Marshal and colleagues on the effects of rest-pause training on 14 resistance-trained men had participants perform 20 repetitions of back squats with 80% of their 1RM in three different conditions:
5 sets of 4 repetitions with 3 minutes rest in between,
5 sets of 4 repetitions with only 20 seconds rest in between,
and rest-pause training, in which the participants completed one set to failure followed by subsequent sets to failure with only 20 seconds of rest in between.
The rest-pause method resulted in higher muscular activation, and those participants had full recovery 5 minutes after the training protocol was completed (1).
Give It A Try
There you have it. When used in high intensities, supersets, drop-sets and rest-pause training methodologies all result in similar muscle gains when compared to traditional training methods, in about half the time.
If you find yourself in a time crunch or want to have quicker workouts, give one of these methods a try.
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Iversen, V. M., Norum, M., Schoenfeld, B. J., & Fimland, M. S. (2021). No time to lift? Designing time-efficient training programs for strength and hypertrophy: a narrative review. Sports Medicine, 51(10), 2079-2095.