If you believe the training plans and schedules popularised by muscle mags and fitness models. you’d be forgiven for assuming that unless you can give 10-15hrs a week to the gym, it’s pointless to even start.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

At a base, molecular level, your body starts responding to exercise, getting fitter, stronger, and more efficient, from the first rep pushed. But most of you probably don’t really care about that, as much you care about looking better and feeling better. I get it. Tell me when it starts to show, right?

Yeah. But no. Really, no.

So, let’s assume you’re not an idiot looking for a 4 minute abs programme to give you a body Hollywood would showcase. Let’s assume you’re actually willing to work, and you’re prepared to make *some* time available.

How much time would you need?

I’m coming at this purely from a training point of view. Nutrition is a 24/7 thing and is a whole different topic.

Training generally relies on three things. Frequency (how often you do the same movements), volume (how many reps and sets you do in a session) and recovery (how long you wait between sessions). A fourth, load (actual ‘heaviness’ of your weights), is determined in part by a combination of all those three things.

We have many clients that train twice a week. Some are Mums or Dads, some are heads of major companies, some are directors of multi-nationals, some run their own small businesses. I’ve yet to meet one that can’t spare three hours a week. Seriously. If you can’t spare three hours a week, you’re probably going to drop dead of stress soon anyway (not even joking).

No comment.
No comment.

With that in mind, I’ll be generous and detail two programmes. One for just TWO hours a week, and one for that elusive third hour. I’ve assumed a basic level of knowledge of lifting form, and that you’re in at least an averagely well-equipped gym.

Let’s also satisfy the legal profession and say ‘check with your doctor etc etc, blah blah’.

The Two Hour Training Plan

Pick the two days furthest apart from each other in the week. If we can only train infrequently, we need to hit some volume. We also need to maximise the weight (load) you can use in that session. We have to cater for the fact that you are lifting infrequently.

For those reasons, two-day a week training can seem a little, well, repetitive. It has to be. You need to hit each plane of movement each session, or you simply won’t do it often enough to improve.

We’re going to use antagonist supersets. That basically means opposite muscle groups, with little rest between them. You’ll bench press, for example, and then immediately do chin ups or lat pulldowns. Then you’ll rest, and repeat. This way, yes, you’re out of breath – but your chest recovers while you work your back. This means we can get 6-8 exercises into around 40 minutes.

Let’s look at how that works:

Session A

Superset 1: Bench Press 8 reps & Lat pulldown 8 reps – x 4

Superset 2: Squat 8 reps & Dumbbell overhead press 8 reps – x 4

Superset 3: Straight-leg Deadlift 8 reps & DB bent over rows 8 reps – x 4


Your second session of the week, at least a couple of days later, would be:

Session B

Superset 1: Squat 12 reps & DB Straight-leg deadlift 12 reps – x 3

Superset 2: DB Bench press 12 reps & Single Arm DB rows 12 reps per arm – x 3

Superset 3: Military Press x 12 reps & Curls 12 reps – x 3


Between each set, you’d rest 2 mins. So, for example, bench press, then straight to lat pulldown, then rest two minutes and repeat a further two times. Make sense?

I’ve tried to provide a balanced workout here, and also taken into account you may be in a busy gym. You should only need to monopolise one or two pieces of equipment at any one time. And you’ll be going through at a fairly cracking pace, so no-one should complain too much.

Sticking with the programme for 8-10 weeks would see some great results, as long as you push yourself, and push the weights up whenever you can. Whether your goal is muscle growth or fat loss, those results will largely come down to the nutrition side of things.

If you can rustle up that extra hour, try moving on to the next plan…

Three Hours a Week

So, we now have the three-hours-a-week people. This, honestly, is most of you. You guys get a little more variety, the pace can be a little less frenetic, and you don’t have to superset everything. You do, however, probably need to repeat movements over the three sessions (to get that frequency-of-movement we touched on). Most, certainly natural, lifters benefit from a little more frequency, rather than ‘totally smashing it, bro’ once a week.

Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays are typical three-day-split gym rat days. If you want a quieter gym, try Tues/Thurs/Sat. Sometimes you may need to do two, or all three, sessions back-to-back. You might ache, but it won’t kill you. Don’t let that stop you training.

Session A:

Squat 4×8

SLDL 4×8

Chins if you can; lat pulldown if you can’t 4×8

DB Bench Press 4 x 8

Tricep Pushdowns 3 x 12

Aim at 2 mins rest between sets


Session B:

Bench Press 3 x 12

Barbell Bent Over Row 3 x 12

DB Shoulder Press 3 x 12

Single Arm DB Rows 3 x 12 per arm

Walking Lunges (aim for 2 sets of 20 lunges per leg)

Aim at 90 seconds rest between sets.


Session C

Squat 5 x 5

SLDL 5 x 5

Military Press 5 x 5

Barbell Curls 3 x 12

Aim at 2-3 minutes between sets.


In these sessions we’ve covered some general hypertrophy (muscle growth) in Session A, some coverage of endurance rep ranges in Session B, and let you go for broke on improving your strength in Session C. None should take you longer than an hour.

Again, as with most programmes, sticking with it for at least 8 weeks works best for most people. Chopping and changing plans simply because Big Dave has a fun looking arms routine you want to do, is a sure-fire way for most people to achieve precisely nothing.

So to sum up – work HARD, but work intelligently. The aim is to stimulate muscle, overload it slightly each session, and recover by resting, sleeping and eating/drinking sensibly.

If you want more detailed programming, tailored to you and not generalised, get in touch or, if you’re not local, try our Virtual PT scheme. We’re pretty good at that kind of thing.


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