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30 Minutes A Day Lifting

Having a discussion at work with some of my younger employees. We talked about an interesting scenario.

If you only had 30 minutes to train everyday, how would you structure your training?

You are only allowed 30 minutes, 7 days a week, for the next 5 years to get brutally strong and big.

How would you approach this?

I told them I would probably go:


I’d probably go with giant sets and either go full body or do an upper/lower with a main movement focus. Sort along the lines of 5/3/1 Krypteia or Triumvirate most likely.

But what I emphasized is that it would have to be literally 30 minutes of straight training. Not 15 minutes of training and 15 minutes of breaks. You would have to push the pace, that’s for sure.

I’m in my late 30’s and my conditioning isn’t exactly world-class, but I always seem to be able to get my lifting done in 40 min or less, at least when I was lifting alone and doing 5/3/1 on a four day upper/lower type of split and not getting distracted by conversations at the gym. I’m sure I could find a way to be productive with 30 min total in the gym.

Typical squat workout. No real rest except for the time it would take to load plates all the way to my top set.

One warm up set with the bar, load plates
One warm up set with 135, load plates
one set with 225, load plates
One set with 315, load work set 1
Work set 1, load work set 2
Work set 2, load work set 3 (top set)…

Take a min or two to catch my air and compose myself for top set.

Top set for reps, unload the bar.

on to assistance. Depending on what it was I might be supersetting this stuff. I’d do stuff like RDL’s, SLDL’s, leg press, goblet squats, belt squats, and even some leg extensions.

If I was confined to 30 minutes I’d be using stuff that doesn’t take a long time to set up. For leg press I might be roarming across the gym looking for plates, not a good use of the time. If they had a stack of 100’s next to it, it could be a great choice.

30 min is plenty of time to make progress for most trainees, provided they meet the condition you mention and choose their movements with time-efficiency in mind.


I’m sure you could do a five or six day bodybuilding split and make progress as well, but I’m not particularly familiar with those methods.

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4x per week: bench, squat, press, deadlift
Ramp up to working weight - 10 minutes
1 cluster set - 5 minutes
Rest pause variant - 5 minutes
10 minutes bodybuilding stuff

2-3x per week:
Kegs, sandbag, prowler, farmer and yokes.

Cheater additions: mobility before bed, walk everywhere.

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Day 1) Squat 8 x 3
Day 2) Bench press 8 x 3
Day 3) Pull-ups 8 x 5 or 8 sets 2-3 reps shy of failure + tricep ext 5 x 10
Day 4) Deadlift 8 x 3
Day 5) OHP 8 x 3
Day 6 Rows same as pull-up day + bicep curls 5 x 10

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That’s already more or less what I do:

Day 1 - UPPER (Press + Ring Chin Ups)
Day 2 - LOWER (Front Squat + GHR/Back Extensions)
Day 3 - CARDIO / SKILL TRAINING (Boxing/BJJ + Hill Sprints)
Day 4 - UPPER (Bench + Ring Chin Ups)
Day 5 - LOWER (Trap Deadlift + Lunges/Split Squats)
Day 6 - CARDIO / SKILL TRAINING (Boxing/BJJ + Hill Sprints)
Day 7 - RECOVERY (Walking, Massage, Yoga/Stretching, Ice Cold Bath or Shower)

If you set this up with 30 (40 at most) minutes per workout and keep the volume low, the intensity high and eat/sleep big you could probably run this year round with like 1 deload week every 3 months. Just need to set up some form of progressive overload on the main lifts.

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Squat, bench, dead, bench accessories, squat/DL accessories, active recovery, active recovery

The main lifts would cycle in a ME/DE/RM pattern using a training max of 85-95% of the most recent max in meet or test. This would not increase until after the next meet or test. Reps and sets would be guided by Prilepin’s chart.

Squat, bench and DL days would run as a 10 minute warmup based around the McGill big three and working up to your working weight. The remaining 20 minutes are for the work sets.

The accessory days would run as five minute warmup focusing on the muscles to be trained. The remaining 25 minutes would be four supersets hitting pecs, tris, delts, and middle back/lats on bench accessory day; and hamstrings, lower back, quads and lats on squat/DL accessory day.

Active recovery would be stretching, walking, etc

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Depends on the goal. I would go pretty much with similar setup as many others:

d1 squat
d2 bench
d3 assistance
d4 recovery/conditioning
d5 dead
d5 bench or press
d7 assistance or recovery/conditioning

The sets/reps, conditioning and assistance would depend solely on my goals. If I would train for a PL meet for example, I would bench twice/week (d1 and d5).

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Pretty much what I currently can run. 5/3/1 rest pause w/widowmakers on 4 lifting days, bodyweight accessories and sprints on off days.

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This would be actually more fun for powerlifting:

d1 squat ss abs
d2 bench ss rows
d3 recovery/conditioning
d4 dead ss abs
d5 bench ss chins
d6 variation day (SLDL,OHP etc.)
d7 recovery/conditioning


For strength something based on Dan Johns stuff, for hypertrophy a myo-rep set-up.

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No. Not 30. 20. https://www.t-nation.com/training/the-very-best-20-minute-workouts

3-4 days of EDT or EMOM and 2-3 days of intervals on a heavy bag.

Periodized cycles of power work (O-lift variations, limited volume, high frequency per lift), moderate to high intensity strength work (main lift days and separate accessory days), low volume/high intensity hypertrophy work (similar to classic HIT or Thibs’ Best Damn routine), and high volume/high frequency bodyweight work.

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Since my injury I have found myself wanting to “setup less” when it comes to the equipment. For example if I am deadlifting, it makes sense to move over to BB rows or RDLs since the weight is already there. Or if I am doing back squats, to just do front squat right after since I’m already at the rack. I just hate moving over and having to setup again lol. Feel like its a waste of precious time when time is short.

The strongman stuff would be a HUGE addition to only having training 30 min a day. Wasn’t even thinking of that!

Why 8x3 specifically? I love triples.

Dude, you could run this for YEARS with just minor tweaks and be pretty damn strong and athletic. As long as weight/reps are being added to the major lifts you gonna look super athletic and be strong.

I think that’s the big key if workout time is short. You have to superset to get more out of your time. I’ve always wanted to do a HUGE giant set of Squat, Bench, Deadlift, Chin-Ups lol. Haven’t had the balls to try that yet tho!

This looks awesome! Super simple and straight to the point. This is CLOSE to Dan John’s OLAD program.

How would you periodize these though? Just based on whatever your goals are at the time?

A reasonably heavy kettlebell can be a real time-saver too. I’ve got an 88 pounder that I need to retrieve from my old powerlifting gym. Once you get something that’s heavy for you, swings become a whole different animal. It is still more of a conditioning tool, but you aren’t going to get weaker hanging on to something that heavy and moving it explosively with your hips. It’s a heavy weight for me to press overhead too. High rep rows with that thing will smoke you too. One arm cleans and snatches will make you work. All with no setup at all.

Come to think of it, you’re probably strong enough to get some mileage out of an 88. I like the idea of owning such a small piece of indestructible workout equipment that’s also portable. I’ve got a 50 too and that’s really too light for strength progression for me, but still a good conditioning tool. The 88 is probably not the best tool for strength progression, but still one of my all-time favorite pieces of equipment.

I should go get the damn thing tomorrow, come to think of it.


Essentially describing mechanical advantage work (only flipped around). It’s using the same movement pattern and progressing from weakest lift to strongest either as a superset/extended set like strict press right into push press right into jerks, or as part of a workout’s design like doing your sets of power cleans and then doing sets of deadlifts.

Absolutely a time saver, especially since it helps to cut down on warm-up sets because the movement pattern is already drilled in.

You’ve got five years, so build the base initially and then wash, rinse, repeat. Pretty much no wrong way since the phases are so distinct and can work concurrently or more linear.

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Another similar option to what’s been described is CT’s strength circuit workout. Sessions were quick and brutal.

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