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The 20-30-40 Minute Workout

Working long hours and having precious little time to train sucks, but your workouts don’t have to. Streamline your training with this time-conscious total-body program.

Jump to the Routine
  • 4 weeks

  • 18

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Dumbbell Exercise
Dumbbell Exercise

Once again, it’s on. Precious minutes are draining from your schedule, and all the gains you’ve sweated and bled for all year are at risk of evaporating right before your eyes. That’s what happens when reality sets in and work, friends, and family take up the vast majority of your time. But it can all be prevented with a time-efficient full-body routine that leaves no stone—or muscle—unturned.

We’ve employed trainer Jef Bell, C.S.C.S., owner of Bell Fitness Co. in New York City, to come up with a plan that will get your body through any busy season.

The Hard Basics

Keeping your hard-earned progress intact in the midst of a hectic schedule doesn’t have to be difcult as long as you focus on working the right muscle groups. The idea is to implement a three-day schedule that relies primarily on heavy, multi-joint exercises performed circuit-style to burn more calories and fat. “The smartest choice you can make is a high-intensity full-body plan that stimulates as many muscle fibers as possible,” Bell says.

Bell’s routine uses some variety of four foundation exercises that target your larger muscle groups (legs, back, and chest) to give you the best possible session in the shortest amount of time. It also includes several unique moves—renegade rows and crucifix shoulder extensions—designed to challenge your body in unfamiliar ways.

“By training your muscles through a greater diversity of angles throughout the week, you’ll recruit a greater amount of muscle fibers, which will burn extra calories in the process,” Bell says. “You’ll also train every possible muscle group at least once a week, if not several times, so they’re reminded to stay as strong as possible until you can return to your usual routine.”

Time Management

The primary goal of this workout is to keep your muscles powerful and pumped by taking advantage of the principle of muscle confusion. If you find a few extra minutes to spare on certain days, however, this routine is easily adjustable, with room for up to six more movements and even better results.

The basic template is a full-body routine you’ll perform three times a week. If you have 20 minutes to work with, you’ll hit four main exercises as a circuit, resting 15–60 seconds between exercises. Working your way through all four moves is one round. Three rounds is the gold standard for a 20-minute session, but if you’re feeling particularly energetic, go for four.

With 30 minutes of workout time, add the “bonus” exercise to the template, making each round consist of five moves. For 40 minutes, add the sixth “bonus” move, keeping the circuit-style performance of the rounds the same.

Regardless of how many minutes you’re able to exercise each day, Bell recommends taking one day of rest between sessions. No matter how hard you push your muscles, they still need a full 48 hours to recover, so make sure you’re planning to give them enough time to rest and rebuild between your workouts.

Training Split

Workout 1
REST
Workout 2
REST
Workout 3
REST
REST

The Frequency

Week 1: Rest 60 seconds between exercise/circuits; do two rounds

Week 2: Rest 45 seconds between exercises/circuits; do two rounds

Week 3: Rest 30 seconds between exercises/circuits; do 2–3 rounds

Week 4: Rest 15–20 seconds between exercises/circuits; do 3–4 rounds

Routine

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Workout 1

Exercise
Equipment
Sets
Reps
Rest
Exercise 1 of 18

Alternating Dumbbell Chest Press

Equipment
Sets
2
Reps
8-10
Rest
60 sec
Follow frequency chart above to change sets & rest for weeks 2-4. Use heavy dumbbells.
Exercise 2 of 18

General Pullup

Equipment
Pullup Bar
Sets
2
Reps
8-12
Rest
60 sec
Follow frequency chart above to change sets & rest for weeks 2-4.
Exercise 3 of 18

Dumbbell Swing

Equipment
Sets
2
Reps
8-12
Rest
60 sec
Follow frequency chart above to change sets & rest for weeks 2-4. Use heavy dumbbells.
Exercise 4 of 18

Leg Press

Equipment
Sets
2
Reps
8-12
Rest
--
Follow frequency chart above to change sets & rest for weeks 2-4.
Exercise 5 of 18

Reverse Barbell Curl

Equipment
Barbell
Sets
2
Reps
8-12
Rest
60 sec
Perform this move if you have 30 mins. Follow frequency chart above to change sets & rest for weeks 2-4.
Exercise 6 of 18

EZ-Bar Lying Triceps Extension

Equipment
Sets
2
Reps
12-15
Rest
60 sec
Perform this move if you have 40 mins. Follow frequency chart above to change sets & rest for weeks 2-4.

Workout 2

Exercise
Equipment
Sets
Reps
Rest
Exercise 7 of 18

Back Squat

Equipment
Barbell, Squat Rack
Sets
2
Reps
6-8
Rest
60 sec
Follow frequency chart above to change sets & rest for weeks 2-4.
Exercise 8 of 18

Incline Machine Chest Press

Equipment
Sets
2
Reps
8-12
Rest
60 sec
Follow frequency chart above to change sets & rest for weeks 2-4.
Exercise 9 of 18

One-Arm Bent-Over Row

Equipment
Dumbbells
Sets
2
Reps
8-12
Rest
60 sec
Follow frequency chart above to change sets & rest for weeks 2-4. Use heavy dumbbells
Exercise 10 of 18

Hanging Leg Raise

Equipment
Pullup Bar
Sets
2
Reps
12-15
Rest
60 sec
Follow frequency chart above to change sets & rest for weeks 2-4.
Exercise 11 of 18

Crucifix Shoulder Extension

Equipment
Sets
2
Reps
8-12
Rest
60 sec
Perform this move if you have 30 mins. Follow frequency chart above to change sets & rest for weeks 2-4.
Exercise 12 of 18

Incline Hammer Curl

Equipment
Sets
2
Reps
8-12
Rest
60 sec
Perform this move if you have 40 mins. Follow frequency chart above to change sets & rest for weeks 2-4.

Workout 3

Exercise
Equipment
Sets
Reps
Rest
Exercise 13 of 18

Dumbbell Front Squat

Equipment
Dumbbells
Sets
2
Reps
12-15
Rest
60 sec
Follow frequency chart above to change sets & rest for weeks 2-4.
Exercise 14 of 18

Parallel-Bar Dip

Equipment
Sets
2
Reps
8-15
Rest
60 sec
Follow frequency chart above to change sets & rest for weeks 2-4.
Exercise 15 of 18

Renegade Row

Equipment
Dumbbells
Sets
2
Reps
8-12
Rest
60 sec
Follow frequency chart above to change sets & rest for weeks 2-4.
Equipment
Adjustable Cable Machine, Bench, Rope Attachment
Sets
2
Reps
8-12
Rest
60 sec
Follow frequency chart above to change sets & rest for weeks 2-4.
Exercise 17 of 18

Close-Grip Chinup

Equipment
Pullup Bar
Sets
2
Reps
6-12
Rest
60 sec
Perform this move if you have 30 mins. Follow frequency chart above to change sets & rest for weeks 2-4.
Exercise 18 of 18

High Box Jump

Equipment
Box
Sets
2
Reps
8-12
Rest
60 sec
Perform this move if you have 40 mins. Follow frequency chart above to change sets & rest for weeks 2-4.
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