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How to Blow Up Your Size and Strength With 2-Move Workouts

Keep your workouts simple to experience advanced results.

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Clapping Pushup
Per Bernal / M+F Magazine
Clapping Pushup
Per Bernal / M+F Magazine

If you’re the guy who likes to keep it super simple when you’re at the gym and hates to waste time, good news: It doesn’t take a laundry list of exercises and an hour-plus to get in a great workout and build appreciable muscle size and strength. Not when your program is intelligently designed, that is.

In this case, it takes only two moves, thanks to the programming chops of renowned trainer Zach Even-Esh, the founder of the Underground Strength Gym, the head strength and conditioning coach of the Rutgers University wrestling team, and the author of the best-selling book The Encyclopedia of Underground Strength & Conditioning.

The two-exercise concept is a shining example of quality over quantity. “This is called training economics,” Even-Esh says. “We take the exercises that deliver a high return of results on a short investment of time. This type of approach will always deliver greater results.”

Even-Esh has designed six two-move workouts. The first four sessions alternate between upper-body (Workouts 1 and 3) and lower-body (Workouts 2 and 4) training, and each of the last two (Workouts 5 and 6) incorporates one upper and one lower for a more full-body stimulus. You should be able to easily bang out each workout in under 30 minutes.

The exercise menu includes familiar meat-and-potatoes strength moves—squats, lunges, cleans, presses, deads, pullups, pushups, rows, a loaded carry—done with high set counts and relatively heavy weights. Isolation moves are nonexistent, except for a few optional moves that can be tacked on for those who have an extra five minutes or so to spare. No fat in this program. It has all been trimmed.

“These workouts focus on getting more work done in less time,” Even-Esh says. “By working larger muscle groups, you’ll add functional muscle, which helps you build a body that can perform both in the gym and in your home life—playing with the kids, doing yard work, and having generally high energy. Longer workouts and more exercises are not always better. Better is better, and that’s exactly what these workouts do. In fact, these short workouts are often implemented for our sport athletes in-season and allow them to continue making gains in overall athletic performance.”

Two-move Schedule

Even-Esh offers six separate two-move workouts, but the intent is not to do them all in one week, let alone on six consecutive days. Rather, he recommends doing four workouts per week, training on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday.

“This allows you to schedule weekends off for family activities and Wednesday off for downtime,” Even-Esh says. “And if you’re really short on time or bandwidth, you can do three days per week, training on Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday, taking off Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Weekends should be spent in active recovery with recreational activities or stuff with the kids.” If you follow Even-Esh’s recommendations, two weeks’ worth of two-move workouts could look like this:

4 Days Per Week

Week 1

Monday – Workout 1
Tuesday – Workout 2
Wednesday – Off
Thursday – Workout 3
Friday – Workout 4
Saturday & Sunday – Off

Week 2

Monday – Workout 5
Tuesday – Workout 6
Wednesday – Off
Thursday – Workout 1
Friday – Workout 2
Saturday & Sunday – Off

NOTE: Repeat cycle going forward, with Workout 3 done on the next Monday.

3 Days Per Week

Week 1

Monday – Workout 1
Tuesday – Off
Wednesday – Workout 2
Thursday – Workout 3
Friday – Off
Saturday & Sunday – Off

Week 2

Monday – Workout 4
Tuesday – Off
Wednesday – Workout 5
Thursday – Workout 6
Friday – Off
Saturday & Sunday – Off

NOTE: Repeat cycle going forward, with Workout 1 done on the next Monday.

Routine

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Warmup

Start every workout with this circuit-based primer.

Exercise
Equipment
Sets
Reps
Rest
Exercise 1 of 21

Jumping Jacks

Equipment
No Equipment
Sets
--
Reps
10
Rest
--
Equipment
No Equipment
Sets
--
Reps
10*
Rest
--
*Per side.
Exercise 3 of 21

Band Pull-Apart

Equipment
Sets
--
Reps
10
Rest
--
Exercise 4 of 21

Hanging Knee Raise

Equipment
Pullup Bar
Sets
--
Reps
10
Rest
--
Exercise 5 of 21

Bodyweight Squat

Equipment
No Equipment
Sets
--
Reps
10
Rest
--

Workout 1

Upper-body Push + Upper-body Pull

Exercise
Equipment
Sets
Reps
Rest
Exercise 7 of 21

Inverted Row

Equipment
Barbell, Squat Rack
Sets
5
Reps
10,8,6,4,2
Rest
--

Workout 2

Legs + Core

Exercise
Equipment
Sets
Reps
Rest
Exercise 10 of 21

Bulgarian Split Squat

Equipment
Sets
4
Reps
10*
Rest
--
*Do 10 reps per side. Perform with bodyweight only and a 3-second eccentric.

Workout 3

Upper-body Push + Upper-body Pull

Exercise
Equipment
Sets
Reps
Rest
Exercise 11 of 21

Dive Bomber Pushup

Equipment
Sets
5
Reps
30 sec
Rest
--
Exercise 12 of 21

General Pullup

Equipment
Pullup Bar
Sets
5
Reps
90% max*
Rest
--
*1-2 reps short of failure. Switch hand positions every set.

Workout 4

Legs + Core

Exercise
Equipment
Sets
Reps
Rest
Exercise 13 of 21

Barbell Clean and Press

Equipment
Barbell
Sets
9
Reps
2-10*
Rest
30 sec
How to
*Perform reps as 2, 4, 6, 8,10,8, 6, 4, 2. Rest 30 sec between sets.
Exercise 14 of 21

Bodyweight Walking Lunge

Equipment
No Equipment
Sets
1
Reps
50*
Rest
--
*Per side (100 total).

Workout 5

Legs + Upper-body Push

Exercise
Equipment
Sets
Reps
Rest
Exercise 15 of 21

Pause Squat

Equipment
Sets
5
Reps
5
Rest
--
Exercise 16 of 21

Clapping Pushup

Equipment
No Equipment
Sets
5
Reps
5
Rest
--
Exercise 17 of 21

Jump Rope

Equipment
Jump Rope
Sets
1
Reps
5 min*
Rest
--
*40 sec on/20 sec off.

Workout 6

Legs + Upper-body Pull

Exercise
Equipment
Sets
Reps
Rest
Exercise 18 of 21

Sumo Deadlift

Equipment
Barbell
Sets
5
Reps
3
Rest
--
Exercise 19 of 21

Barbell Upright Row

Equipment
Barbell
Sets
5
Reps
6
Rest
--
Use a reverse grip.
Exercise 20 of 21

Triceps Pressdown

Equipment
Adjustable Cable Machine, V-Handle Attachment
Sets
3
Reps
33
Rest
--
Exercise 21 of 21

Barbell Biceps Curl

Equipment
Barbell
Sets
3
Reps
21*
Rest
--
*Do 7 top-half ROM, 7 bottom-half ROM, 7 reps full ROM.
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