Workout Routines

The 4-Hour Training Week Program

A pair of two-hour workouts per week is all you need to build muscle and strength.

by CSCS
The 4-Hour Training Week Program
Per Bernal
Per Bernal
Duration 2 days
Exercises 9
Equipment Yes

How much time do you dedicate each week to the art of picking things up and putting them down? A great many of you likely fall in the “90 minutes, three to four times per week” crowd. On the long end, that equates to 360 minutes, or six hours, each week. That’s a significant time investment for even the most single among you. But hey, those gains ain’t gonna happen on their own, and you didn’t pay for that gym membership to spend more time at home.

However, there is something to be said for efficiency—for doing more with less and streamlining your schedule, as well as your physique. What if we told you that it was possible to develop a strong, muscular build in 33% less time? If you’re doing the math, that would mean four hours per week instead of six. And further, what if we told you that you could do it all in just two total visits to the gym?

Wait, you mean only two trips to the gym per week?

True, there are some who don’t feel right unless they can get to the gym every day that they’re on this earth. Mentally, more sessions equate to greater results. But what does the science say about that?

“Depending on what your goals and aspirations are, frequency of training can be a big influence,” says Justin Grinnell, C.S.C.S., founder of Grinnell Training Systems and owner of State of Fitness. “Some studies show that low-frequency training [meaning fewer times per week] can be just as effective as high-frequency training.”

One such study, published in the International Journal of Exercise Science in 2016, found that groups training with higher frequency and lower frequency, but using equal set totals, had similar improvements in lean mass and strength following eight weeks of strength training.

Another study, published in Sports Medicine in 2016, showed that training each muscle group twice per week could produce some solid gains, and it was unclear that training each muscle group three times a week was superior to two times per week. So can you still get swole and shredded in two two-hour sessions per week? Yes. Is it the only way to reach said goal? Of course not.

“There are no absolutes,” Grinnell says. “But you need at least two solid sessions a week to make some gains, as one is not enough. Getting a workout in where you can fit it in on a consistent basis is the most important thing in the end.”

PROGRAMMED EFFICIENCY

The key to your success in this type of workout plan is to embrace the concept of volume.

“The volume can be high enough to include both compound and single-joint moves and even some cardio, allowing for solid muscle-tissue breakdown and neuromuscular adaptations,” Grinnell says. “Two hours gives you the best of both worlds, which, in the end, is best for strength and muscle growth.” 

THE FOUR-HOUR TRAINING WEEK

Grinnell designed the following program to help you get the most out of two two-hour workouts per week.

“Since we have only two days, we need to hit each movement pattern efficiently,” he says. “I suggest at least two full days in between workouts for proper recovery and to optimize the hormonal response.”

Here’s a possible split:

THE SPLIT

 DAY  ACTIVITY 
 Monday  Workout 1 
 Tuesday  Rest 
 Wednesday  Rest 
 Thursday  Workout 2 
 Friday  Rest 
 Saturday   Rest 
 Sunday   Rest 

Obviously, you could adjust this split to fit your schedule. If you’re a weekend warrior, you could train Wednesday and Saturday. The key: Give yourself at least two full days off between training sessions. Get both workouts below.

 

Workout 1: Main Exercises Perform the moves below, supersetting exercises marked A, B, and C. Before the first superset, do two warmup sets. To finish, perform 20 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio. Try to use 70% of your max heart rate.

Exercise 1A

Barbell Deadlift You'll need: Barbell How to
Barbell Deadlift thumbnail
8 sets
3 reps
1-3 min. rest

Exercise 1B

Barbell Bench Press You'll need: Barbell, Bench How to
Barbell Bench Press thumbnail
8 sets
3 reps
1-3 min. rest

Exercise 2A

Bulgarian Split Squat
Bulgarian Split Squat thumbnail
4 sets
8 reps
60-90 sec. rest

Exercise 2B

Chinup You'll need: Pullup Bar How to
Chinup thumbnail
4 sets
8 reps
60-90 sec. rest
*or pulldown

Exercise 3A

Barbell Curl How to
Barbell Curl thumbnail
3 sets
10-15 reps
30-60 sec. rest

Exercise 3B

Rope Pressdown You'll need: Adjustable Cable Machine, Rope Attachment How to
Rope Pressdown thumbnail
3 sets
10-15 reps
30-60 sec. rest

Exercise 3C

Face Pull You'll need: Adjustable Cable Machine, Rope Attachment How to
Face Pull thumbnail
3 sets
10-15 reps
30-60 sec. rest

Exercise 4A

Leg Curl How to
Leg Curl thumbnail
3 sets
15 reps
30-60 sec. rest

Exercise 4B

Ab Wheel Rollout How to
Ab Wheel Rollout  thumbnail
3 sets
15 reps
30-60 sec. rest

Workout 1 Conditioning: Dumbbell Circuit Select dumbbells that you can press overhead for 15 to 20 reps. Do the exercises listed as a circuit, resting only as long as necessary between moves. Perform six rounds with no rest. First round, do 12 reps. Each successive round, perform two fewer reps.

Exercise 1

Dumbbell Squat You'll need: Dumbbells How to
Dumbbell Squat thumbnail
-- sets
12, 10, 8, 6, 4, 2 reps
-- rest

Exercise 2

Dumbbell Curl You'll need: Dumbbells
Dumbbell Curl  thumbnail
-- sets
12, 10, 8, 6, 4, 2 reps
-- rest

Exercise 3

Dumbbell Overhead Press You'll need: Dumbbells How to
Dumbbell Overhead Press  thumbnail
-- sets
12, 10, 8, 6, 4, 2 reps
-- rest

Exercise 4

Squat Jump How to
Squat Jump thumbnail
-- sets
12, 10, 8, 6, 4, 2 reps
-- rest

Workout 2 Your second workout of the week will train the quads, biceps, triceps, delts, lower body, and abs/core. Do the moves below, supersetting exercises marked A, B, and C. Finish with 20 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio at 70% of your max heart rate.

Exercise 1A

Barbell Front Squat You'll need: Barbell, Squat Rack How to
Barbell Front Squat thumbnail
8 sets
3 reps
1-3 min. rest

Exercise 1B

Bentover Row How to
Bentover Row thumbnail
8 sets
5 reps
1-3 min. rest

Exercise 2

Single-Leg Deadlift with Barbell You'll need: Barbell How to
Single-Leg Deadlift with Barbell thumbnail
4 sets
8 reps
60-90 sec. rest

Exercise 3

Barbell Push Press You'll need: Barbell How to
Barbell Push Press thumbnail
4 sets
8 reps
60-90 sec. rest

Exercise 4A

Triceps Extension How to
Triceps Extension thumbnail
3 sets
10-15 reps
60-90 sec. rest

Exercise 4B

Dumbbell Hammer Curl You'll need: Dumbbells How to
Dumbbell Hammer Curl thumbnail
3 sets
10-15 reps
60-90 sec. rest

Exercise 4C

Cable Lateral Raise You'll need: Adjustable Cable Machine How to
Cable Lateral Raise thumbnail
3 sets
10-15 reps
60-90 sec. rest

Exercise 5

Single-Leg Bench Bridge How to
Single-Leg Bench Bridge thumbnail
3 sets
15 per side reps
30-60 sec. rest

Exercise 6

Renegade Row You'll need: Dumbbells How to
Renegade Row thumbnail
3 sets
10 per side reps
30-60 sec. rest

Workout 2 Conditioning: Farmer's Walk Use a pair of dumbbells that equal approximately 75% of your body weight. (So if you weigh 200 pounds, use two 75-pound dumbbells or thereabouts.)

Exercise 1

Farmer's Walk You'll need: Dumbbells How to
Farmer's Walk thumbnail
1 sets
5 min. reps
-- rest
Put the dumbbells down as needed to rest. Push yourself each workout to put them down as few times as necessary—but never walk with the dumbbells to complete failure. Once you can't breathe properly or the dumbbells are slipping, put them down.
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