How To Gain Muscle & Strength In Just 1-2 Workouts A Week

How To Gain Muscle & Strength In Just 1-2 Workouts A Week
Limited time to workout? No problem. Don't quit the gym and destroy your momentum. This article shows you how to make gains in only 1-2 hours each week.

If I've seen this once, I've seen it hundreds of times...

A lifter will be cruising along, making gains and eating right, and then life will kick his butt. The demands of school or work intensify, or life changes happen and reduce the amount of free time available to workout.

Discouragement sets in. The result? Nine times out of ten these lifters take time away from the iron and end up killing their progress.

This cycle often repeats itself. Trainees somehow feel that if they can't workout three, four or even five times per week that there is no point in even heading to the gym.

I am here to tell you differently. This might sound counterintuitive, but you can make progress training only once or twice a week. Worst case scenario, during those periods in life when you can barely find the time to eat, minimalistic programs can serve to maintain your strength and muscle gains until you get your feet back under you.

A secret of success

Here's a secret to reaching your goals that is rarely talked about: successful lifters generally don't take time away from the gym, even when life isn't perfect. They do what they can, when they can.

You must understand that perfection isn't obtainable. It's a fairy tale. If you wait for that perfect year to come along so you can finally focus and reach your goals, well...good luck. You might be waiting for a while.

Putting your gains in a holding pattern (at minimum) is a much better option that taking time away from the gym. All you will need to accomplish this mission is 1 to 2 hours per week. Turn off the TV, power down the Xbox, or prepare a few meals in advance so you can open up some free time.

Do whatever it takes to find that extra hour or two so you can train. That's what a successful lifter would do.

Lifting with Limited Time

The Programs - Time to Gain or Maintain

I have included 4 programs in this article. Two are for those of you who want muscle, muscle and more muscle. The other two programs are powerbuilding programs. They focus on building or maintaining strength and muscle.

It is important to remember that you still need to eat properly during periods of minimal training. The body can grow and build strength on these programs, so don't skimp at the plate.

You should be able to complete each of these workouts in about one hour.

2 Day Muscle Building Workout

You will want to rest at least 2 complete days in between each session. Here is a sample schedule:

  • Monday - Workout A
  • Thursday - Workout B

This program will utilize rest-pause work to help you build muscle. For every exercise other than squats and deadlift, you will rest 30 seconds between sets. To save time, you will also be using the same weight for each set of a given exercise.

Adding Weight. For rest-paused exercises, add weight (the next time you perform this movement) when you are able to perform 12+ reps during your first set. For squats and deadlifts, add weight when the sets feel manageable.

Leg presses you should add weight when you are able to perform 20+ reps on the first set. For leg curls, add weight when you can perform 15 reps on your first set.

Set Intensity. Make sure to push each set for as many reps as possible. Stop a set when you feel like you might fail on the next rep. The focus should be on progress and maximizing sets, not on failure.

Workout A
2 Day Muscle Building Workout
Exercise Sets Reps
Squats (3 minutes rest between sets) 2 20
Barbell Rows or Seated Cable Rows 5 5-12
Incline Dumbbell Bench Press 5 5-12
Stiff Leg Deadlifts 5 5-12
Military Press 5 5-12
Skullcrushers 5 5-12
Workout B
2 Day Muscle Building Workout
Exercise Sets Reps
Deadlift (2 minutes rest between sets) 3 5
Leg Press 5 10-20
Bench Press 5 5-12
Leg Curls 5 8-15
Seated Arnold Press 5 5-12
Barbell Curls 5 5-12

One Day Muscle Building Workout

For those weeks in which you can only hit the gym once, use the following program. All non-squat exercises use rest-pause work, just as with the 2 day program above.

Workout
One Day Muscle Building Workout
Exercise Sets Reps
Squats (3 minutes rest between sets) 2 20
Barbell Rows or Seated Cable Rows 4 5-12
Bench Press 4 5-12
Leg Curls 4 8-15
Seated Arnold Press 4 5-12
Dips 4 AMAP
Chin Ups or Barbell Curls (As many as possible if doing chins) 4 5-12

2 Day Power Building Workout

This program will focus on strength and muscle building. For the big lifts - presses, squats and deadlifts - you will perform a 6 set x 3 rep protocol, resting 90-120 seconds between sets. Add weight to these lifts when the 6 sets feel manageable (the last set not close to failure).

Additional exercises will utilize the rest-pause method detailed above in the muscle building workouts.

You will want to rest at least 2 complete days in between each session. Here is a sample schedule:

  • Monday - Workout A
  • Thursday - Workout B
Workout A
2 Day Power Building Workout
Exercise Sets Reps
Squats 6 3
Bench Press 6 3
Barbell Rows 4 5-12
Seated Dumbbell Press 4 5-12
     
Workout B
2 Day Power Building Workout
Exercise Sets Reps
Deadlift 6 3
Military Press 6 3
Leg Press 4 10-20
Close Grip Bench Press 4 5-12

One Day Power Building Workout

This is a no nonsense program. It is intense but effective.

There is no rest-pause work in this routine. With that said, if you have a limited amount of time to lift, I wouldn't rest longer than 2 minutes between sets.

Add weight when you can for each exercise.

Workout
One Day Muscle Building Workout
Exercise Sets Reps
Deadlifts 2 3-5
Squats 3 5
Squats 1 20
Bench Press 4 5
Barbell Row 3 5
Military Press 3 5
Romanian Deadlift 2 5-8