Time-Efficient Workouts: Maximizing Gains in Limited Time

One of the most common excuses that prevent people from going to the gym is that it’s too time-consuming. But the main reason this idea is so popular is that some avid gym rats often talk about how their workouts can take up to two hours, if not even more. And when you factor in the shower, commute, stretching, and other things, it can total to more than 3 hours.

But in reality, you don’t have to spend so much time at the gym to get fit, as you can get everything done in as little as 20-30 minutes if you adapt to the right workout.

So don’t let the time factor prevent you from achieving your fitness goals and read on to learn about how you can get a quick workout in for maximum gains.

Our Favorite Time-Efficient Workouts

Each of the following methods can be done in 30 minutes or less, and you can get creative with them however you like.

Fewer Isolation Exercises, More Compound

The first thing you can do is cut down the number of exercises you do at the gym. For example, on push day, instead of doing 3 exercises for the chest, 2 for the shoulders, and 1 for the triceps, you can do 1-2 chest, 1 shoulders, and 1 triceps. And do the same for pull and leg days.

The important thing here is to pick compound exercises on each day to target as many muscles as you can in one movement. Here are some of the best for each day:


  • Bench Press: For the chest muscles, front delts, and triceps.
  • Overhead Press: For the delts and triceps.


  • Pull-Up: For the traps, lats, and biceps.


  • Squat: All the leg muscles, but mostly the quads.
  • Deadlift: Mostly the glutes along with the other leg muscles, traps, lats, and lower back.

High-Intensity Training

Another way to maximize your gains in a short period is by upping the intensity. Instead of doing the regular 8-10 reps for 3 sets, you instead do the exercise for a continuous amount of time, then rest and do it again. Think of it as a combination between cardio and regular weightlifting.

The most popular technique is high-intensity interval training (HIIT), which involves bursts of exercise with short breaks in the middle. Here’s an example HIIT workout you can try:

  • Exercise 1: Jumping jacks – 30 seconds
  • Rest: 10 seconds
  • Exercise 2: Jump squats – 30 seconds
  • Rest: 10 seconds
  • Exercise 3: Push-ups – 30 seconds
  • Rest: 10 seconds
  • Exercise 4: Burpees – 30 seconds
  • Rest: 10 seconds
  • Exercise 5: Mountain climbers – 30 seconds
  • Rest: 10 seconds
  • Exercise 6: Tricep dips – 30 seconds
  • Rest: 60-120 seconds
  • Repeat


Pilates is often seen as an exercise for the mind and body at the same time. It relies on low-intensity movements along with breathing techniques to focus on strengthening the body while also helping with posture, flexibility, and coordination.

Here’s an example pilates workout that you can do at home:

  • Warm-up: 5 minutes of deep breathing and stretching
  • The Hundred: Lift your legs and rock your arms up and down for a total of 100 times
  • One leg stretch: Alternative between hugging one knee while the other is flat for 10 reps
  • Plank: Hold for 30-60 seconds
  • Swimming: Extend your limbs up and down and rock them alternatively for 60-90 seconds
  • Roll-up: Hold for 60-90 seconds
  • Pilates push-up: 8-10 reps

All of this should take about 10 minutes. And if you have more time, you can add more exercises to this routine.

Building Your Fitness Routine Around Quick Workouts

To find success, you’ll need to build a sustainable routine that fits your lifestyle. Ultimately, while these quick workouts are infinitely better than doing nothing at all because you don’t have time, we’d still recommend you get in at least one full workout per week.

For example, if you work full-time, then you can start the week with a pilates workout on Monday, do a quick compound workout on Tuesday and Wednesday, an HIIT session on Friday, and a regular gym day on Sunday.

Bottom Line

You don’t need to spend so much time at the gym to reap the benefits of exercise. As you’ve seen here, it can take as little as 10-30 minutes to get a workout in, thanks to routines like pilates, HIIT, and compound movements.

The latter are especially helpful for time-efficient muscle gain since they work multiple muscles in one go. You can effectively have an entire full-body workout with just five exercises.


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