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.”
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:
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 EXERCISESPerform 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.
BARBELL DEADLIFT You’ll need: Barbell How to
BARBELL BENCH PRESS You’ll need: Barbell, Bench How to
BULGARIAN SPLIT SQUAT
EXERCISE 2 CHINUP You’ll need: Pullup Bar How to
EXERCISE 3A BARBELL CURL How to
EXERCISE 3B ROPE PRESSDOWN You’ll need: Adjustable Cable Machine, Rope Attachment How to
EXERCISE 3C FACE PULL You’ll need: Adjustable Cable Machine, Rope Attachment How to
EXERCISE 4 LEG CURL How to
EXERCISE 4B AB WHEEL ROLLOUT How to
WORKOUT 1 CONDITIONING: DUMBBELL CIRCUITSelect 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.
DUMBBELL SQUAT You’ll need: Dumbbells How to
DUMBBELL CURL You’ll need: Dumbbells
DUMBBELL OVERHEAD PRESS You’ll need: Dumbbells How to
EXERCISE 4 SQUAT JUMP How to
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.
BARBELL FRONT SQUAT You’ll need: Barbell, Squat Rack How to
EXERCISE 1 BENTOVER ROW How to
SINGLE-LEG DEADLIFT WITH BARBELL You’ll need: Barbel lHow to
BARBELL PUSH PRESS You’ll need: Barbell How to
EXERCISE 4 TRICEPS EXTENSION How to
EXERCISE 4B DUMBBELL HAMMER CURL You’ll need: Dumbbells How to
EXERCISE 4 CABLE LATERAL RAISE You’ll need: Adjustable Cable Machine How to
EXERCISE 5, SINGLE-LEG BENCH BRIDGE How to
RENEGADE ROW You’ll need: Dumbbells How to
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.)
FARMER’S WALK You’ll need: Dumbbells How to
BY ERIC VELAZQUEZ, CSCS