How to Build Muscle in Less Than 2 Hours Per Week
In this blog post I’m going to cover how to build muscle in less than two hours per week. Recently I was asked how you should train if you can only go to the gym two times per week. Therefore, I’m going to outline the best strategy for this so you can maximize your progress despite having a limited amount of time to train every week. This blog post will be most relevant for businessmen, guys with kids and digital nomads who are often travelling from place to place. Lets get into it…
1. High volume workouts
You can only train two times per week. This means that you need to think more carefully about how you’re going to hit your weekly volume requirements since you can only train twice. If you were training more than two times per week it would be easier to spread your volume out across each workout. Regardless of whether you’re a beginner or more intermediate lifter, the two workouts you do will need to be quite high in volume each week. For example, if you’re a beginner and you’re aiming (well, you should be) for 10 sets per body part week then you need to be making sure that you’re doing 5 sets on day 1 and 5 sets on day 2 for each body part. Lets take chest as an example. For chest you could do 5 sets of barbell bench press on day 1 and then 5 sets of incline dumbbell press on day 2. Do this for each body part and you’ll have two workouts done every week where you’re hitting your weekly volume requirements. Your workouts will probably go over an hour but it’s necessary since you’re only in the gym two times per week.
2. Full body training
This may or may not come as a surprise to you, but full body training is critical for you if your schedule is really busy every week. By doing two full body workouts each week this not only ensures that each body part is being equally trained, but it also means that you can still train each body part two times per week. Training each body part two times per week (or more if you can) is a lot better for muscle size and strength gains because you will be spiking muscle protein synthesis more often compared to if you were only training each body part once per week. For example, if you did an upper lower split training two times per week you would get half the results that someone else would get who’s following a full body split and similarly training only two times per week. You’d only be training each body part once per week which means less muscle gain, poor recovery and lots of volume squeezed into one workout.
3. Compound exercises only
You want maximum return on your investment in the gym. This means that you need to be “killing two birds with one stone” with how you train. What this means in fitness is your exercise selection has to be optimal so that you get the most amount of gains for the least amount of time spent in the gym. Compound exercises need to be the staple of your workouts and you shouldn’t be doing anything else during the two hours you have in the gym each week. The following exercises need to be in your workouts:
+ bench press
+ pull ups
+ overhead press
As a beginner, everything other than deadlifts and squats you can do two times per week if you’re recovery was good between your workouts. I leave out deadlifts and squats because these are the two most physically taxing exercises and your recovery might be strained as a beginner if you started doing these two exercises two times per week. Lets put it this way, I don’t do them two times per week and I’ve been training for seven years.
Compound exercises train more than one body part at the same time. Deadlifts train your entire back musculature, rear delts, glutes, hamstrings and quads. Squats work your glutes and quads. Bench press hits your chest, shoulders and triceps. Pull ups and row fire up your lats, biceps and rear delts. Overhead press blasts your shoulders and triceps. Dips recruit your triceps, shoulders and chest. You get the message. You get the most bang for your buck with these exercises and they’ve got to be in your two full body workouts every week.
4. Rotate the order of your bench press + overhead press on day 1, and your squats + deadlifts on day 2
Now that you know why two full body workouts is best if you can only train two days per week, lets consider your exercises. With full body training routines you need to be rotating the order of your exercises. This is because if you’re constantly following the same exercise order then you’re going to be prioritising one body part more than the others and this will lead to muscle imbalances and lagging body parts later on down the line. You don’t want this. So to make sure you avoid this you have to be smart and rotate the order of your exercises. Below I have outlined more clearly how I rotate my exercises to make sure that each body part is trained equally:
Full body workout A (push exercises, pull exercises, leg exercises, arms, abs)
Full body workout B (pull exercises, leg exercises, push exercises, arms, abs)
Full body workout C (leg exercises, push exercises, pull exercises, arms, abs)
As you can see, the exercises get rotated within a full body workout in a push,pull, legs format (since every exercise you do is either a push, pull or leg exercise in the gym). Arms and abs always come last because they are indirectly trained with a compound exercise earlier in the full body workout anyway and they just simply shouldn’t be prioritized ahead of big compound movements in your workouts in terms of your energy levels and strength at the start compared to the end. You need a lot more energy for rows than barbell curls, lets put it that way.
Given that you can only do full body workouts two times per week and the fact that any good full body training program is split up based on bench press, overhead press, deadlifts and squats across three days, this means that you can’t dedicate a third full body workout where you’re doing one of those 4 exercises on it’s own. This means you have to follow a full body training routine that rotates those 4 exercises like this:
Full Body Workout A: (bench press, overhead press, pull exercises and leg exercises)
Full Body Workout B: (deadlifts, squats, other pull exercises, other leg exercises and other push exercises)
Full Body Workout A: (overhead press, bench press, pull exercises, leg exercises…no arm and ab exercises, you don’t have time!)
Full Body Workout B: (squats, deadlifts and push exercises…no arm and ab exercises, you don’t have time!)
See the difference? You rotate bench press and overhead press in full body workout A every week and you rotate squats and deadlifts in full body workout B. This means that you aren’t prioritizing one exercise over the other every week and seeing slower progress on the second exercise that gets “left behind”. Your strength on the second big compound exercise won’t be quite as good as it could be if you had the time to train it on a separate day, but it’s the best solution for maximizing gains on the most important exercises in only two workouts per week. In an ideal world you’d be doing squats, bench press and deadlifts (and arguably standing overhead press) on separate training days, however this is how you optimize your training and muscle proportions when you can only go two times per week.
You may know how to train if you can only go to the gym two times per week, but you don’t know how many sets, reps and how much weight you need to be lifting in your full body workouts. Without this you will be left confused, frustrated and you’ll most likely want to give up. This can’t happen, which is why I strongly suggest you start The Spartan Program. It’s a six month full body training program designed for beginners with the exact amount of sets, reps and optimal progression schemes you need to get serious results. Get started today: