When you have only 15 minutes...

When you have only 15 minutes...

 / 5.0
Please log in to rate this article!

Pressed for time? Below you can read about some techniques that can provide you everything you need for growth.

Yeah, we know: You are a hardcore bodybuilder. You are a warrior: You use chalk and straps; you squat deep down to your heels and train until your last breath; and you measure progress by the amount of weights used and the time spent in the gym. A two-hour workout? A piece of pie! However, sooner or later you will face the awful truth: Not only a two-hour workout may be less effective, but sometimes you might not even have two hours for training. There will be situations when you have to get over workout quickly – if you can make it to the gym at all. We developed 15-minute workouts just for situations like these. 15-minute workouts will help you keep up anabolic processes (or fat loss, whichever is your goal) and stay in shape even at times when your schedule wouldn’t allow normal training.

When is it recommended to use this type of training?

For chest, back, shoulders, legs or arms, any time you are in a hurry but don’t want to skip training. But you might as well fit them in a 5-day workout plan and train like that for 4 weeks.

Or you can do a complete upper body workout for example, if you know you can only have two workouts that week.

And for the forearms or calves, you might work them quickly after any workout.

Why is it recommended to use this type of training?

Short rest breaks between sets, or no rest breaks at all, will trigger your system’s own growth hormone (GH) production. Researchers of the US army found that weight training with 1-minute breaks raises the level of growth hormone to a much greater extent than weight training with 3-minute breaks. And university researchers from Brazil published in a 2009 magazine an experiment in which the test persons were working out with 30-second breaks, and they found a 50 % higher increase in the GH levels than what was measured in the case of weight training with 2-3-minute breaks. And GH does not only facilitate muscle growth but fat burn as well.

Smaller weights and high rep counts also lead to an increase in GH levels. Researchers from Finland once published in Journal of Applied Physiology that a workout of 10 sets of 10 reps will lead to a significantly higher increase in GH levels than a workout of 20 one-rep sets. These results were also confirmed by researchers of a New Jersey university. In their experiment, physically fit male athletes were doing sets of 15 reps, and this led to higher GH levels than in the case of the control group, who were doing a similar workout but only with 4 reps.

High intensity workout techniques shock the muscles and thus trigger further growth. For example, a chest training made up by trisets, an arm workout made up by supersets, a shoulder workout made up by giant sets, a workout for the abs, calves or forearms made up by drop sets or a Tabata interval leg training (like in this program) will provide your muscles new kinds of stimuli for sure, because they all exceed traditional methods in intensity.

Change is good for you!By changing your training methods you can step up to a new level of development: By making your body adapt to new stimuli, you can put an end to stagnation.


If you try to accomplish a triset-based chest workout in an overcrowded gym at peak hours, you will surely lose one of your “base camps” before you could finish your workout. The following program will eliminate this problem, as you are going to do all the exercises on the horizontal bench. And since you do not need to migrate from one machine to the other, you can easily fit into the 15-minute timeframe. PLUS, even though you are working on a horizontal bench all along, this triset still works the upper, the middle and the lower sections.

The reverse-grip bench press is mostly applied as a tricep exercise, but if the grip is wider than shoulder width, the upper section of the pectorals will get significant load. Dumbbell flyes will work the lower and the exterior parts of the chest, provided that you use correct body positioning: The exercise should be performed in a bridging position so that your upper body is positioned like on a decline bench. Dumbbell presses are targeted at the middle section of the pecs. Depending on how fast you are performing the exercises, you will be able to complete 3 or 4 rounds of this triset. For each exercise you should choose a weight that normally enables you to do 12 to 15 reps. DON’T worry: at the last triset, you will be far below these rep counts.


Triset: A technique to increase training intensity, in which three exercises are performed for the same body part without any rest break between sets.

Reverse-grip bench press for the upper chest: Although this exercise is known as a basic tricep exercise among bodybuilders, Canadian researchers have found that using a grip that is wider than shoulder width, it will impose 30% more load on the upper fibers of the pectorals than regular bench presses would do.

Bridginig: Place your feet on the bench and lift your hips (calves should be perpendicular to the bench) so that your trunk forms a 45-degree angle above the bench. Lift your back; only your shoulders and traps should touch the bench.

Exercise Sets Reps Rest
Reverse-grip bench press 3-4 12-15
Dumbbell flyes
(with bridging)
3-4 12-15 -
Dumbbell bench press 3-4 12-15 - *

*There are one-minute rest breaks between trisets (that is, after every 3rd exercise).


This back training is based on one-arm exercises, without rest breaks. This means, you will work your left and right sides in turns without rest breaks. One side will rest while the other side is working. But your body itself won’t rest for a single minute. Because of short rest breaks, grip strength will drop radically from one set to the other. So we recommend that you use lifting straps for training methods like this one. Depending on your fitness level, you will be able to do approximately 6-8 reps in the last set.

Let’s begin with one-arm rows to take care of the mass and thickness of your back. Don’t forget about width either: Let’s continue with one-arm cable pull-downs. Position yourself to the pulley machine in a way that when your right arm is working, your right side should face the machine The same goes for your left side. You don’t even need to anchor your feet because the small weight you will be using won’t make it necessary. To give the lower back what it needs, the following exercise is seated one-arm cable rows. And, last but not least, straight-arm lat cable pull-downs with one arm. This is a great isolation exercise to give your back the finishing stroke.




One-arm training: Researchers from Iowa reported on the following experiment: When subjects were doing one-arm standing bicep curls, muscle strength was 20% higher for each arm than in the case of two-arm barbell curls. (For example, if the subject made curls with a 10-kilo barbell, then, in the case of one-arm curls they could use 6 kilos per arm on average, instead of 5.) They also found that making one-arm dumbbell exercises, muscle activity was higher as in the case of barbell curls. This means, more muscle fibers can be stimulated at the same time: Doing one-arm back exercises will enable you to use heavier weights and more muscle fibers will be involved as well. And this all contributes to muscle growth.

Lifting straps: You should definitely use lifting straps. I know: It’s really hardcore to train without lifting straps, and it also makes your forearms stronger. But first, this training is for the back and not for the forearms. And second, believe me: Because of the extremely short rest breaks, at the end, there won’t be enough strength left in your hands to make it, even though your back could still take more load.

Exercise Sets Reps Rest
One-arm bent-over rows 3 12
- *
One-arm pull-downs 3 12 - *
One-arm seated cable rows 3 12 - *
Straight-arm lat cable pull-downs with one arm 3 12 - *

*Each arm will rest only while the other one is working; and between exercises, the only rest breaks are while you are moving from one machine to the other!

Fully armed

In this training you will kill your biceps and triceps in 15 minutes, but in the following days you will feel like you had trained for at least one hour. You will do supersets. Stack up as much weight on the barbell which will enable you to do 8 to 10 bicep curls. Then lay on a bench and do as many tricep extensions as you can, with the same weight. Do 3 of this superset with approximately 1-minute rests between supersets. After the third superset, take off 20-30% of the weight and do one more superset right away with this smaller weight, until you reach failure. The next superset will be made up by cable kickbacks and one-arm cable bicep curls. You should choose a weight that normally enables you to do 15 reps in the first set. Each superset should be done as follows: do the kickbacks with one arm and the bicep curls with the same arm right away; only then should you switch to the other arm. One arm will rest while the other one is working. There will be no extra break. At this point, your arms will be burning like hell, but you are not done yet: Here comes one more superset of one-arm bicep curls and dumbbell overhead tricep extensions.


Supersets: A training technique in which either the same muscle or a pair of antagonistic muscles are worked together in a way that exercises are performed one after the other without rest. Rest break only comes after a pair of exercises.

One-arm cable bicep curls: Stand with your back to the low pulley. This way your elbows will get slightly behind the plane of your body. This exercise will target the long (external) head of the biceps, which will make your biceps more peaked.

Exercise Sets Reps Rest
Standing Barbell Curls
in supersets with
Lying tricep extensions
3 8-10

until failure

30 sec
One-arm cable kickbacks
in supersets with
one-arm cable bicep curls
3 15 -

30 sec
Hammer curls
in supersets with
one-arm overhead tricep extensions
3 10-12 -

30 sec

Standing on the shoulders of giants

For the delts, giant sets will help you to fit in the 15-minute timeframe. You will start with bent-over lateral raises. After you have reached failure, stand up and go on with standing lateral raises right away. After you have reached failure again, you can continue with alternated front raises, followed by dumbbell upright rows with the same weight, until your last breath. And, last but not least, here come the dumbbell shoulder presses. Again, until failure. All five exercises are done with the same weight. Now I hear you saying: “The weights I use for lateral raises are too small for shoulder presses”; but think again: By the time you get there, your shoulders will be burning in Hell’s fire, and it’s almost like a miracle if you can move that weight at all. The same weight you were easily doing lateral raises with at the beginning. Using this technique, you can fully exploit the relation between muscle failure and growth. Do three giant sets before you give in (this might happen sooner for the first time).


Giant sets: Performing several exercises in a row in the same set, with no rest breaks between sets. In this regimen, you progress from easier exercises to the harder ones, which enables you to use the same weight all along. Doing so, you don’t need any rest breaks at all (not even for changing dumbbells).

Alternated front raises: Your shoulders will be very exhausted. However, it is important to do as many reps as possible. Therefore it is recommended to perform front raises in an alternated pattern. This way you can do more reps.


The relation between muscle failure and growth:Since you are doing five exercises in a row without rest, your body will produce a whole lot of lactic acid, which will lead to higher GH production. This will have a positive impact both on muscle growth and fat loss.


Exercise Sets Reps Rest
Bent-over lateral raises
in a giant set with
Standing lateral raises
in a giant set with
Alternated front raises
in a giant set with
Dumbbell upright rows
in a giant set with
Dumbbell shoulder presses





until failure

until failure

until failure

until failure




1 minute

Thighs of steel

We all know that leg training is not really popular. (Maybe only just a few pervs like it ;) ). Leg workouts – if done properly – are brutal and will exhaust your whole system. And yes, we can say a lot of things about an effective leg workout, but we cannot really say it is time-saving. So, would you believe us if we told you that we have a cool 15-minute version for the legs, too? Would you believe it is just as effective as traditional training methods (or even better)? This leg workout combines leg training with high intensity interval training (HIIT). It is called Tabata interval training.

You work in 20-second intervals with 10-second rest breaks. You will complete 8 of these cycles. This means, you are going to have 4 minutes for each exercise. Counting 3 exercises – squats, leg extensions and leg curls – this will come to 12 minutes. Add 1-minute rest breaks between exercises, and it comes to 15 minutes altogether. And, after you have completed it properly – I say it again: Properly – your legs will be begging for mercy.


Tabata interval training: This regimen was developed by Professor Izumi Tabata for Japanese Olympic speedskaters. Should you have any doubts, remember: You use the same muscle fibers for sprint-type exercises as for weight training. So, Dr. Tabata found that by doing 8 cycles of 20-second ultra-intense exercise with 10-second rest, athletes achieved significant gains both in aerobic and anaerobic capacities. Since the Tabata regimen requires explosive energy, it can help you do more reps of the same exercise with the same weight or use more weight for the same number of reps. And this will improve both your strength and muscle size, because this type of load always triggers muscle hypertrophy. AND this is still not all! By exercising with a high number of repetitions and short rest breaks, you will not only increase your GH level but also the amount of blood vessels that supply your muscles with nutrients. This means, more nutrients, oxygen and anabolic hormones will reach your muscles, providing you more energy for training and facilitating recovery. And, last but not least, the Tabata regimen improves your endurance as well, which is important for fat burn.

Weight used for squats: Most likely, you will need to experiment a bit (and you might get the weights wrong once or twice) until you find the ideal weight to train with. You should choose the weight so that you can make it for 20 seconds in the first 5 or 6 sets, but you cannot complete full 20-second sets for the rest of the exercise. Doing so, you can set a goal of eventually being able to complete 20-second sets in all 8 cycles. After you have achieved it, you may increase the weight used for squats: We recommend that for the first time, you should use your own bodyweight only; no, not your own weight stacked up on the barbell, but squat without any weight. If you can complete 8 cycles like this, you may move on to using an empty barbell. and gradually increase load as you progress.


Exercise Sets Duration Rest
Squat 8 20 sec 10 sec
Leg extensions 8 20 sec 10 sec
Lying leg curls 8 20 sec 10 sec

The forgotten muscles

...don’t forget about the calves, the abs and the forearms!

These small muscle groups often get to the bottom of the priority list. After all, who cares about large forearms if your girlfriend has larger biceps? (Remember Popey?) And as for the abs... come on! However, it is strongly recommended to take care of these muscles, too: Skinny-minny calves peeping out of your shorts under a pair of muscled thighs, or two grissinis for forearms under a pair of big guns, now how pathetic is that? AND, although the abs are covered by clothes most of the time, they are the most decisive indicators of your shape. Sure, we know: Who the heck wants to struggle with these seemingly less important muscle groups after an exhausting workout. But we have good news for you: With this 15-minute workout, you can achieve great progress for each muscle group! In this case we are going to apply the Weider rotation method. There won’t be any rest breaks between sets, only as much as it takes to move on from one exercise to the other. Of course, your forearms will rest while you are working on your calves and abs, therefore they won’t need any additional breaks. You should rotate exercises until you complete 4 sets of each.


Weider rotation method: Doing sets for different muscle groups without rest. It is similar to trisets. But unlike trisets, in which you perform all three exercises for the same muscle, in this case, every set is targeted at a different muscle and there are no breaks between sets.

Muscle group Exercise Sets/reps Rest
Forearms Wrist curls 4/12-15 -
Abs Crunches 4/until failure -
Calves Standing calf raises 4/20 -

Well, that’s all, folks. Now you have no more excuses to skip training due to lack of time! Even the busiest people can find 15 minutes for workout if they want to, and, if they are tough enough to take these merciless muscle-burning workouts!

Source: Flex Magazin, December 2009

Related articles
Training During Canicular Days – 4 Golden Rules
Life goes on. We know that many of you work out as usual, even in these unbearable canicular days. However, it is good to know some basic rules. Because we don’...

Ask your question about this article here!

You can ask questions after registration and login!
Please log in!

There are no comments

My cart cart
Your cart is empty
Suggested readings:
Vitamin C (Ascorbic acid)
Vitamin C is probably the most widely known and most commonly used vitamin. It is recommended for everyone. And also som...
BCAA amino acids
What you can achieve by taking it * It prevents muscle degradation (catabolism) * It supports increase in muscle m...
Latest articles
My Trainer’s Body
Should a personal trainer look good? After all, their bodies are their “advertising platform”. Or, one cannot expect non...
Why We Keep Pumping Iron
This article might not reveal the “secret”. Or, it might need no explanation to you. But one thing is for sure: you MUST...
Does running suck?
Running is generally not considered as an ideal form of training to complement workout with weights. Its benefits, howev...
Shopbuilder Ltd. · Mérey str. 17 HU6722 Szeged, Hungary · Phone: +36-20-900-0864 (Monday-Friday: 9-17am CEST) · E-mail: shop@builder.eu
Privacy Policy (01098-0001) · Hungarian E-commerce Registration Number: C/002 215/2003 · Online Dispute Resolution
262 ms