StrengthLog’s In a Hurry at the Gym: A Time-Optimized Program

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StrengthLog’s In a Hurry at the Gym is the program you need when you have a very limited time for an effective workout.

Let’s face it, sometimes you need to optimize your training to suit how much time you have at your disposal. Even if your time in the gym is your favorite time of the day, sooner or later, you will probably have less time than you’d like for your favorite activity.

Maybe you have a little one who demands your time and attention, work responsibilities, or some other time-consuming changes in your life situation. It might not even be a matter of time. Maybe you’re just not feeling the usual motivation to spend a lot of time training at the moment, but you still want to maintain your strength and muscle mass.

When and if this time comes, it’s good to be prepared.

StrengthLog’s In a Hurry at the Gym: Little Time, Big Results

If you know that your lack of time isn’t something that you have to deal with for more than a month or two, how you plan your training, the training that you manage to squeeze in, doesn’t matter. As long as you lift something heavy a few times a week, you’re good to go.

However, if we’re talking long-term, where you know you’ll be hard-pressed to fit proper workouts into your schedule, you need to structure your training accordingly.

Let’s assume you have an hour a week for serious training. If that’s the case, we designed Strengthlogs In a Hurry at the Gym with you in mind. It’s only three workouts per week, and each workout can be finished in 20 minutes, not counting warm-up time. That means intensive training, compound exercises, and then you’re out of the gym.


In this program, you go to failure or close to failure every set. When you only have a limited amount of sets to stimulate your muscles, you can’t go in half-baked. Failure in this program is where you can’t complete another repetition. However, you don’t need to take your sets to the point where you fail your last rep. That’s risky in heavy compound exercises like the bench press, the squat, and the deadlift.

Progression and Selecting the Proper Weight

Much like many other programs, StrengthLog’s In a Hurry at the Gym has you utilizing pyramid training. Unlike most of those programs, you’ll be doing reverse pyramids here. Once you’re warmed up and ready for your first working set, that first set is also your heaviest. The following sets, you lower the weight a bit and do a few more reps instead. That way, you can use maximum intensity when your muscles are fresh.

Once you manage to complete your planned number of reps in all sets, it’s time to increase the weight you use. How much you increase depends on the exercise. You can increase the load more in squats that leg curls, for example. You still want to be able to use proper form the next workout, too, so do it gradually. As long as you progress, even if the progress is slow and gradual, everything is A-OK. You don’t need to increase the weights you use every workout. Don’t expect to be able to.

Rest Intervals

When you don’t have a lot of time, you probably want to get to the next set as soon as possible. However, unless you need to be somewhere in the next few minutes, try to rest as long as you need to perform properly. Somewhere around two minutes is an excellent middle ground. Heavy compound exercises require a certain amount of recovery. If you just can’t rest that long in between sets, it is what it is, of course.

Drop Sets

You’ll find yourself performing drop sets in the leg curl during the third day of In a Hurry at the Gym. What this means is that you start with a weight with which you can do ten reps. Once you’re done those ten reps, instead of your usual rest interval, you jump immediately into your next set. Decrease the weight you use, and do as many reps as you can. Then do the same thing once more. In other words, the leg curl exercise consists of three sets in one, without any rest.

Why Is There No Arm Training in StrengthLog’s In a Hurry at the Gym?

You won’t find any direct arm training in this program. When you only have a few minutes to get a workout in, you need to focus on exercises that provide the most bang for the buck. That means upper body training where you target several large muscle groups at a time and train your arms indirectly, as a bonus.

If you have a minute or two to spare, feel free to squeeze in a superset or two of biceps and triceps training somewhere. Barbell curls and the standing triceps extension is a good superset suggestion. However, these aren’t part of the basic In a Hurry at the Gym program.

Minimizing Gym Time Isn’t Optimal

That’s just the straight facts. Reducing your time in the gym to an hour a week is not optimal for gaining strength and muscle mass. We’re talking about making the best of a sub-optimal situation here. In a Hurry at the Gym gives your entire body a good workout. In the end, the effort and intensity you can muster during your short workouts determine your results,

Workout Days and Rest Days

Feel free to train when it fits your life and schedule. However, we designed In a Hurry at the Gym with every other day-training in mind. That gives you maximum time for recuperation and hits your muscles regularly. If you train on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday or any other combination of weekdays doesn’t matter.

StrengthLog’s In a Hurry at the Gym: The Program

This is the program, in all its simplicity:

Workout 1

  • Deadlift: 4, 5, 5, 6 reps (decrease the weight the second and fourth sets)
  • Bench press: 4, 6, 8, 10 reps (decrease the weight every set)

Workout 2

Workout 3

  • Squat: 4, 6, 8, 10 reps (decrease the weight every set)
  • Lying leg curl or seated leg curl: 1 drop set (do 10 reps, decrease the weight, do as many reps as your can, decrease the weight, and do as many reps as you can once more time)
  • Pull-up or lat pulldown: 3 x max reps (10–12 reps if you chose lat pulldowns)

That’s it! Make the most of the time you have, and the results will come.

Is StrengthLog’s In a Hurry at the Gym Available in the StrengthLog app?

Yes! In a Hurry at the Gym is available for free in our app StrengthLog for iOS and Android.

Want to give StrengthLog premium a shot? We offer all new users a free 14-day trial of premium, which you can activate in the app.

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Andreas Abelsson

Andreas is a certified nutrition coach with over three decades of training experience. He has followed and reported on the research fields of exercise, nutrition, and health for almost as long and is a specialist in metabolic health and nutrition coaching for athletes. Read more about Andreas and StrengthLog by clicking here.