How To Build Muscle When You’re Short Of Time

Oct 12, 2017 | fitness

This guest article is by Joey Sheather, high performance personal trainer and author of Global Weight Training.

How you can shock your body into new levels of growth when you are short on time.

This might sound like a cliche, but we do live in a fast-paced, high-stress world where time is a valued commodity in short supply. There is nothing worse than rushing off to the gym, skipping parts of your workout and leaving feeling like you haven’t trained properly and have wasted your time.

I believe that you should have a specific goal to be achieved from every single workout and in pursuit of that goal you give nothing less than 100 percent effort. If you fall short of that level of focus and intensity on a regular basis you are wasting your time and taking a longer path to where you want to be. Make the most of the time you have been given. This, of course, applies to the rest of your life but today we are only talking about training. (Which, of course, is the most important part of your life – ha ha).

Normally you need around an hour to complete most workouts and maybe a little more time to complete a proper warm-up and cool-down. Some days, because of time-constraints, you might only have half an hour or 20 minutes or even 10 minutes. You probably think that I sound crazy by even suggesting that that may be enough time for a growth-producing workout. It is…..

The Ultimate Set– A non-stop ascending-descending execution of full repetitions + partials.

There is a single method that stands out as the most time-efficient and one of the most effective in completely exhausting a muscle group in the shortest possible time. It is a nearly non-stop ascending-descending set where you choose an exercise that is a favourite for a muscle group, pyramid all the way up to your top weight, perform drop-sets all the way back down and perform partial repetitions at the end of each heavy set. Each set is taken to absolute failure and/or beyond except the first couple of warm-up sets.

Example 1: The entire sequence – 13 sets

Example 2: The descent – sets 7 to 13 only

It takes less than 10 minutes and will exhaust you more than a two hour workout. With modifications this set sequence can be applied to almost any exercise and muscle group and will shock your muscles pushing you past training plateaus and complacency into new levels of muscular strength and growth.

How to set up an exercise to perform The Ultimate Set:

1. If you are training a large muscle group – Back, Quadriceps, Chest – you need to choose two exercises. On the first exercise perform the set sequence from Example 1 which is the entire 13 sets. On the second exercise perform the set sequence from Example 2 which is sets 7 to 13 only, i.e. the second half of Example 1.

2. If you are training a small muscle group – Shoulders, Hamstrings, Triceps, Calves, Biceps, Abdominals – you choose one exercise only and perform the entire set sequence from Example 1.

3. On each training day you can do either:
a. One large muscle group + one small muscle group
b. Two small muscle groups
c. One large muscle group by itself
d. One small muscle group by itself

4. The amount of sets and the length of rest time should be the same as described however, the weights, repetitions and partials reps may be adjusted to suit individual needs. There should always be a minimum of 6 full repetitions on each set and 6 partials repetitions where they are required. Try to stick to the formula as much as possible. Train to failure but maintain strict technique.

5. Choose an exercise that is effective for training the intended muscle group and suitable for this set sequence. Here are some that I recommend however, ‘The Ultimate Set’ can be applied to almost any exercise:

See exercises here…

6. Warm-up sufficiently by performing a few light sets of different exercises for the target muscle group and begin the set sequence with a weight that you can easily perform 20 repetitions with.

7. Calculate the 7 even weight increments up to your top weight that you will use during your sets (see Example 1 for clarification).

8. If you are training a large muscle group and are performing a second exercise you need to calculate 7 even weight increments down from your top weight (see Example 2 for clarification).

9. Don’t go past 20 repetitions on the way up.

10. Perform 6 to 10 partial repetitions from the 4th to the 10th sets where you are using the heaviest weights and lower reps.

11. Rest for 10 seconds between sets from the 4th to the 10th set where you are using the heaviest weights and will need more recovery time to generate sufficient strength.

12. On the way down you may go over 20 repetitions if that is what is required to hit failure.

13. Make sure your breathing is deep and rhythmic throughout the entire painful process so that your burning muscles are not totally starved of oxygen.

14. Stretch the trained area intensely at the end of the whole sequence to reduce muscle soreness

15. You must be mentally prepared to push yourself way beyond the pain barrier whilst maintaining strict lifting technique. It is very, very difficult but supremely effective. The benefits will be great if you have the discipline to grind out rep after painful rep.

Last Word…

Implement this non-stop ascending-descending execution of full repetitions + partials once or twice a month for each muscle group for amazing results. Use it in conjunction with some of the great weight training programs from and nothing will stop you from reaching you goals. The Ultimate Set is a breakthrough exercise technique. Enjoy the rewards.


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