Fit Tip: Quick Workouts to Build Strength and Muscle

Posted On Oct 21, 2019 By James White

A woman lifting weights.

When I worked in a toll booth I would often get asked for directions. I would gladly help people if I knew where they were going. Often I would give clear directions and people would still ask questions like “but my MapQuest says to go here”.. or my gps is telling me to go this way. I would either stare at them or say "so why did you ask me for directions if you didn't want to follow what I was going to give you?"

Sometimes people seek answers they already have. But that's not you. You just want to get strong and in shape and do it without spending hours in the gym doing a million exercises on some complicated program, written for competitive bodybuilders.

So with that being said, here are my keys to a simple workout plan to build strength, and a muscular well-conditioned body.

Keys to progress with a simple strength training routine.

  1. Limit the amount of exercises per session to 3-4

    Since we are keeping it simple, it's time to eliminate anything but the essentials. This program is not about doing 5 different exercises for every single bodypart. This plan is about getting strong with the basics.

  2. Do a lower body lift, a upper body press and an upper body pull

    (1 squat, lunge, deadlift / 2 overhead press, handstand pushup, bench press/ 3 pullup, rows, pulldowns)

  3. Lift 3 times per week for 30-45 minutes

    This is the sweet spot. Sure you can do more or less, but 3 days per week is a good starting point. Try it for a month before adding another day

  4. Do a thorough warmup

    With and finish with similar movements including core work. You can also use a sled/prowler or jump rope.

    These warmups should be completed with a quick tempo. The point is to get the body prepared for the work ahead but also to improve your general fitness. Quick circuits with no rest to get you sweating and breathing hard.

  5. Walk daily

    There's no dispute here. Find a half hour at least to take a walk. Do it first thing in the morning. On lunch. After dinner. It doesn't matter when, just do it. Once a week do 15 minutes of high intensity intervals. Sled dragging, hill sprints, stairs, jump rope, swimming.

a woman deadlifting

Details of the training

Vary the rep ranges for each exercise and add weight over time. If you do 5x5 for squats one day, the next week do 3x8 or 6x3.

Example week of training

  • Day 1 – Front squat 5x5, DB Press 4x6, DB Rows 3x10, Face pulls 4x15
  • Day 2 – Lunges 4x10, Pushups 3x20, Chinups 4x8, Hammer curls 3x12
  • Day 3 – Trap bar Deadlift 6x3, Incline Bench 3x8, Chest Supported Rows 5x10

Now the questions. What if I can't do one of the lifts? There's always a variation you can do.

Bad shoulder? Do goblet squats, floor press, neutral grip pressing, pushups.

Bad low back? Do trap bar deadlifts or deadlifts off blocks. Front squats or goblet squats, box squats.

Elbow issues? Do neutral grip work and use fat grips/specialty bars, dumbbells.

Bad knees? Do box squats, conventional deadlifts, more posterior chain work.

What if I'm too busy to do … stop making excuses and get up an hour earlier.

a woman performing a dumbbell row.

What about casein protein, creatine, post workout, pre workout, the angle of the incline bench, 12 or 15 reps etc.. stop majoring in the minors.

Eat real food 90% of the time. Learn to cook some basic meals that will supply you with fuel and make your body look how you want it to look.

Show up. Do the work. Don't miss days and don't skip meals. Be consistent and persistent. Stick to a plan like this for months and you will make some serious progress. Be sure to keep adding more weight and/or more reps as often as you can. But don't be a dummy about it and max out with awful form and injure yourself.

Slow, consistent gains. No, it doesn't sell magazines. But it's the way to get strong and stay strong for life. Not just for one rep today.