Fitness 101 | Workouts for the Time Poor – Part 1 : Muscle Building!

Have you or someone you know started a fitness program full of good intentions, only for it all to drop away within the first couple of weeks? Most people I speak with in regards to any type of training have been through this, where other priorities take precedence over their best intentions. This is a reality of the world we live in. There are always things to be done, competing work and personal responsibilities, and we are connected to all of them via the technology in our pockets, on our desks at work, or even at home on the lounge. And for every convenience these items afford us, they also cost us in many other ways.Time is perhaps the biggest cost. A close second would be health and fitness which could include some ‘downtime’, physical activity, or having time to eat properly.

So going to back to your good intentions and your fitness program. How can we ensure that we incorporate these two elements, whilst having time to execute them effectively, and therefore reap the positive results?

This Post is the first of two-part series on the two most requested aspects of fitness –
1) I want bigger muscles.
2) I want to lose weight.

This Post, Fitness 101 | Workouts for the Time Poor – Part 1 : Muscle Building!, will focus on the first of these.

Let’s assume you can find 45 minutes, three to four times per week. You can find this between meetings, by blocking out 60 minutes at any time of the day (15 minutes for that shower and change, no one likes a smelly, sweat laden co-worker!), or by getting up an hour earlier, or home an hour later.

And let’s assume you have access to a gym, either at home, near your office, or in the hotel you’re staying at for that business trip.

Finally, let’s assume you want to build muscle and definition, while feeling stronger with more energy. How do we do this? Compound Exercises!

What are Compound Exercises?

“Compound exercises are multi-joint movements that work several muscles or muscle groups at one time.”[1]


“Compound exercises are moves that involve more than one joint and muscle group at a time, as opposed to an isolation exercise which only works one muscle/joint at a time.” [2]

Effectively a compound Exercise has the benefit of using more than just a single muscle in each movement. This means you’re working out multiple muscles all at once. See how the time saving aspect comes into it?

Why are Compound Exercises so good for my body?

Because of their nature, Compound Exercises are very functional, meaning they incorporate moves that you would use  in your everyday life. For example, a Squat is simply bending at the knee to the ground, as if you are picking  something off the floor (like your kids toys, or those TPS Reports that get catapulted off the office printer). Deadlifts are a functional movement incorporating Hamstring, Glutes, and lower back movements, so similar to lifting your kids off each other while they  fight over those toys, or while you bend down to throw the TPS Report office printer out the window!

The added bonus on top of improving your functional movement is that you will get stronger more quickly due to using multiple muscle groups that are working together all at once.

Why will it only take 45 minutes?

Because you’re working multiple muscle groups simultaneously, you don’t have to spend time sorting out different weights, changing machines, or do two or three different sets, to work out two to three different muscles. Therefore, you’re saving time, and also using just one lot of equipment.  Almost to good to be true, huh?

Here’s how you do it:

1. Squat:

SquatThe Squat is the 101 of any effective resistance training and muscle building program. Your largest muscles are located in your thighs (Rectus Femoris and Vastus Lateralis mainly) and your butt (Gluteals, or Glutes). This will build strength and power in your lower body. You’ll notice it when you have to pick something up off the floor or get down onto your haunches. You won’t be groaning or wincing so much, however you will be groaning and wincing plenty when you’re doing this movement! The more you work these leg muscles, the more overall muscle gaining benefits you will have due to them pumping naturally occurring HGH (Human Growth Hormone) throughout your body.

Ensure that you don’t overdo it on the weight, and that you use a ‘spotter’ ( another person to assist with the movement) or a Squat rack, where you can easily lift and replace the weight between Sets.

A variation on the standard Squat is the Body Weight Squat. This is a great option if you have never done Squats before, have existing knee injuries or soreness, or don’t have access to weights. Simply use your body weight instead, as per the diagram below:

Bodyweight Squats

2. Deadlift:

Bent Leg Deadlift


Perhaps the most underrated and therefore under utilised movement, the Deadlift will give you killer upper leg strength, and really develops those vitally important rear leg muscles that make up the Hamstring. It will also tighten your butt!

The Bent Leg Deadlift as per the diagram above is recommended for those not used to this movement. It’s a good place to start, and there should be emphasis on technique and form, not on the speed of the movement itself. If done too quickly, lower back injuries can occur.

The Straight Leg or Stiff Leg Deadlift as per the diagram below puts more emphasis on the Hamstring, and is a great complimentary move with the Squat. Again,be careful of that lower back. Do a few unweighted Reps first using just the Bar itself so you get that technique right and stretch out a little.


3. Bench Press:


Oh Yeah! Is there any resistance training program out there that doesn’t include this classic move? Great for the shoulders, chest, arms, and upper back, the Bench Press is the complete upper body exercise.

Again it’s all about form and technique. When lifting the weight up, if you are shaking, wobbly, arching the back or kicking the feet of the floor to get that bar overhead, STOP! You’re going too heavy, too early. It takes time to build up a respectable Bench Press, and some of the worst injuries I’ve seen in a Gym is from guys trying to lift every weight plate they can find and things going badly. Start with the Barbell itself first, and do a few practice movements. Ensure your feet are firmly placed on the ground, think positively about taking the weight and being able to lift it, then breathe out and lift. Most Barbells will be Olympic standard, meaning they will weigh 20 kilograms (44 pounds ) without any added weight. This will give you a good idea of where you can start (see the Program recommendations at the end of this article). And if possible, always use a ‘Spotter’, or at the very least a proper Bench Press rack.

4. Pull Ups:


One word: WHOONG! That’s usually the noise you make when lifting that chin up to the bar when doing a Pull Up! The overhand Pull Up, as per the diagram above, is a classic move, a favourite of all military outfits to test the physical and mental resolve of new recruits. If you can lift your own body weight, you can lift someone elses bodyweight, which comes in pretty handy in a combat situation. It builds shoulder, back, and arm strength like you wouldn’t believe!

Similarly, a sense of supreme confidence is achieved when you can lift your own body weight when you may not have been able to do so since you were a kid in the playground. It’s just about the ultimate power move, and I’ve had Clients grinning from ear to ear after achieving just one of these after weeks of training.

For a more intense bicep workout, the Underhand Pull Up as per the diagram below can be used interchangeably (and a hint: It’s usually easier to do than an Overhand Pull Up!).

File of U.S. Marines Lance Corporal Vincent grimacing as she practices pulls-ups at Camp Foster on the southern Japanese island of Okinawa

If you’re not confident you can do even one of these two versions immediately, that’s fine. Start with lying on your back, and using anything from a bar, a chair, or anything you can grip above your head, and just raise your body weight from the ground. You’ll be surprised how quickly this conditions the muscles to perform standard Pull Ups.

5. Push Ups:

Push Ups

The ultimate Compound Exercise that can be done anywhere, anytime, without any equipment whatsoever, the Push Up should be part of EVERY fitness routine. Not only great for the upper body, but by also moving the feet wider, you engage the Core and leg muscles to help with the lifting. It’s a great way to finish this workout!

Standard Push Ups such as those in the diagram above aren’t always easy to start with. You can work up to them by using Knee Push Ups as per the diagram below:

Knee Push Ups


So there you have it! A full body, muscle-building workout that should take no more than 45 minutes, even less if you tweak it a little. After just two weeks of three to four sessions per week, I guarantee you’ll be feeling stronger, and will be doing all the functional stuff such as bending down, picking things up, and reaching above your head when carrying objects like it’s effortless. Oh, and you’ll look better in that business shirt or business dress too!

Program Specifics

If you want access to this Program in Excel format which you can print off and use, just contact me via I’m happy to share this program and give you one or two extra tips if required!

Full Body Muscle Gainer Program

Time: 3 sessions per week minimum; 5 sessions per week maximum; 30 – 45 minutes per sessions depending on time availability

Sets: 3 – 4 depending on time availability

Reps: 8 – 12

Workout in this order:

1) Squats – find your 1RM (1 Reptition Maximum), and Squat 70% of this total.

2) Deadlift – find your 1RM,and Deadlift 75% of this total.

3) Bench Press – find your 1RM, and Bench Press 60% of this total.

4) Pull Ups – you don’t have to do all the Reps for each Set in one go. You can rest, then keep going till you get to at least 8.

5) Push Ups


  • We are going from lower body to upper body, and effectively ‘super setting’ with the Pull Ups and Push Ups.
  • This is so we work your biggest muscles first (thighs and glutes), then leave you with the upper body pump around your arms, chest and shoulders with the Pull Ups and Push Ups.
  • We’re also going lighter in terms of 1RM on the Bench Press so we don’t destroy your arms immediately.
  • Stretch up prior to the workout.
  • Ideal rest times between sets is 60 seconds. Seeing as we are trying to save time here, do 20 seconds rest minimum.
  • Ensure you are drinking at least 1L (4 – 5 glasses) of water for the session.
  • Try and ingest high quality Protein within 1 hour of the workout to maximise gains.




Sources and Notes:

[1] Which is better – Compound or Isolation exercises, Elizabeth Quinn,

[2] Compound Exercises – Paige Waehner,

3 thoughts on “Fitness 101 | Workouts for the Time Poor – Part 1 : Muscle Building!

  1. Pingback: Core Health Dynamics | Top 5 | Winter Training Tips! | Core Health Dynamics

  2. Pingback: Re-Blogged: Top 5 Winter Training Tips! | Core Health Dynamics

  3. Pingback: Re-Blogged: Top 5 Winter Training Tips! | CoreHD

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