The post-holiday season can be a frustrating time for serious lifters as once roomy gyms are suddenly swamped with "resolutioners" committed to spending at least the first week of the new year transforming their physiques.

Instead of waiting in line for a dozen machines, barbells, and dumbbells, follow these training guidelines so you can use fewer pieces of equipment, but use them more intensely.

These methods are not some half-assed, uncommitted, save-time workouts. They're hardcore, designed for people who want to gain size, strength, and testicular fortitude—regardless of gender.

Training Method 1: Rest-Pause Drop

This first method has you doing lots of fast mini-sets. Start with a , then get to your first exercise and choose a weight you can lift for 6-10 reps before hitting failure. Take your first set to failure, then rest 20 seconds. Do your second set to failure, and rest another 20 seconds.

Do one more set to failure, then immediately reduce the weight by 20-30 percent and repeat the exact same sequence of 3 sets with 20 seconds of rest. You'll end up with a total of 6 mini-sets that you get done in minimal time but with maximum intensity.

Let's say you do 6-10 machine curls at 80 pounds. Your Rest-Pause Drop workout will look something like this:

  • Mini-set 1: 80 lbs. for 8 reps
  • Rest 20 sec.
  • Mini-set 2: 80 lbs. for 4 reps
  • Rest 20 sec.
  • Mini-set 3: 80 lbs. for 3 reps
  • Rest 20 sec.
  • Mini-set 4: 60 lbs. for 8 reps
  • Rest 20 sec.
  • Mini-set 5: 60 lbs. for 5 reps
  • Rest 20 sec.
  • Mini-set 6: 80 lbs. for 3 reps

Use this fast, mini-set version throughout this workout:

Sample "" Arm Workout

Sample "" Chest and Back Workout

Sample "" Leg and Shoulder Workout

Training Method 2: Time Under Tension (TUT) Workout

With this method, instead of measuring your sets in terms of reps, you're going to see how many you can do in a limited amount of time, doing 2-3 exercises per body part. Starting with a weight you can use for 8-12 reps, perform each set for 30 seconds in the first week. After each set, reduce the weight by approximately 25 percent. Do three sets of each exercise.

Increase lifting time by 5 seconds every week. As with the Rest-Pause Drop technique, stay with that one piece of equipment for about 5 minutes as you go through all 3 sets.

Let's use dumbbell overhead presses as an example. Say you can do 8-12 reps with 100 pounds. Your TUT workout will look something like this:

Week 1:

Set 1: As many reps as possible in 30 sec. at 100 lbs.

Set 2: As many reps as possible in 30 sec. at 75 lbs.

Set 3: As many reps as possible in 30 sec. at 55 lbs.

Week 2:

Set 1: As many reps as possible in 35 sec. at 100 lbs.

Set 2: As many reps as possible in 35 sec. at 75 lbs.

Set 3: As many reps as possible in 35 sec. at 55 lbs.

Week 3:

Set 1: As many reps as possible in 40 sec. at 100 lbs.

Set 2: As many reps as possible in 40 sec. at 75 lbs.

Set 3: As many reps as possible in 40 sec. at 55 lbs.

Week 4:

Set 1: As many reps as possible in 45 sec. at 100 lbs.

Set 2: As many reps as possible in 45 sec. at 75 lbs.

Set 3: As many reps as possible in 45 sec. at 55 lbs.

Sample TUT Shoulders and Triceps Workout

Sample TUT Legs and Biceps Workout

Sample TUT Chest and Back Workout

Training Method 3: Cluster Sets

Perfect for the crowded commercial gym, cluster sets enable you to lift more total weight than you could with straight reps, providing a greater anabolic stimulus. It all comes down to breaking main sets into several parts. For example, instead of doing a set of 9 straight reps, do a set of 3 reps, three times, with two 15-second rest periods within the set. These short rest intervals maximize metabolic stress for greater muscle growth.

How to Perform Cluster Sets

Pick a weight you can lift for 10-15 reps. Lift the weight for 5 reps, rest 15 seconds, and repeat the sequence. Do this for 5 minutes straight. If you can no longer do 5 reps, drop it to 4 reps; if you can no longer do 4 reps, continue with 3 reps. If doing 3 reps becomes unmanageable, lengthen the rest interval to 20 seconds. When that becomes too much, stop the set and move on to the next exercise. On the last set, if you have any gas left in the tank, take that set for as many reps as possible.

Sample "Cluster" Chest Workout

Sample "Cluster" Leg Workout

Sample "Cluster" Back Workout

Sample "Cluster" Shoulder Workout

Sample "Cluster" Arm Workout

About the Author

Josh Bryant, MS, CSCS

Josh Bryant, MS, CSCS

Josh works as a Strength & Conditioning coach and is certified in fitness training, nutrition, and conditioning, and was recently awarded...

View all articles by this author

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