30-Minute Muscle Building Workout Plan: 4 Short and Intense Workouts for Each Bodypart

Bodybuilding workout Jason Stallworth Hulk shirt

With most things in life, we have a tendency to think that more is always better. More money, more food, more stuff…more muscle!

But that’s not necessarily the case when it comes to working out and building muscle. In fact, working out too long can actually hinder muscle gains.

In this post, I’m going to give you a full bodybuilding plan that consists of 4 short, intense workouts. And the cool thing is these workouts should only take about 30 minutes!

You’re also going to learn some secrets that will help you do more sets and reps in half the time. This means your overall training volume may not change.

Why Shorter Workouts May Be Better For Building Muscle

Stiff Leg Deadlifts back and hamstrings workout

Before we get into the 30-minute workouts, let’s first talk briefly about why shorter workouts may be better for bodybuilding gains than longer workouts.

When you’re in the gym pumping iron, you’re tearing down your muscles. You’re also depleting glycogen levels and your body will eventually start breaking down protein. This puts your body in a catabolic (muscle-wasting) state.

This is all okay but only to a certain point. If you continue training longer, you’ll put your body deeper into that catabolic state, which could ultimately have an adverse effect on your goal of building muscle.

With shorter workouts, you lessen the risk of muscle-wasting because you’re in and out of the gym, quick. You’re able to start the process of recovery and rebuilding your muscles faster.

The caveat with shorter workouts, let’s say 30 minutes, is they must be intense to be effective. Heather Eastman, NSCA-CPT talks more about why intensity is so crucial in her article ‘Achieve the Same Gains with Shorter Workouts’ on bodybuilding.com.

And I’m going to show exactly how to do with using specific techniques in the 4-day bodybuilding workout plan below.

Can You Really Build Muscle with Shorter Workouts?

working out at the gym bodybuilding

Now, I totally get this question and have asked the same thing many times. Ditching those long high volume workouts while opting for less time in the gym is hard for us bodybuilders to wrap our heads around.

Not to mention we love training and being in the gym. The gym is like our second home!

Paul Carter addresses this in his article ’30 Minutes to Mass: Fast Workouts for Non-Wimps’ on the T-Nation website. He talks about using ‘bro-splits’ which is a popular bodybuilding concept. And this is similar to the plan you’re going to read about (and hopefully start) below.

Need more proof? Here’s a list of top professional bodybuilders who were advocates of shorter, more intense workouts:

– Mike Mentzer
– Dorian Yates
– Mark Dugdale
– Clarence Bass
– Anibal Lopez

Benefits of 30-Minute Workouts

  • Great for those who have a busy lifestyle
  • You can get just as much training volume by using certain techniques (which we will discuss more below!)
  • Better for muscle growth via muscle recovery
  • Shorter workouts tend to be more intense
  • More mental focus as you know you have limited time in the gym

30-Minute Muscle Building Workout Plan

Now it’s time to jump right into your new 30-minute bodybuilding workout routine. You’re going to train each body part once per week.

Here’s a short glimpse of your workout routine (I’ll cover the details of each workout below that):

  • Workout 1: Back and Traps
  • Workout 2: Chest and Biceps
  • Workout 3: Legs (Quads, Hamstrings, and Calves)
  • Workout 4: Shoulders and Triceps

Ideally, you’ll want to throw in some rest days. There are a few ways you can do this.

  • Do all 4 workouts in consecutive days followed by a day or 2 of rest.
  • 2 on, 1 off – repeat
  • 2 on, 1 off, 2 on, 2 off (this would fit well with a Mon-Fri schedule with weekends off)
  • 3 on, 1 off

Just choose whatever schedule works best for you. Either way, I do recommend taking at least 1 day of rest after 4 consecutive workouts. You’re going to need to have recovery time with these intense workouts.

Bodybuilding Techniques that Increase Workout Intensity

Barbell Rows back exercises for bodybuilding mass

There are 2 core techniques you’ll use to increase the intensity of your workouts. This is going to also be the thing that makes your workouts shorter.

Rest-Pause Sets

Rest-pause sets are where you perform a set, rest for 10-15 seconds then perform another set using the same weight. This is typically done on your last set and towards the end of your workout.

Drop Sets

Drop sets are where you perform a set then immediately reduce the weight (about 30-40%) and do another set. This is also usually performed towards the end of your workout, on the final set.

Both techniques are used to exhaust the muscle. This also increases the amount of overall training volume.

**You can read more about these and other similar techniques in my post 7 Weight Training Techniques That Increase Intensity.

Workout 1: Back and Traps

ExercisesSets x RepsTechnique
Barbell Rows3 x 6go heavy!
Dumbbell Rows3 x 8
Seated Rows2 x 10drop set on final
Lat Pulldowns2 x 10rest-pause on final
Barbell Shrugs2 x 10drop set on final

Workout 2: Chest and Biceps

ExercisesSets x RepsTechnique
Incline Bench Press3 x 6go heavy!
Dumbbell Press3 x 8
Cable Flyes2 x 10drop set on final
EZ Bar Curls2 x 10rest-pause on final
Dumbbell Hammer Curls2 x 10drop set on final

Workout 3: Legs

ExercisesSets x RepsTechnique
Squats3 x 6go heavy!
Leg Press4 x 15rest-pause on final
Leg Extensions2 x 10drop set on final
Leg Curls2 x 10drop set on final
Standing Calve Raises2 x 10rest-pause on final

Workout 4: Shoulders and Triceps

ExercisesSets x RepsTechnique
Seated Dumbbell Press3 x 10
Lateral Raises2 x 10drop set on both sets
Bent-over Raises2 x 10drop set on both sets
Overhead Dumbbell Extensions2 x 10drop set on final
Rope Pressdowns2 x 10rest-pause on final

If you can throw in a 5th workout day during the week, I ‘strongly’ encourage you to do a 2nd leg day. You can read more about why it’s important to train legs twice a week vs. once a week in my post Training Legs Twice a Week: How to Build Bigger Legs.

What About Cardio and Abs?

I did not account for doing cardio in this plan. The 30-minute workouts are for weight training workouts only.

I do recommend that you do some type of cardio 3-4 times a week. Of course, how much, what type, and how long each duration depends on where you are currently, and what your goals are.

You can either do a 20-30 minute cardio session after your weight training workouts, which would turn your gym time into about an hour. Or you could set aside a different time of the day for cardio (which is more ideal but may not be feasible to workout twice a day).

Or you can do a cardio session on your non-weight training days. This would allow you to stick to the true 30-minute workout plan.

Abs? In theory, you should get enough abdominal stimulation with your weight training workouts. but you can also throw in a few sets of crunches at the end of your workout or at home.

What About High Volume Workouts?

leg press leg workout

Not to confuse you, but I’m not completely against doing longer workouts with more volume. There is a time and place for that.

In fact, I have another post that gives you the pros and cons of both short, intense workouts vs high volume workouts. This way you can choose what bodybuilding workout plan works best for you.

High volume really just means you’re doing more overall sets and reps. And if you’re starting out with heavyweights, you’re naturally going to need to rest more between those sets. So your workout may be longer, like 45 minutes to an hour. That’s not necessarily a bad thing.

The Real Answer: Periodization

However, at the end of the day, the real answer is periodization. What I’ve found is that you’ll make muscle gains from most any new workout program. But your body may only respond to that program for a short time. Once your muscles adapt to the same workouts, you have to change it up.

So if you’ve reached a plateau in muscle growth, this short, intense 30-minute workout program may be the ticket to new muscle gains. I challenge you to try!

I hope you enjoyed reading this post, and more importantly, I hope that it helps you!

My Hardcore Muscle Building Program contains an array of bodybuilding workouts that use periodization to contantly shock your muscles into growth. And those workouts are between 45 minutes to an hour.

You can read more about my premium program here: Hardcore Muscle Building Program.

Train with Passion,

Jason