You’re probably already aware that incorporating some form of strength training is the best way to add slabs of muscle to your frame.
Most of us think that we’ll generally have to work out for hours and hours in the gym to produce any serious gains.
However, in contrast, is a 30-minute workout enough to build muscle?
In today’s article I will answer this question for you, as well as providing various tips and techniques that will help you to pack on some serious muscle.
Is a 30-Minute Workout Enough to Build Muscle?
A 30-minute workout is actually ideal for building muscle. There’s no need to spend hours a day in the gym. Longer workouts may actually harm your potential to add lean muscle. In fact, your muscle-building hormones hit their peak at 30 minutes.
Why 30-Minute Workouts Are Better to Build Muscle
Two of the most important factors when it comes to building muscle are the hormones, testosterone and cortisol.
Testosterone is an anabolic hormone.
Anabolic, in the simplest of terms, means “building up”.
Cortisol is a catabolic hormone.
Catabolic, in the simplest of terms, means “breaking down”.
So, the production of testosterone will help to “build up” muscles.
And, that’s right, you’ve guessed it, the production of cortisol will “break down” muscles.
Therefore, this tells us that we need to utilise the production of testosterone to build muscles, and avoid cortisol.
Your testosterone levels will typically go through the roof and hit their peak at around 30 minutes into training.
Once you get to 45 minutes of training, your levels of testosterone will slowly start to drop.
That being said, age does play a factor here.
Some men will be lucky enough to have high levels of testosterone throughout their lives, but for the vast majority of us our levels will begin to drop each year from age 40.
This is also why younger guys in their 20s and early-30s may be able to “get away” with performing long workouts and still build muscle.
On a separate note, even though testosterone is a “male” hormone, women also produce testosterone.
This means that testosterone production is important for both men and women when it comes to building muscle mass and improving physical performance.
So, considering that testosterone peaks at 30 minutes and declines at 45 minutes, this is the ideal length of workout to build muscle.
Cortisol on the other hand, which is often referred to as the “stress hormone”, will work against muscle-building.
There are various scientific studies which prove that the body stops producing testosterone at around 60 minutes of exercising.
And, the body then starts to produce cortisol.
Not only does cortisol break down muscle tissue, it literally eats away at it.
Cortisol will not only put the body (and the mind) in a high state of stress, it is also known to increase body fat, especially around the midsection.
So, not bringing age into the equation, working out for 60 minutes or more could actually undo all the hard work you have done during your workout.
What Exercises Should You Use?
I’m not entirely sure why people complicate matters when it comes to building muscle.
I’ve always believed in the principle, “less is more”.
We can now see that this is true in terms of how long you should be exercising, but the same can be said for exercise selection.
For me, you need nothing more than what I like to refer to as “The Big 5”.
These are 5 barbell exercises that will give you the biggest bang for your buck:
- Bench Press
- Bent-Over Row
- Overhead Press
I’m sure most people’s immediate reaction is, “What about my biceps?”
Firstly, if you want to build big arms then concentrate more on your triceps.
Secondly, if your aim is to build muscle in the shortest time possible, you have to go with the big compound lifts and perform them regularly.
In fact, I urge you to concentrate on just these 5 exercises for the next 5-6 weeks.
Use the training methods I describe below.
And then come back to me and tell me whether you’ve built muscle (all over your body, including the biceps) or not.
How to Use These Exercises
I am going to introduce you to two training methods that I have successfully used to build muscle and your workouts will be kept to 30 minutes.
Both of these methods will actually keep the heart-rate high and involve a certain amount of conditioning.
So, you can actually add some serious lean muscle, while also potentially losing body fat.
The “Holy Grail” of working out.
I will also add that you should train each exercise at least twice a week (if not three times).
Therefore, you will need to work out at least 4 times a week, 5 is preferable.
But you will still be working out for less than 3 hours a week in total and packing on muscle at the same time.
Every Minute on the Minute (EMOM)
I guess Every Minute on the Minute (EMOM) training is most commonly associated with Crossfit workouts.
Now, your immediate reaction may be that Crossfitters are more inclined to train for fitness and conditioning, and therefore don’t really produce that much muscle.
However, I refer you to one of my favourite Crossfitters, and probably the most famous of them all, Rich Froning.
Try telling me that Rich isn’t muscular.
Anyway, back to EMOM.
EMOM simply means that you set a timer for a certain amount of time, and whenever the timer hits the minute mark you perform a certain amount of reps.
The EMOM Workouts
For a 30-minute workout to build muscle I would suggest either three 10-minute EMOMs or two 15-minute EMOMs per workout.
So, as an example on day one I will perform 15 minutes of squats and 15 minutes of bent-over rows.
Day two I will perform 10 minutes of deadlifts, 10 minutes of bench presses, and 10 minutes of overhead presses.
Day three you rest.
Days four and five, repeat the above sequence.
My preferred method of EMOM training is to take a weight that is approximately my 8-rep max and perform 5 reps every minute.
With a typical 8-rep max weight you would usually perform 4-5 sets and therefore complete 32-40 reps in total.
When using just 5 reps EMOM you will be performing 75 reps of squats and rows, twice a week.
And 50 reps of deadlifts, bench and overhead presses, twice a week.
So, as you can see, you will be getting in a lot more volume.
The aim here is to keep with this exact training protocol, but add a few pounds to the bar for each exercise every week.
Even adding as little as 4lbs to the bar for each exercise every week will see you increase the weight by over 20lbs during a 5-6 week period.
For the Squat and Deadlift you may even be able to double these amounts.
Density training is another fantastic way to build muscle in a short amount of time.
The word “density” simply refers to the amount of work you do within a given time.
One of the favourite forms of density training is the Time-Volume Training workout method.
This involves 15-minute “slots” once again.
The aim here is to pick a weight that is equivalent to your 10-rep max.
You set a timer for 15 minutes.
Start by performing 3 reps of the exercise.
Rest 10 seconds.
Perform 3 reps.
Continue in this fashion with 10 second rest periods until you feel that you won’t be able to complete 3 perfect form reps the next set.
Then extend your rest period to 20 seconds.
Continue in this manner until you think that your form will potentially suffer on the next set, and then increase the rest period to 30 seconds.
Keep going until the timer buzzes to signal that the 15 minutes is complete.
The way to progress with this method of training is to add weight to the bar once you can reach 5 minutes while still only taking 10 seconds rest between each 3-rep set.
Avoid Density Training With The Deadlift
The only exercise that I would suggest you avoid using this training method for is the deadlift.
The deadlift will generally involve you using the heaviest weight and therefore you will require more than 10 seconds rest.
Plus, this has the potential to cause a lower back injury.
My recommendation would be to perform the squat and overhead press one day.
The bent-over row and bench press another day.
And have a completely separate day for the deadlift with a different training protocol.
How about EMOM for the full 30 minutes, but cut your reps down to 3-4 every minute.
This way you will still have completed 90-120 reps of deadlifts, but at a lighter weight than usual, and with adequate rest.
Countdown Time-Volume Training Squats
Is a 30-Minute BODYWEIGHT Workout Enough to Build Muscle?
The age-old argument still rages on.
Can you build muscle with bodyweight training?
The answer is a definite YES.
I think the issue that many people have is that they don’t know how to properly progress with bodyweight exercises by making them harder.
In fact, I would hazard a guess that many of you will simply add reps to a bodyweight exercise as a way of progression.
However, this will typically take you into the realms of building muscle endurance, and potentially a conditioning-style workout.
That being said, some progressions of certain bodyweight exercises may seem ridiculous to many of us.
In fact, it seems insane to even contemplate handstand push ups, one-arm push ups and pulls, and pistol squats.
Nevertheless, there are more sensible ways to progress with bodyweight training.
Once again, when it comes to building muscle with bodyweight training, just stick with basics and progress with these.
I can guarantee that you can build a ripped, muscular, and athletic physique with exercises such as push ups, pull ups, squats, and burpees.
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So, hopefully you can see that a 30-minute workout is enough to build muscle.
In fact, in terms of testosterone and cortisol production, it’s ideal.
Plus, you don’t have to perform hundreds of different exercises, as the basics will help you to pack on some serious muscle.
There is actually an 8-second “Secret” technique to building muscle, which involves basic 30-minute workouts.
In fact, this technique was used by both Charles Atlas and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Discover more about the 8-second method by checking out my Isometrics Mass Review.
Hi, I’m Partha, the founder of My Bodyweight Exercises. I’m someone who’s been passionate about exercise and nutrition for more years than I care to remember. I’ve studied, researched, and honed my skills for a number of decades now. So, I’ve created this website to hopefully share my knowledge with you. Whether your goal is to lose weight, burn fat, get fitter, or build muscle and strength, I’ve got you covered.