The 8-12-15-20 Workout: Time-Crunched Circuit Training

There is an infinite number of combinations of exercises, sets, reps, rest periods and intensities that one can use to create a training program, so the mark of an expert personal trainer is being able to select the appropriate combination of variables to address the specific needs of a trainee. If someone comes to me for personal training but has very limited time to train, like your typical New Yorker, I will often start them on full body workouts so that they will hit the major muscle groups more frequently without requiring a big time commitment. The following program is ideal for an intermediate level trainee that has some prior training experience and solid technique in the primary pulling, pushing, and squatting exercises. The entire workout including warm-up should only take 35-40 minutes.

A1) Mid Grip Barbell Deadlift 1×8, 1×12, 1×15, 1×20, 60 sec rest

A2) 45 degree Incline Dumbbell press 1×8, 1×12, 1×15, 1×20, 60 sec rest

A3) Dumbbell alternating lunge 1×8, 1×12, 1×15, 1×20, 60 sec rest

A4) Mid Parallel grip chin up 1×8, 1×12, 1×15, 1×20, 60 sec rest

This circuit of four exercises is done for a total of four sets, with one minute of rest in between exercises. The first circuit is done for 8 reps, the second for 12 reps, the third for 15 reps, and the last for 20 reps. You want to be sure to select weights that are heavy enough so that you cannot complete one more rep above the prescribed number of reps. It is ok if you choose your weights conservatively for the first workout however. If you are keeping to the rest intervals and using enough weight, you should be pretty gassed by the end of the workout! Because of the high density of the workout (lots of reps in a short amount of time) it will produce a significant metabolic effect, meaning that it will stimulate your anabolic hormones to promote muscle building and fat loss.

This workout should be done 3x/week. Slight variations in the exercises can be made on the 2nd and 3rd workout of the week, such as substituting a trap bar deadlift for a barbell deadlift, or using a wide pronated pull-up instead of a neutral grip chin-up. If you have trouble completing the prescribed number of pull-ups on the last couple of sets, you can substitute with a pull-down once you reach the point of failure.

The total time invested each week will be only be 2 hours if you are training three times. That’s only 1.2% of your week! I know you all can find time for that even if you have the busiest of schedules.

Happy Training!

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