Tips for Building a 30-Minute Workout

by | Oct 2, 2019 | Training

Do you ever look at your day and realize you have HALF the amount of time to workout that you would like?

Do you FINALLY get to the gym and realize you only have time for a ‘Get In, Get Out’ style of workout?

What does that workout look like?

A jumbled mess of a little bit of this, a little bit of that, and a lot of head scratching.

Is a 30-minute workout ideal?


Does it happen?


And for some of us, a 30-minute workout may be all that can consistently fit into our schedule.

So if it’s bound to happen, why not plan for it so we’re prepared when it does?

Plan Ahead of Time

Now, I know sometimes you get stuck in traffic or work calls you in early, so you cannot always plan; however, take a look at your schedule to see if there are any days where your workout time is shortened.

If you know it’s coming, it’s possible you can simply shorten your planned workout by restructuring or condensing it.

If that’s not a possibility, the awareness beforehand gives you ample time to prepare a workout.

Then there are those of you who are on call, have kids, or just seem to run on a tight schedule.

If that’s you, then save those 30-minute workouts. Keep them on your phone, in your workout bag, or wherever you can grab them quick when these shorter workouts pop up.

Know Your Go-To Exercises

Do you know those exercises you really love to hate? You know the ones that really light up your muscles and leave your chest burning?

Those are the exercises that really give you the most bang for your buck.

They’re full body exercises that can give you some high quality work in a short amount of time.

These are the exercises that should make up the bulk of your 30-minute workouts.

Here are the exercises I recommend:

  • Burpees
  • Thrusters
  • Ball Slams
  • Squat to Press Out*
  • Renegade Rows*
  • Step Up + Shoulder Press*
  • KB Swings
  • RDL + Bent Over Row*
  • Mountain Climbers
  • Clean & Jerk**
  • High Pulls**

*These are combo exercises and should only be performed when each exercise separately is successfully performed.

**These are high skill exercises, and should only be done with proper coaching.

Pick Full Body Exercises to Double as a Warm Up

If you want to trim down your workout time, the best place to do that is in your warm up.

That’s not to say SKIP your warm up, but it means to do it EFFICIENTLY!

Think about what will warm you up as fast as possible.

Think full body movements and combination exercises.

Here’s a great warm up you can complete in 5 minutes or less:

  • Knee Hug + Hip Flexor Stretch + T Spine
  • Quad Stretch + Calf Hamstring Stretch
  • Superman + Good Morning + Rear Delt

Simple, and does a great job of warming you up head to toe.


Imagine this:

You have a workout that has:

  • 3×20 Burpees
  • 3×30 Jumping Jacks
  • 3×20 Lunges
  • 3×15 Leg Raises

Now, I don’t know about you but I would much rather not do 60 burpees right in a row…

It sounds much more appealing to do 20 burpees, wait a while, and then do some more.

Do you know what else?

It takes LESS time to do that.

The great part about supersets is that they’re very time efficient without decreasing the intensity.

Because you’re alternating or rotating through exercises, you’re changing the muscle groups and potentially energy systems, thus decreasing the rest intervals.

Not only does decreasing your rest intervals shorten your workouts, you’ll probably feel better doing it this way too!

Antagonist Sets

Do you know the saying “opposites attract?”

That is ABSOLUTELY true when it comes to timesaving workouts.

Antagonist sets are structured to work one muscle group for a set, and then utilize an exercise to target the opposite set of muscles.

Designing your workouts using antagonist sets decreases your total workout time as working one set of muscles doubles as recovery time for the other muscle groups.

Here are some classic examples of antagonist supersets:


  • Goblet or Back Squat
  • Good Mornings or RDL


  • DB Bench Press
  • DB or Cable Row


  • Split Squats
  • Snatch Grip Deadlifts


  • DB Hammer Curl
  • Band or Cable Triceps Extension

Antagonist sets require knowledge of muscle groups and technique, so I recommend the guidance of a coach or trainer to help you set this up.

Make Core a Priority in Every Exercise

I love when people tell me they did a long core workout.

My typical response: “Me too!”

It doesn’t matter if it’s a heavy leg day or light upper body day, ALL of my workouts double as core days, and I may not do a single core exercise.

But it works because I make core a priority in EVERY exercise.

You do not need to spend a good chunk of your workout doing core exercises.

Cut down on that workout time, by giving a little squeeze or tighten to that core during all of your exercises.

It saves you time.

It saves your back and hips the stress of repeated crunching.

It builds your core in a more functional way and can actually improve your likelihood for results.

Aim for Low Weights & High Reps

Heavy lifting days require more warm up sets, and more warm up sets take more time.

Those 30-minute sessions are NOT the time to cram in a heavy day.

That’s where it’s important you look to modify the sets, reps, and weight.

Push your heavy day to another day – it will NOT kill you.

Feel free to use some of the same exercises or similar variations, but be sure to lower the weight, potentially add a set or two, and increase the reps.

Your max strength and power days require more recovery time; therefore, the alteration of the set, rep, and weight scheme (if done properly) will provide you with a great strength and hypertrophy workout without significantly impacting your heavy days.

Go for a Walk as a Cool Down

Similar to how your warm up should not be skipped, neither should your cool down.

If you’re compressed into a 30-minute training session, it’s likely you crammed a lot in a little bit of time; therefore, your body NEEDS a cool down.

Despite the decreased time, the intensity remains high because of the full body scheme, the increased sets and reps, and decreased recovery time (the seated, actually resting time).

If you do not appropriately cool down your body, you’re likely to face a lot of soreness and fatigue in the coming days.

So what can you do that’s quick and effective?


Take a full lap around the gym or building.

Park further away when you arrive so you have a longer walk to your car after the gym (also doubles as a warm up!).

Hop on the treadmill for 5 minutes.

Keep the cool down short and sweet, but do NOT skip it!

Working out is hard enough, so don’t make it harder on yourself by settling into the mindset that a 30-minute workout is impossible.

Remember, something is better than nothing, and when you’re trying to make working out a consistent part of your schedule, getting in even a 30-minute workout is a big deal!

Yes, the time of your workout is important, but it does not need to be the limiting factor.

Through proper planning and use of your time, you can see results regardless the timing of your sessions.

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