Time Restricted Training

What Is Time Restricted Training? Are you looking to build serious muscle size? Yet you can’t find time to train due to a hectic, busy lifestyle? You aren’t alone. Maybe you’re a busy college student that works a part-time job to help pay for school. Maybe you just simply work long hours. Perhaps you work two jobs to try and make ends meet. Let’s be honest. Many of us have lifestyle obligations that can make it hard to hit the gym as often as we’d like.

I know all about this. I have work/family schedules that very often interfere with planned training cycles. Adjustments constantly have to be made! The ideas presented here represent what I did when I worked two jobs. This is while I commuted two hours round trip to get to both of them. We’re talking 14-hour workdays, 6 day weeks here! I did this back in 2005 but still use the approach today if I have to.

Time Restricted Training Principles

Foundational muscle mass comes from hard work on the basic exercises, heavy weight, and lower reps. It also includes adding weight consistently. In addition, it should include taking each set to at least failure. Furthermore, mass comes from proper recovery and proper nutrition/supplementation. This routine is ideal for natural bodybuilders with busy schedules. However, anyone can use it with great results.

Full Body Or Split Routine?

Most articles like this tend to push a full body workout, usually done 3 times a week. I outlined my thoughts on full body training in my “Hormones and Muscle Growth” article. In that article, I gave an example of a solid, usable full body routine. The routine as listed is great for overall muscle growth, increased natural hormone release and building a strength base.

Time Restricted Training – How Many Days Per Week?

Here, we are going to take that routine idea one step further. My approach is to use a split routine, training only twice a week. But, if you only train 2 times a week, is that enough volume? Additionally, won’t that be a lot of work in each session? It can be unless you design the routine the right way.

My dilemma when I designed this was: how could I effectively work out with only 2 days available for training? I solved this problem by making sure each workout has 1-2 exercises that stimulate the entire body: squats, deadlifts or power cleans. On back day, as you’ll see, I use power cleans as a warm-up, then go into heavy deadlifts. Both of these exercises build overall size and power. I have to combine legs with chest and shoulders, so I do heavy squats, then heavy power clean and presses. Again, I’m stimulating overall size and power with these two exercises. Combine this with direct back/arm work on back day and direct chest/delt/tricep work on chest day. I’m using compound exercises for both.

Problem solved.

Adding Another Training Day

Of course, your situation may be different. It may allow for a 3rd day of training. I’d do legs in that case. This kind of basics-only routine and also the full body I presented in my “Hormones” article have a lot of merit. Routines like this are too often overlooked for a more exotic approach. This kind of training can be used in other situations besides time limitations. I can see it as a break from advanced split routines. This would allow you to return to the basics for strength and overall size gains. You can stimulate so many muscles with these routines.

Time Restricted Training & Recovery

You can also allow for complete nervous system recovery before training again by allowing adequate days off. Many people don’t realize, it’s not just about letting legs recover from leg day, or back from back day. It’s also complete nervous system recovery. Routines of this nature allow for this. Now, don’t get me wrong. You have to get more involved in your routine design if you want to look like a bodybuilder. Still, a power bodybuilding setup like this allows you to be as strong as you look.

More On Recovery

Before I detail the routine, let me touch a little more on recovery. No doubt this is one of my favorite subjects. People talk about how everyone is different and responds differently when it comes to bodybuilding. One of the things that this refers to is recovery. Recovery allows muscle growth to happen. Yet how fast you recover is based on individual differences. These include age, whether or not you use steroids or are natural, and the demands of your job. It also includes how demanding your schedule is, and how long you’ve been training.

Here’s a good personal example. When I started training back in 1980, I worked out with a buddy in his basement. I didn’t know about steroids and the mags at that time sure didn’t mention them! I worked a physical job for 9-10 hours a day, 6 days a week. I tried to train on a high volume routine 6 days a week. I didn’t gain. Why? Because I was overtrained and underfed. I should have cut back to a routine like the one I’ll be detailing here. I should have eaten more. Although the only real supplements were protein powders. There were no bars, no shaker cups, or water bottles. Still, I could have taken a thermos of protein powder to work. Finally, I should have tried to get in some naps to promote recovery. If I had done these things, I would have made gains.

The point here is that you have to allow enough recovery time to allow growth to happen. You have to think about how your individual circumstances affect your recovery ability. Finally, you have to make intelligent adjustments to maximize recovery.

The Time Restricted Training Routine:

Workout 1

  • Power Cleans – use this rep scheme: 12, 10, 10 these are 3 easy sets but you still want to add weight with each set.
  • Deadlifts – rep scheme: 12, 10, 8, 6, 4-6. The last 3 sets are your work sets.
  • Bent Rows – 2 work sets, 6-8 reps
  • Lat Pull-downs – 2 work sets, 6-8 reps/ or Chins – 35 reps over as many sets as it takes!
  • Reverse Grip Bent Rows (biceps) – 2 sets, 6-8 reps
  • Abs – your choice

Workout 2

  • Squats – rep scheme: 15, 12, 10, 8, 6, 4-6. The last 3 sets are your working sets
  • Bench Press to Neck (upper chest) – rep scheme: 12, 10, 10, 8, 6. The last 3 sets are your work sets.
  • Power Clean and Press – 2-3 work sets, 5-8 reps
  • Close Grip Bench Press (triceps), 2 sets 8-10 reps
  • Abs – your choice

Time Restricted Training – Performance notes:

Take each set to failure. Use rest-pause to extend the set. For example, you hit failure, rack the weight for an 8 count. Then unrack and continue for as many reps as you can. Rest 1 to 1 ½ minutes between sets. Use an explosive up, slow and controlled down, no pausing rep style.

Keep on top of your form. Don’t use cheating to lift heavier. Keep your reps smooth and controlled. As to set totals, these work for me, a natural older guy. More is not always better. If you work these hard enough, more shouldn’t be an option.

I usually alternate incline presses with bench presses to emphasize more upper chest work.

Time Restricted Training & A Third Training Day

Legs. Here’s how I would set it up:

  • Squats – 2 -3 progressively heavier warm-up sets
  • 4-5 working sets, 6-8 reps. Do your reps in one continuous motion, like a piston. Your first working set should be your heaviest.
  • Leg curls – 1 warm-up set, 3 working sets of 8-10 reps.
  • Standing calf raises – 3 working sets of 15-25 reps, full motion on each rep.
  • If you do this, adjust workout #2 by taking squats out and adding 2 sets of Incline Presses for chest, and 2 more sets of power cleans.

Time Restricted Training – Supplements & Nutrition

Here is the supplement stack I would use along with this routine:

Protein powder, a pre-workout stack like 5% Nutrition 5150 and Full As F*ck, and creatine. I’d also suggest a good multivitamin with extra B&C, and a joint product. You can add glutamine for enhanced recovery as well. A good test booster is an option for older guys. 

illpumpyouup.com has all of these products. 

Always take a multi and your joint product with food. Anytime of the day is fine. You can take a separate B complex, by the way. It’s amazing for stress and mood. 

Keep your protein intake to 1 -11/2 grams per lb of body weight. Eat every few hours. Your food sources should be low-fat sources. These can include chicken, turkey, tuna, lean red meat, and low-fat dairy. A good whey protein powder works great in-between meal protein feedings. As for carbs, shoot for 2 grams per lb. of body weight. Stay with complex carbs: oatmeal, yams, brown rice except after your workout. At that time, take 40-60 g of protein to 40-60 g simple carbs. Keep fat low. Many people take fish oil or flax oil softgels to help them get their “good fat” intake.


Trying to stay lean? Cycle carbs. On training days, take in more to support training. Then cut back on off days. Don’t neglect recovery by cutting carbs too much. I usually eat about 1 to 1 ½ grams per pound on training days. Most of that is in the hours leading up to my workout. I also take some in as part of my post-workout shakes and meals.

On off days, I stay around 1 gram or less per pound of bodyweight. If I feel my waistline is struggling a bit, I cut it down lower. I also up the cardio for a few days. More recently, I have been following intermittent fasting. I eat over 8 hours, then fast. To be honest, this does not always work with real life. Still, I just do the best I can. 

All this seems to make a big difference in how I look. 

Time Restricted Training – Using A Log

I also keep two logs. First, a training log. I list the date, my routine for that day, rep and set totals, time started, time completed, how I felt, and how the workout went. Next, I keep a diet/supplement log. This ensures my timing is correct. It also ensures I take what I’m supposed to take and eat what I should be eating. I’ve made this easier by numbering my food choices on a chart. It breaks down the calories, protein, carbs, and fat. Then I just enter the number corresponding to the food I just ate. You can input totals at any time to see where you are for the day.

So, what’s the bottom line? Simple! There’s always time to train if you make it happen!


By: Jim Brewster



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