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This plan from Matt Durkin, exercise and nutrition expert at SCI-MX, will help you build your best physique with just 90 minutes of training each week.

Lack of time is the most commonly cited reason for either not exercising at all, or exercising less than you should. However, it is perfectly possible to get into fantastic shape in less than 90 minutes per week. This no-fuss busy man’s training plan will help you boost your strength, size and cardiovascular fitness.

Make sure you have a good base level of fitness and have a health check-up by your doctor before starting this programme, as it’s intense and demanding. But it’s also rewarding and energising, helping to put you in a great frame of mind to hit your other weekly goals.

Strength training

The resistance training part of this busy man’s training plan is pretty simple: hit all major muscle groups for a total of 3 sets each, resting no more than 75 seconds between sets. On the first two sets, aim to stop 1 or 2 reps before failure. On the final set, go to failure.

Rep ranges are not too important, as long as you get close to failure – anywhere from 8-15. Choose an appropriate weight for the movement and strength level, and lift with excellent form, feeling the target muscle groups stretch and contract. To really stress the muscles, take 3 seconds to perform the negative part of the rep (i.e. lowering the weight to your chest on a bench press) and then be forceful with the positive portion of the rep.

Here is a sample programme that outlines the exercises and working muscle groups. It can be adjusted depending on the equipment available to you. Keep track of the weights you lifted and for how many reps. Try adding weight or reps every session, while maintaining the same form. That will ensure you progressively overload the muscles, giving the stimulus they require to get bigger and stronger.

Perform two workouts per week on non-consecutive days. Each should take less than 30 minutes to complete.

The model for the exercise imagery below is SCI-MX ambassador Davide Sanclimenti. Read our interview with him here 

Busy Man’s Training Plan – WORKOUT 1

Man performing barbell squat as part of the busy man's training plan

1. Barbell squat  

Primary targets: Legs, core

  • Take the bar out of the rack and rest it across your upper back.
  • Take two big steps back, ending with your feet roughly shoulder-width apart, toes pointing out slightly.
  • Keep your spine in alignment by looking at a spot on the floor about two metres in front of you, then sit back and down, as if you’re aiming for a chair.
  • Descend until your hip crease is below your knee.
  • Keep your weight on your heels as you drive back up.
man performing dumbbell pullover

2. Dumbbell pullover 

Primary targets: Lats, core

  • First, place a dumbbell upright on one end of a bench.
  • Position your upper back side-on to the bench.
  • Plant your feet and raise your backside up.
  • Now, grab the dumbbell with both hands and press it over your head.
  • As you look up to the ceiling, slowly lower the weight behind your head, maintaining a slight bend in your elbows.
  • When you feel a nice big stretch, reverse the movement, then repeat.
man performing incline dumbbell bench press as part of the busy man's training plan

3. Incline dumbbell bench press 

Primary targets: Chest, triceps

  • Lie on a bench set at an angle, holding a dumbbell in each hand at chest level.
  • Keep your feet flat on the floor and your back against the bench.
  • Press the weight directly above your head, but don’t lock out your elbows at the top.
  • Slowly lower the weights back to chest level.
man performing barbell upright row as part of the busy man's training plan

4. Barbell upright row 

Primary targets: Shoulders, upper back

  • Stand tall holding a barbell with an overhand grip slightly narrower than shoulder-width.
  • Lift the bar towards your chin, leading with your elbows, which should point to the ceiling.
  • Slowly lower the bar back to the start.
man performing dumbbell calf raise

5. Dumbbell calf raise 

Primary targets: Calves

  • Stand upright holding two dumbbells by your sides. 
  • Place the ball of one foot on a weight plate, with the heels of both feet on the floor. 
  • Slowly put your weight onto the toes of your elevated foot and raise your heel up until you feel a good stretch in that calf.
  • Lower your heel back to the floor with control, then repeat.

Busy Man’s Training Plan – WORKOUT 2

man perfuming barbell deadlift as part of the busy man's training plan

1. Barbell deadlift 

Primary targets: Hamstrings, lower back

  • Stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding a barbell with an overhand grip just outside your thighs. 
  • Keeping a slight bend in your knees, hinge from the hips and lower the bar down the front of your shins.
  • Reverse the move back to the start, by pushing your hips forward.
man performing barbell overhead press

2. Barbell overhead press 

Primary targets: Shoulders, triceps

  • With your feet shoulder-width apart, position a bar on your upper chest, gripping it with your hands just wider than shoulder-width apart. 
  • Brace your abs, glutes and quads as you press the bar directly overhead.
man performing dumbbell incline flye

3. Dumbbell incline flye 

Primary target: Chest

  • Lie on a flat bench holding a dumbbell in each hand directly above your chest with your palms facing each other.
  • Keeping a slight bend in your elbows, slowly lower the weights to the sides as far as is comfortable, feeling the stretch in your chest.
  • Squeeze your chest to reverse the movement and raise the weights back to the top.
man performing renegade row exercise

4. Renegade row 

Primary targets: Core, back

  • Start in a press-up position with your feet shoulder-width apart and a dumbbell in each hand.
  • Brace your core to keep your hips static and do a single-arm row, drawing the weight towards your armpit.
  • Alternate sides with each rep.
man performing dumbbell lunge exercise

5. Dumbbell lunge 

Primary target: Legs 

  • Holding a dumbbell in each hand, take one step forwards and lower your body until both knees are bent at 90°.
  • Push off your front foot to reverse the movement.

Busy Man’s Training Plan – CARDIO

Two sessions per week on non-consecutive days. Each should take less than 15 minutes to complete.

  • 5min warm-up
  • 30 secs of intense work, interspersed with 15 secs of rest 
  • Repeat 10 times
  • 2min cool-down

There is nothing that compares to high-intensity interval training (HIIT) when it comes to getting the most bang for your buck, and Tabata is one of the most intense but time-efficient protocols. A 2:1 work to rest period is optimal, specifically 30 seconds of intense work, followed by 15 seconds of recovery. This method allows a high percentage of the exercise bout to be at over 90% of maximum heart rate, which is known to be a potent stimulus for improving the cardiovascular system.

The beauty of this protocol is simplicity and adaptability. It can be done outside or in the gym on the treadmill, exercise bike or rower. You could even do it in the swimming pool. Aim to hold a consistent pace/power for all 10 reps, rather than going out too hard and dropping off in the last few bouts.

Just like the resistance training, it’s important that, over time, you make these more challenging for the body. Increasing pace/power and adding extra reps are the two most common ways to progressively overload.