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The Best Workout Routines for Busy Men

Whether your schedule allows for twice, thrice, or five workouts a week, here’s how to make the most of your time.

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Thirty minutes a day. The standard — and well-evidenced — recommendation for how much exercise we should all get is, for most parents, a joke. Seven workouts a week is next to impossible when you’re raising another human; five would be a serious luxury; three or four is more do-able but still, things get in the way. How about two? Most busy parents can probably get two in. 

The question, then: How do you make that enough? And what should you do differently when the number of sessions goes up? “That’s going to vary a lot person to person, depending on what your goals are,” says Jayson Lee, a personal trainer in New York City. “If your goal is to lose weight, the focus is going to be more on cardio because it burns slightly more calories in a shorter period of time. But if general strength and overall fitness is what you’re after, you’re better off focusing on resistance moves that build muscle mass.”

It’s easier to get moderate cardio into your day-to-day without the gym, Lee points out: You can take the stairs at work, bike instead of drive to do errands, walk the dog, and so on. So during you’re dedicated workout minutes, it’s better to make sure you’re covering bases, like lifting, that you aren’t able to do outside of the gym (or your garage). 

Take a look at what to do, when—whether you have two, three, or five days a week to work out.

Two Days a Week, 30-Minute Workout

Goal: Work major muscle groups with full-body movements.

Day 1 (take 10 seconds rest between sets; 20 seconds rest between moves): 

5-minute warm up (2-minute walk, 1-minute jog, 90-second run, 30-second sprint)

15 x 4 sets burpees

15 x 4 sets Bavarian split squats

10 x 3 sets pull-ups

60 seconds x 2 mountain climbers

60 seconds x 2 walking lunges with medium-weight dumbbells 

60 seconds x 2 farmer’s carry 

25 x 4 sets sit-ups

Day 2 (take 10 seconds rest between sets; 20 seconds rest between moves): 

5-minute warm up (2-minute walk, 1-minute jog, 90-second run, 30-second sprint)

20 x 4 sets push-ups

60 seconds plank x 2

30 seconds side plank left side x 2

30 seconds side plank right side x 2

15 x 3 sets box jumps (choose bench or box height between 2’-3’)

15 x 4 sets triceps dips

15 x 4 sets squat + overhead press with medium-weight dumbbells

15 x 4 sets hanging leg raises

Three Days a Week, 30-Minute Workout

Goal: Add one day of cardio to the above routine, using high-intensity interval training.

Day 3 (take 30 seconds rest after each exercise; repeat HIIT sequence five times): 

5-minute warm up (2-minute walk, 1-minute jog, 90-second run, 30-second sprint)

30 seconds burpees

30 seconds jumping jacks

30 seconds squat jumps

30 seconds fast-foot sprint

30 seconds running up stairs

Five Days a Week, 30-Minute Workout

Goal: Isolate muscle groups for strength training, and boost lung and heart function with cardio.

Day 1 (take 10 seconds rest between sets; 20 seconds rest between moves): 

5-minute warm up

15 x 4 sets biceps curls

15 x 4 sets triceps dips

20 x 3 sets pull-ups

15 x 4 sets hanging leg raises

20 x 3 sets push-ups

10 x 4 sets bench press

15 x 4 sets overhead press

Day 2:

30 minutes running

Day 3 (take 10 seconds rest between sets; 20 seconds rest between moves): 

5-minute warm up

20 x 4 sets leg press 

20 x 4 sets squats with medium-weight dumbbells

20 x 4 sets lunges

15 x 4 sets Bavarian split squats

10 x 3 sets deadlift

12 x 4 barbell back squat

Day 4:

30 minutes biking

Day 5 (take 10 seconds rest between sets; 20 seconds rest between moves): 

5-minute warm up

25 x 2 sets sit-ups

20 x 4 sets push-ups

20 x 3 sets pull-ups

60 seconds x 2 planks

60 seconds x 2 walking lunges with medium-weight dumbbells

60 seconds x 2 farmer’s carry

60 seconds x 2 burpees

15 x 4 sets step-ups with medium-weight dumbbells

15 x 4 sets Bavarian split squats