July 21


30 Minute Whole Body Workout | Effective Single Set Weight Training

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This one set 30 minute whole body workout will give you lots of the benefits of a full-blown workout in a fraction of the time. We'll use an effective single set training protocol to train your muscles when time is limited. Perhaps you're looking for something quick you can do at camp on those long FIFO days. Maybe it's during your lunch break at work.


Now you probably know, most workout programs have you performing multiple sets for each muscle group. 3 sets 10-12 reps sound familiar?

You bet it does.

The trouble is, doing all those sets takes time. Most of us these days are pushed for time. Busy office workers with deadlines to meet. FIFO workers who don't finish their 12-hour shift until late and only have limited time to train, eat and call home before it's time for bed.

By challenging your muscles properly with single set training, you can still seek gains. Furthermore, you can maintain strength and muscle mass. This is exactly what we need on those days when we really don't know when we have the time to go to the gym.

How to fit in getting fit with a single set whole body workout.

The workout is great for everyone though. Regular trainers who find their work schedules suddenly squeeze their training time. Likewise, for those just starting up, this can be a great introduction to weight training without too much time commitment. Additionally, it's useful for runners who would like to strength train but didn't think they had the time.

This single set whole body 30-minute gym workout training plan will help you:

  • Improve your personal appearance and performance
  • Lose fat and control your weight
  • Get stronger and reduce your risk of injury
  • Maintain strong, healthy bones
  • Stay healthy by increasing 'good' cholesterol and decreasing 'bad' cholesterol

Single Set 30 Minute Whole Body Workout FAQs

Let's clear a few things up before we get into the nitty gritty.

How many reps should I do and what weights should I use?

OK, you're only going to perform one set of each of the exercises. In resistance training, intensity rules, so choose a weight where you will reach muscular fatigue after 8-12 repetitions of each exercise.

The term 'muscle fatigue', sometimes referred to as challenging, means simply that within the specified rep range, you cannot perform another repetition without breaking form.

Each exercise repetition should take you between 4 to 7 seconds to complete and you should maintain good form. In other words, lifting the weight in a controlled manner - throughout the whole range of movement.

How much rest between sets?

In the one set workout, rest periods between sets have been reduced because the exercises move from upper body to lower body and then to abdominal and back work.

'Hopping around' body parts like this, using different machines, allows you to maximise the time you actually spend working out.

Remember that once you have completed one set, you will not be performing that exercise again until your next workout.

And how long to rest between single set training sessions?

Strength gains are not achieved during the workout itself.

Your muscles adapt during the periods of rest and recovery following the workout so allow 48 hours recovery between sessions.

Performing the workout just twice a week will give you significant strength gains but try to squeeze in three sessions if you can.

Men and women of all ages can increase their strength by more than 50 per cent after just two months of starting a strength training program.

Physical changes in your muscles will start to show after about six weeks.

Anything else I need to know about the 30-minute whole body workout?

Yes, there is.

Breathe Correctly

Breathe regularly during strength training. Don't hold your breath.

You can use different breathing techniques. Try breathing in during the lowering phase of an exercise and breathing out during the effort phase. Alternatively, you can take small sipping breaths more often if you are lifting with control.

But above all, just breathe.

Neutral Spinal Posture

This involves maintaining good alignment of your body.

Think about the cervical (neck), thoracic and lumbar spine when performing any of the exercises. There should be no tension in your neck or lower back so that your spine is in its natural curve - its strongest position.

An exception to this rule would be when you intentionally go out of a neutral position. For example, when performing an abdominal curl or back extension.

Your One Set Whole Body 30 Minute Weights Workout


Start with a 5-minute warm-up.

I'd suggest a stationary bike since it's easier to maintain good posture and proper spinal alignment. If this type of bike is not available try walking on a treadmill or other flat surface. Round off the warm-up with some light stretching.

1. Dumbbell Chest Flyes

Dumbbell chest flyes

Body parts targeted: chest; front of shoulders

Performing the exercise: Hold a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing inward. Lie back on a weight bench and extend your arms above your chest. Next, lower your arms out to the sides, opening them wide. Then bring the dumbbells back to their starting point by 'closing' your arms

Training tip: The dumbbells should be roughly in line with either side of your head and there should be a slight bend in the elbow.

Elapsed time: 6 mins

2. Smith Machine Squat

Smith Machine Squat

Body parts targeted: Front and rear of thighs and butt

Performing the exercise: Hold the bar with a wide grip, so your hands are close to the frame of the machine. Keep your feet flat on the floor, position them shoulder-width apart and slightly turned out. Remove the bar from the Smith Machine by rotating your wrists. Bend your knees to achieve a 60 to 90-degree angle, pause and then push back up to complete one rep.

Training tips: Maintain your focus by looking straight ahead of you. Don't hollow or round your back. During the lowering phase if your heels come off of the floor, don't attempt to squat any deeper.

Elapsed time: 8 mins

3. Seated Machine Shoulder Press

Seated Machine Shoulder Press

Body parts targeted: shoulders and upper back; back of upper arms

Performing the exercise: Sit in the machine so that you are on a 10- to 20- degree incline from a vertical position. Grasp the handles so that your hands are in line with your ears. Press the handles up slightly forwards of your head by extending your elbows.

Training tips: Concentrate on keeping your hands in line with your shoulders throughout the move to ensure good technique. Don't straighten your arms out fully on the extension.

Elapsed time: 10 mins

4. Dumbbell Lunges

Dumbbell Lunges

Body parts targeted: front and back of thighs and butt

Performing the exercise: Grab a pair of dumbbells and find an area of empty floor steps. Take a big step forward with one leg and lift your back heel off the floor. Bend both knees so your body sinks down, then drive your feet into the floor to propel your body back upwards.

Training Tip: Keep lots of pressure pushing down through your front heel. This will switch on your glutes and help keep the kneecap strong and stable.

Elapsed time: 12 minutes

5. Machine Lat Pull Down

Machine Lat Pull Down

Body parts targeted: outer and upper back muscles

Performing the exercise: Grasp the bar overhead with an overhand grip, hands slightly wider than your elbows. Lean back from the hips approximately 20 to 30 degrees. Pull the bar down to a point just above mid-chest level and control it on its return.

Training Tips: Don't allow the angle of your upper body to change during the movement. Avoid the common technique error of pulling your elbows past your sides; the motion stops when your elbows are pulled into your sides

Elapsed time: 14 mins

6. Machine Prone Hamstring Curl

Prone Hamstring Curl

Body parts targeted: backs of thighs

Performing the exercise: In a smooth controlled action, pull your heels towards your butt until your lower legs form an approximately 90-degree angle with your upper legs. Hold, and then slowly lower your legs down to the starting position.

Training Tip: Performing the exercise with control to a three-second lift and lower count will maintain muscular tension and increase the exercise's pay-off - that's great-looking legs.

Elapsed time: 16 mins

7. Triceps Pull Downs

Triceps Pull Downs

Body parts targeted: muscles to the rear of the upper arms

Performing the exercise: Take hold of the bar with a 'knuckles on top' grip. Keep your elbows tight against the sides of your body. Next, push the bar down so that your arms are in front of your thighs and your elbows are almost fully extended. Lift the bar, keeping your elbows tight by your sides. When your lower arms achieve a position parallel to the ground, pause, and then push the bar back down to complete 1 rep.

Training Tip: If your gym has an angled bar or rope attachment then you should use either of these in preference to a straight bar because they allow for a more natural elbow movement.

Elapsed time: 18 mins

8. Standing Calf Raise

Standing Calf Raise

Body parts targeted: calf muscles

Performing the exercise: With a dumbbell in each hand, or a bar on your shoulders, step onto a small platform. A traditional aerobics step around 10cm high is ideal. The balls of your feet should be on the edge of the platform. Make sure they are lined up with one another and are hip-width apart. Lift your body using your calf muscles and lower under control to complete 1 rep.

Training Tip: Keep looking straight ahead of you and brace your torso to ensure correct technique and safe exercise performance.

Elapsed time: 20 mins

Finish your 30 minute whole body workout with some core exercises

Your single set training session isn't quite over yet. We're now going to shift the focus to your abdominals and deep core muscles.

Perform as many reps as you can of these two core exercises to wrap up the 30-minute whole body workout. However, always maintain good technique throughout.

9. Abdominal crunch

Abdominal Crunch

Body parts targeted: abdominals

Performing the exercise: Lie flat on your back, lift your legs up and bend your knees, so that your upper thighs are at right angles to the floor and your lower legs are parallel to the floor. Place your hands by the sides of your head with your elbows out. Contract your abdominal muscles to bring your torso towards your knees.

Training tip: if your neck begins to ache, incline your head further forward. Don't attempt to lift your torso all the way to your thighs - lifting 10-20cm is sufficient to really work your abdominal muscles.

Elapsed time: 22 mins

10. Prone Hover

Man on the floor performing the prone hover exercise to work his abdominals

Body parts targeted: abdominals, butt and rear of lower back

Performing the exercise: Roll over on the floor and place your elbows underneath your shoulders. With your legs out straight, lift your hips so they are the same height as your shoulders and your back is flat. Hold this position for as long as you can, up to 2 minutes.

Training tip: If you find it too tough on your toes, keep your knees on the ground to reduce the load going through your core muscles.

Elapsed time: 24 mins


Finish with 5 minutes on the bike or walking. Perform some light stretching and you're done!

Elapsed time: 30 mins

How to progress the single set training wonder workout

After a few workouts, it'll become easier to complete your sets as your muscles become stronger. When you can complete one set, on the Lat Pull Down for example, without reaching the point of muscle fatigue increase the weight you lift on your next workout.

Remember to always lift a weight that challenges your muscles to fatigue over the last few reps within an 8-12 repetition range.

About the author

Paul Stokes

Paul Stokes BSc (Hons) is a Certified Personal Trainer, Accredited Sports Nutritionist, qualified Exercise to Music Instructor, Precision Nutrition coach, Massage Therapist and teaches 8 of the Les Mills Group Exercise programs.

He currently works in the Oil & Gas industry as a Wellness Coach, imparting his vast knowledge and experience to improve the quality of life of several hundred offshore workers.

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