Build Muscle With One-Move Workouts

The first exercise you do in a workout produces the majority of your results. The remaining moves will either enhance the benefits or hold you back.

Think about how many times you were exhausted after finishing your squats or deadlifts but then forced yourself to do all of the other exercises you had planned. Doing so could have done more harm than good.

For the next two months, we’d like you to experiment. Try doing the least amount of work necessary to stimulate growth and see where that gets you. This is no time to be pushing yourself through long, punishing workouts. Maximize your time in the gym so you can enjoy yourself outside it.

To get started, try the following one-exercise workouts. Just one move per workout, three days a week. Do not interpret this as “easy.” Even though these workouts take around only 20 minutes to complete, you’re still going to work hard, all the way to failure in some cases. But you won’t be breaking the body down by parts, taking up to an hour trying to blast each one.

The exercises we’ve chosen are hybrids—combinations of two or more conventional exercises designed to work virtually your entire body, so you get the most for your efforts. You won’t risk overtraining, and you won’t compromise gains. In fact, this could be the change your body needs before you’re ready to train really hard in the new year.

Directions Frequency: Perform each workout (I, II, and III) once per week, resting at least a day between each session.

Weight: Unless otherwise noted, use the heaviest weight that allows you to complete all the prescribed repetitions for each set.

The Workouts:


Workout 1

Workout 2

Workout 3

WORKOUT I – Dumbbell Stiff-Legged Deadlift with Row

Sets: 5 Reps: 15, 12, 9, 6, 15 Rest: 60 sec. Hold a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing your sides, and stand with feet between hip- and shoulder-width apart [1]. Bend your knees slightly and, keeping your lower back in its natural arch, bend at the hips and lower the weight until it reaches near the midpoint of your shins. [2]. Hold the position and perform a row, pulling your elbows back and lifting the dumbbells to the sides of your chest [3]. Lower them back down, and extend your hips to return to the starting position. That’s one rep. Perform the lowering phases of this exercise slowly. Complete 15 reps in your first set, then 12 reps in your second, and so on as indicated above.

WORKOUT II- Dumbbell T-Pushup

Sets: 6 Reps: See below Rest: 90 sec. Choose dumbbells that are 5%–10% of your body weight. Hold a dumbbell in each hand and get into pushup position with your palms facing inward [1]. Rotate your body to the right, raising your right arm straight overhead and balancing on the other arm. Your body should form a T shape [2]. Return to the starting position and then perform a pushup as normal [3]. That’s one rep. On the next rep, rotate to your left side. On your first set, perform reps, stopping two reps shy of failure (the point at which you can’t complete another full rep). On your second set, stop one rep shy. Perform sets three through six to failure.

WORKOUT III Lunge with Curl to Overhead Press

Sets: 5 Reps: 15, 12, 9, 6, 15 Rest: 60 sec. Stand holding dumbbells at your sides, palms facing forward: [1]. Step forward with your right leg and lower yourself until your right knee nearly touches the floor and your front thigh is parallel to the floor. As you step forward, simultaneously curl the weights, keeping your elbows close to your sides [2]. From there, press the weights overhead, rotating your palms to face forward [3]. Lower them back down, lower your arms, and push yourself back to the starting position. That’s one rep. On the next rep, step with the other leg. Perform the lowering phases of this exercise slowly. Complete 15 reps in your first set, then 12 reps in your second, and so on.

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