How to Trigger Massive Muscle Growth With 20 Minute Workouts

By on July 28, 2014

mechanical drop setsThere are two big problems many people face when trying to build muscle. Problem one is that they don’t know how to go about getting enough intensity into their training to stimulate growth – their workouts involve just ‘going through the motions’ and don’t really push them hard enough. The other problem is that these slow workouts also waste loads of time. They involve moving around the gym going through a long list of slow exercises with long pauses in-between which means dedicating 60 minutes+ to what is ultimately a very boring regime.

If that sounds familiar then read on for an introduction to some smart bodybuilding techniques that you can use in a combined form to get a much better workout in half the time. This is the strategy I use, and in 20 minutes I can often hit two muscle groups to an extent that will guarantee profound muscle growth. As a bonus the increase in intensity will make the workout more fun and it will stimulate a greater hormonal response.

This is the equivalent of doing steady state cardio (running/cycling for hours without actually burning much fat) versus HIIT (doing CV in a much more intense way that brings about profound changes in the body and actually takes far less time).

There are plenty of techniques you can learn from bodybuilders that will help you to increase intensity and stimulate more hypertrophy in less time. The ones below however are the ones I believe give you the best benefit in the shortest time and that can be combined in the most effective and logical manner. I’ve been training like this for a while, and I’ve never experienced such rapid growth from such quick sessions.

Mechanical Drop Sets

These are the basis for all my workouts – the glue that hold the rest of the routine together. For those who don’t know what regular drop sets are, they involve performing repetitions with a weight and then dropping the weight once you reach failure. In other words, you perform as many repetitions as you can using X amount of weight, then when you’re unable to perform any more, you immediately drop to a lower weight (with no rest in between) and carry on. You can do this two or three times depending on how masochistic you’re feeling.

Ultimately this allows you to push past failure and to increase your time-under-tension significantly. It’s the best way I know to make sure that a weight training session is actually going to be effective and lead to extra muscle growth and the best way I know to make sure I really push myself in a workout.

big muscle

Mechanical drop sets are pretty much the same thing, except instead of dropping to a lower weight, you instead drop to an easier movement. For instance you might do dumbbell curls with an overhand (pronated) grip, then ‘drop’ immediately to curls with a supinated grip, then drop immediately to hammer curls. I often do this precise routine, but will end on ‘cheat hammer curls’ and then bang out some pull ups as well. That’s one set and it’s guaranteed to get the biceps burning in a very short and efficient time-frame. Perform the whole thing three times and you’ve done enough to stimulate growth.

What I love about mechanical drop sets is that they work with bodyweight movements, and that they are actually much quicker and easier than dropping the weight seeing as you don’t need to keep adding and removing plates. You can use mechanical drop sets while standing on one spot and have an amazing workout in the space of ten minutes. In the gym it means you only need one station – ideal for a busy day.

Using mechanical drop sets in such a long sequence by the way makes a ‘complex’ or a ‘giant set’. It’s kind of like a circuit without resting or running to different stations.


I mentioned ‘cheat’ hammer curls earlier, so just to explain what that means cheats are repetitions you perform while helping yourself by swinging to generate momentum. Using cheats is a great way to go past failure when there’s almost nothing left in the tank and although you’re not isolated the target muscle group anymore, it’s still working harder than if you just stopped.

Burn Reps

Burn reps are another thing you can do right at the end of a giant set. These involve continuing repetitions without going all the way. If you’ve done as many pull ups as you can for instance, then burn repetitions would involve just hanging from the bar and raising yourself just slightly so that you’re ‘bobbing’ up and down. Done at the end of a big set this really just rinses the tank and make sure no muscle fibre is left untouched.


Negatives are another alternative to burn reps or cheats that you can tack onto the end (or in the middle in some cases) of an insane giant set/complex. These involve performing only the eccentric portion of the movement – the part where you lower the weight normally (or your body). For instance ‘negative pullups’ would involve jumping up past the bar and then slowly lowering yourself. Negative bicep curls might involve getting a spotter to lift the weight up for you then lowering it in a controlled manner. Again this allows you to go past failure, while developing negative strength and keeping up the resistance.

Putting it All Together

So let’s say you wanted to create a workout using these techniques for a quick but highly intensive 20 minute training session. You’re going to do a giant set or complex using mechanical drop sets while using techniques like burns and negatives at the end to really increase the intensity.

For the biceps it might look something like this:

Pronated Bicep Curls > Supinated Bicep Curls > Hammer Curls > Cheat Hammer Curls > Chin ups > Negative Chin Ups > Reverse Chin Ups* > Reverse Push Up Burns.

* pull ups with the bar low to the ground, feet touching the floor. In this case using a supinated grip.

Aim to perform around 6-12 reps of each with as little rest in between as possible, repeat three times (resting 1-2 minutes in between) and add regular moves at the start or end for extra credit.

For the pecs it can look like this:

Dips > Dumbbell Flyes > Dumbbell Presses > Clapping Press Ups > Rocking Press Ups > Press Ups > Press Up Burns

And you get the picture…

Now any of these can be used on their own, but the most efficient way to train is to target two muscle groups with complexes like these (think of training as being ‘modular’ allowing you to create different combinations). I like to do ‘push days’ (pecs, shoulders, triceps), ‘pull days’ (biceps, lats, traps), ‘core days’ and ‘leg days’.

Give it a go and I promise you you’ll be able to get an intense workout for any body part in 20 minutes or less.


About Adam Sinicki

Adam Sinicki, AKA The Bioneer, is a writer, personal trainer, author, entrepreneur, and web developer. I've been writing about health, psychology, and fitness for the past 10+ years and have a fascination with the limits of human performance. When I'm not running my online businesses or training, I love sandwiches, computer games, comics, and hanging out with my family.

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