Let’s face facts. When you’re busy, you don’t always get the opportunity to smash the weights for a full hour. This 20 minute HIT workout works well when you’re pressed for time and is guaranteed to make you sweat (or cry).

Don’t get me wrong – nothing beats a solid lift for 60 minutes…but as a dad, business owner, and all around busy guy, I don’t always have that luxury.

Enter the “3×3 Workout”. It’s a High Intensity Training (or HIT…not to be confused with HIIT like fat-torching jump rope circuits) staple that should take no more than 20 minutes to do, and when done right will tax your muscle fibers and nervous system, and leave you exhausted and feeling awesome.

Here’s how you do it:

[1] Pick 3 compound (or multi joint) movements. I try and use one for legs or hips, one for your upper back, and one for your chest, this way you get the most bang for your buck as far as working the entire body, hitting the most fibers, and making the workout as tough as humanly possible. Remember we only have about 20 minutes here. Here’s some exercise examples:

Hips/Legs: Deadlift, Squat, Leg Press, Split Squats
Upper Back: Pull Ups/Chin Ups, Bar Rows, Dumbbell Rows
Chest: Bench Press, Dumbbell Bench Press, Floor Press, Weighted Dips, Weighted Pushups

[2] After a thorough warm up to get the blood flowing, get your bars, dumbbells, kettlebells, etc ready – you won’t be getting much break time.

You’re going to do each exercise in a circuit fashion (hips/legs => back => chest) for 3 rounds, with each set going to failure…with MINIMAL rest. This means do this as fast as possible with good form.

[3] Get to work. Shoot to hit failure on 20 reps (hips/legs), 10 reps (back), 10 reps (chest) on the first round. The second round you should hit 15 reps (hips/legs), 8 reps (back), 8 reps (chest). The third round you should shoot for 12 reps (hips/legs), 6 reps (back), 6 reps (chest).

*Remember, you’re going to failure here, so you want to make sure to adjust the weight accordingly to hit the target reps for each set. Once you hit failure on round 1, you should hit the recommended reps naturally on the second and third round.


When done right, you should be exhausted. If you’re not, you need to reevaluate your intensity level. You didn’t go heavy enough -or- didn’t go to TRUE failure. Failure means you cannot perform another rep for that round.

Trust me, this workout is INTENSE and works great in a pinch if you’re like me and occasionally have to sneak in a workout while your daughter is down for a nap.

Give it a shot, try it out and let me know what exercises you chose and how you made out – after you pick yourself off the floor.

You can find this and more HIT workouts in Chapter 16 of Matt Brzycki’s text book. (One of my favorites.)

If you’d like to learn more about HIT Training, leave a comment and I’ll be sure to post some more on the topic.


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