At my work weight it takes me between 60 and 75 minutes to finish the novice Starting Strength program.

I would like to be in and out of the gym in about 40 min.

When I diminish my work weights I'm able to do the exercises faster, but when I try to push my current max I fail the sets if I cut the rest time shorter.

I have been following a strength training program for about 14 months (Stronglifts 2.5 months, Starting Strength the remaining time).

My current program and max work weights are:

Day 1
Squat 3x5  115kg
Bench 3x5   65kg 
Snatch 5x3  37.5kg

Day 2
Squat 3x5 
Press 3x5 42.5kg
Dead  1x5 100kg
Chins 9x6x5 (target is 3x15)

I follow this warmup schedule and rest 5 min between sets.

Can I optimize Starting Strength for workout duration while still doing progress, even if moderate?

  • You rest for 5 min between warm-up sets?
    – TestWell
    Oct 21, 2015 at 17:34
  • No, I do the warmup sets straight, one after the other Oct 21, 2015 at 17:35
  • Doing the snatch at the end of a workout is often not a good idea. Oct 22, 2015 at 6:19
  • @TestWell Could you post your comment as an answer, since it is an attempt to answer the question? Oct 22, 2015 at 14:04
  • @DaveLiepmann It was just long-winded advice that I felt not worthy of an answer but sure!
    – TestWell
    Oct 22, 2015 at 14:13

2 Answers 2


Forty minutes of gym time is an unrealistically low expectation if one is looking for the same effects as a multi-exercise program.

If 40 minutes is a hard cap--which I'd advise against having--then first I'd only do one work set. Warm up with the bar, add weight in logical big-plate increments (e.g. 20kg, then 40kg, then 60kg, then 80kg, then 100kg), then do a single maximal set (e.g. 115kg x5 reps). This eliminates nearly a majority of rest time since there is no rest time between warm-ups and after the work set you can immediately strip the plates and move to your next exercise.

That's probably not enough to get a workout down to 40 minutes. Remember, 40 minutes is a ludicrously short period of time to expect to complete a whole-body strength workout. At this point you need to start dropping exercises. Forget chin-ups, at least.

Thirdly, switch to a 3-day split so you can do fewer exercises per day. For instance:

A: Squat, bench

B: Deadlift, overhead press

This kind of schedule with only 1 work set would probably, most days, fit in a 40-minute workout.

  • Getting back to this as life is about to get very busy. My starting strength program down to 1 work set only lasted 25 min (squat, bench and snatch), which suits me fine, however I'm wondering if that load is enough to maintain my current fitness level? I don't expect to be gaining strength but would like to be able to maintain what I have. I have also experimented on previous workouts with diminishing the work set weights and cutting the rest period down to 1 min. This cuts my workout down to 45min but I noticed form deteriorates on the last set. Jan 24, 2016 at 17:19

On Day 2, you wouldn't need to follow such a strict warm-up set for deadlifts since you'll be nice and warmed up from squatting. It looks, in my opinion, that a lot of the time is being spent warming up and resting. Even 5 min between sets seems overkill if you're not working the same muscles directly after (like on Day 1). You can probably also eliminate some of the warm-up sets. On squat day, adding 15 lbs to the bar to knock out 5 reps, removing the weight, adding the next weight amount, etc. takes a lot of time. Add weight in 50 lb increments instead.

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