You can make that postworkout surge last longer. A recent study published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise concludes that doing more reps with less weight provides a longer-lasting pump than fewer reps with more weight. That's the philosophy behind the short workouts listed here, each designed to help you build muscle fast.
This iron-free workout is ideal "before you jump into the shower before a date, " says Scott Rankin, C.S.C.S., a trainer in Toronto. Perform as many pushups as you can in 1 minute. (Keep count.) Without resting, move into a modified pushup position, your knees on the ground. Do as many repetitions as you can in 1 minute. (Keep count.) Then, hold yourself about 2 inches off the ground for 20 seconds - or as long as you can. That's one superset. Rest only long enough for the burning in your muscles to subside, then repeat the superset twice. Your goal is to not let the amount of either type of pushup drop by more than five each superset. If you can do more, your rest periods are too long.
"Remember that the upper-arm muscles are 60 percent triceps and only 40 percent biceps. You want to work the triceps just as hard as the biceps, " says Tim Kuebler, C.S.C.S., a Kansas City-based personal trainer. Rest 4 to 5 minutes between these exercises.
Grab a light dumbbell in your right hand and place your left hand and knee on a bench. Plant your right foot flat on the floor. Bend forward at the hips so your torso is parallel to the floor. Hold the dumbbell next to your thigh with a neutral grip (palm facing your leg). Lift the weight up and back. As the weight clears your butt, slowly rotate your palm up toward the ceiling so that the back of your hand faces your body by the time your arm is straightened. Pause, then slowly return to the starting position. Do three sets of eight repetitions with each arm. Rest 2 to 3 minutes between sets.
Place your hands behind you on the edge of a bench and your feet on another bench a few feet in front of you. Ask someone to place a few weight plates on your lap and steady them so they don't fall. Lower your body until your upper arms are nearly parallel to the floor. Pause, then press back to the starting position. As you fatigue, ask your spotter to remove one weight plate at a time; continue until you can't do any more with only your body weight. Now, place your feet flat on the floor with your knees bent as if you were seated in an invisible chair; lower your body as before, completing as many repetitions as you can.
Supinating Dumbbell Curl
Hold light dumbbells at your sides, palms toward you. Curl the weights up, rotating your wrists inward 180 degrees by the time the weights reach your shoulders. Reverse this motion as you lower the weights. Do three sets of eight to 12 repetitions, resting 2 to 3 minutes between sets. Rest 5 minutes and perform one set of preacher curls. Start with a weight that's about 80 percent of your maximum and do as many repetitions as you can. Remove 10 to 15 percent of the weight and start again without rest. Continue removing weight and curling until you can no longer curl the bar.
Tire the obliques first so your rectus abdominis - the six-pack - is isolated later, Rankin says. Perform this workout as a circuit, with no rest between exercises. Do three circuits, resting 60 seconds after each.
Modified Bicycle Kick
Lie on the floor with your hands behind your head, your right leg straight and off the floor. Bend your left leg so your knee is pulled to your chest. Lift your shoulder blades off the floor and take a count of two to touch your right elbow to your left knee. Pause, lower your elbow and shoulder blades back to the floor (again to a count of two), then immediately repeat the move on the other side - bringing your left elbow to your right knee and straightening your left leg. Complete 15 repetitions on each side. Now do 30 conventional crunches.
Lie faceup on the floor with your arms straight above you or braced on the sides of a doorway. Bend your knees and lift your heels off the floor and toward your butt. Roll your hips up, bringing your knees toward your chest. As your lower back rises off the floor, straighten your legs, point your toes to the ceiling and lift your hips. Pause, then slowly reverse the motion. Do 20 repetitions.