3 Timed Workouts That Add Strength

STACK Expert Jim Carpentier provides three workouts that use a timer to increase the efficiency of your training.

A timer is essential for sports such as basketball, hockey, soccer, football, swimming, and track & field. Timers are also used to test speed in the 40-Yard Dash and Push-Up performance in 60 seconds, for example. Using a timer in the weight room is less common, yet productive.

RELATED: You vs. The Clock: How Timed Sets Challenge Your Strength and Endurance

This article discusses the effectiveness of a timer for intensifying each set of exercises. Athletes can also diversify their training by timing each workout—completing a full-body workout, for instance, within 30 minutes—which is particularly advantageous when scheduling lifting sessions around practices and games.

A third way to vary your workouts is by counting reps backwards (10, 9, 8, 7, etc. down to 1) instead of the conventional 1-10 count. For example, if your goal is to complete 8 reps in the Deadlift with added resistance, counting reps backwards is mentally easier, since each rep number decreases rather than increases. Try the reverse rep counting method and see whether and how it works for you.

Below are three full-body workouts involving bodyweight or dumbbell exercises—sometimes supersetting the exercises.


  • Two moderately-heavy dumbbells (70-80% RM).
  • Pull-Up Bar (or substitute Inverted Rows beneath a racked barbell).
  • Bench
  • Dip Station
  • Timer (or a watch or clock with a second hand).
  • Mat (optional)
  • Water bottle


  • Do a dynamic upper- and lower-body warm-up (e.g. Arm Circles & Lunges).
  • Finish with cool-down upper- and lower-body static stretches for greater flexibility and range of motion.
  • Hydrate before, during and after workouts.
  • Do workouts on non-consecutive days for adequate recovery.
  • Sets/Reps: 3x10-12
  • Rep tempo: 3-1-1 (3 seconds negative, 1 second pause, 1 second positive).
  • Rest between sets: 30-45 seconds.
  • Rest between exercises: 45-60 seconds.

Workout 1


Timed sets. The timer serves as a motivational tool as you focus on the clock during each set for exactly 60 seconds. It's you versus the clock. Some exercises entail holding the contracted position (isometric hold) for 60 seconds, while others require lifting and lowering the dumbbells or performing bodyweight exercises for one minute. You'll feel the muscle-building lactic acid kicking in before 60 seconds, but the goal is to continue moving the weight (or yourself, during bodyweight exercises) or holding the contracted position for the full minute.

  • Push-Ups & Dumbbell Bent-Over Rows. Do as many Push-Ups as possible in 60 seconds and superset them with as many Bent-Over Rows as possible in 60 seconds. Rest and do 2 more supersets.
  • Wall Sits & Prone Planks. Assume a squat position against a wall with your arms extended forward at chest level. Hold for 60 seconds and immediately follow with a Prone Plank held for 60 seconds. After resting and hydrating, do 2 more supersets.
  • Farmer's Walks. Hold the dumbbells at chest level and continuously walk for 60 seconds. Repeat twice more.
  • Step-Ups & Overhead Presses. Use one dumbbell for this combo movement. Place your left foot on the bench while holding the dumbbell in your left hand at shoulder level. Keeping your left foot on the bench, lift your right foot off the floor and simultaneously pressing the dumbbell overhead. Continue for 30 seconds. Immediately follow with 30 seconds of Step-Ups/Overhead Presses with your right foot on the bench and you left foot lifting off the floor and pressing overhead with your right hand. Rest, then repeat twice more.

RELATED: Try This Timed Circuit Workout

Workout 2

3 Timed Workouts That Add Strength

Time the entire workout from start to finish (including warm-up and cool-down) for precisely 30 minutes. The timer plays a clock management role (important in sports events), and there's no time for socializing or taking excess time between sets or exercises—or the workout time will exceed 30 minutes.

  • Isometric Bar Dip & Regular Bar Dips. Hold in the contracted position for 30 seconds in the first set. After resting and hydrating, do 10-12 reps for the second and third sets.
  • Isometric Pull-Ups or Inverted Rows & Regular Pull-Ups or Inverted Rows. Hold for 40 seconds in the contracted position for the first set and do 10-12 reps for the next two sets.
  • Dumbbell Squats. Hold the dumbbells with a supinated grip at shoulder level and do Squats 3x10-12.
  • Feet-Elevated Side Planks. Place your feet atop the bench and hold the Plank position from the left side for 50 seconds. Immediately follow on the right side for 50 seconds. Rest and do two more sets.

Workout 3


Count each rep in every set backwards.

  • Bulgarian Split Squats. Put your left foot behind you atop the bench while holding the dumbbells at your sides and do 10 reps counting backward. Without rest, do 10 reverse-counting reps with your right foot atop the bench. Rest, hydrate, and repeat twice more.
  • Feet-Elevated Push-Ups. Assume a Push-Up position with your feet elevated on the bench and do 3x10-12 reverse-counting reps.
  • Single-Leg Dumbbell Cross Rows. Hold one dumbbells in your right hand with your right foot off the floor. Lower the dumbbell across your body toward your left ankle and return to start position. Do nine more reps counting backward. Imediately repeat with the dumbbell in your left hand and your left foot off the floor (3x10). Great exercise for improving balance and core stability—key sports attributes.
  • Alternating Forward Lunges & Overhead Presses. Hold both dumbbells at shoulder level and lunge forward with your left foot while simultaneously pressing the dumbbells overhead. Return to start position and lunge forward with your right foot while pressing the dumbbells overhead. Continue alternating Lunges/Overhead Presses counting backward for nine more reps. Rest and repeat twice more.

RELATED: STACK Challenge: How Fast Can You Do 25 Pull-Ups?

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