Build Muscle and Burn Fat With High-Intensity, Short Workouts

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Building muscle while burning fat is a realistic goal for student-athletes (as well as for non-athletes of all ages). And contrary to what many assume, it does not require multi-hour workouts.

Yes, old school bodybuilders do perform lengthy workouts, because they must take extended rests between sets to allow for muscle recovery. Although this is an effective method for building your Bench or Squat numbers, it's not very efficient. As an athlete looking to build muscle and burn fat, you need to perform a routine that will challenge your muscles and elevate your heart rate—something that long rest periods won't do.

I recommend performing high-intensity, short duration strength workouts. Such "intense and condense" workouts are quite challenging, but they are more productive and take less time than bodybuilder workouts—and they are a proven method for building muscle and burning fat.

These workouts also enhance muscular endurance without using a cardio machine like a treadmill or stationary bike. The endurance phase is built into the workout through performing exercises at a high intensity.

An important characteristic of this workout is that it requires minimal equipment, so you won't have to wait for a machine or a set of weights. Select a single weight—like a 20-pound med ball or a pair of 15-pound dumbbells—and use it for the entire workout.

After a few muscle-building and fat-burning sessions, you may find yourself thinking along these lines:  "Intense and Condense Makes Perfect Sense!"

Workout Guidelines

  • The fast pace of this workout may be difficult at first. Push yourself to the max and you'll notice conditioning improvements.
  • Allow at least 24 to 48 hours of recovery between workouts.
  • Use as many muscles as possible  to get the most muscle-building benefit; plus you'll boost metabolism, burn calories and reduce fat.
  • Take short breaks, only 15 to 30 seconds, mainly for hydration purposes. It's important to keep your heart rate up to maximize fat burn.
  • Be creative. The following program should serve only as a guideline. Substitute exercises of your choice to keep it fresh and challenging.

Build Muscle, Burn Fat Workout


  • Forward Arm Circles — 1x30-45 seconds
  • Reverse Arm Circles — 1x30-45 seconds
  • Walking Lunges — 1x20


  • Side Lunges With Med Ball Chest Press — 1x5 each leg
  • Med Ball Push-Ups — 1x15
  • Mountain Climbers — 1x30 seconds
  • Med Ball Single-Leg Squats — 1x12 each leg
  • Med Ball Squat Jumps — 1x12

Rest: 30 seconds

  • Pull-Ups — 6x10, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1

*Superset Pull-Ups with Bench Dips

  • Bench Dips — 6x10, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1
  • Jog in Place — 1x60 seconds

Rest: 20 seconds

*Perform Plank and Side Plank (right, left) continuously without rest

  • Plank — 3x10 seconds
  • Side Plank — 3x10 seconds each side

Rest: 15 seconds

  • Med Ball Squat and Press — 1x20
  • Med Ball Russian Twists — 1x60 seconds

Cool Down

  • Seated Hamstring Stretch — 1x30 seconds
  • Standing Quad Stretch — 1x30 seconds each leg
  • Seated Groin Stretch — 1x30 seconds
  • Upper-Back Stretch — 1x30 seconds


Jim Carpentier is a certified strength and conditioning specialist, a New Jersey-licensed massage therapist and a health/fitness writer. He currently serves as associate health and wellness director at the Greater Morristown YMCA in Cedar Knolls, N.J.

Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock