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©2020 by Jonathon Reid

  • Jon Reid

Quick and Effective Session Structure

Updated: Oct 15, 2018

Time isn’t always available and sometimes you have to fit a lot of training into a short period of time.

Pairing compound movements is a great way to train whether you’re looking to increase strength, build muscle or burn fat, particularly when you’re short on time.

Strength Training, Not Cardio

Using compound movements and pairing upper and lower body exercises is a simple and effective way to stimulate your whole body.

The simplest sessions are often the most productive, and less can be more.

If you are bouncing around the gym doing 50 different exercises, then your strength training session will probably be more like a cardio session; you won’t be working your muscles intensely enough to stimulate any growth or adaptation.

Exercises to Pair

Pairing compound movements allows you to get through more work in less time.

Pairing exercises smartly will ensure your muscles are fresh for the second exercise in the pair. Utilising short rest periods will also test your engine a little bit and keep your heart rate up.

Upper and Lower, Push and Pull

One way of pairing exercises is to pair an upper body movement such as an overhead press with a lower body movement such as squat. This is a great way to structure a session to get a whole body training effect.

Those who are more sports performance inclined could pair lower body plyometrics with upper body strength and vice versa.

Similarly, if you want to focus specifically on lower or upper body strength you could pair two movements that predominantly use the lower or upper body.

For example, you could pair a pushing movement such as a bench press or push up with a pulling movement such as a bent over row to stimulate the upper body.

Pairing push and pull exercises ensures you are getting a nice balance between the push and pull movement patterns and the muscle groups involved are getting a quick rest while the opposing muscle groups work.

Example Pairs

  • Front squat and pull up.

  • Goblet squat and 1 arm row.

  • Squat stance deadlifts and dips.

  • Reverse lunges and bent over rows.

  • Power cleans and barbell overhead presses.

  • Deadlift and bench press


If you’ve still got energy in the tank, or perhaps have a little longer to spend in the gym, then finish your session with some high intensity conditioning.

Combine rowing a certain distance (e.g. 500m) with some bodyweight exercises back to back.

Again, alternating upper and lower body exercises is a smart decision. For example: 15 bodyweight squats, 15 press ups, 15 reverse lunges, row 500m and then hold a plank for a minute.


Pairing exercises and using moderate weight for moderate to high repetitions will provide you with a quick and effective session structure that trains the whole body, stimulates muscle growth and burns fat. Give it a try!