Neuro-Mass Modified: How This Intense 20 Minute Workout Is All You Need For Size, Strength & Health


If you're looking for a time efficient quick workout that is scientifically and anecdotally proven to build size and strength and help with conditioning, then I have the perfect solution!

It's a 20minute full body (extremely intense) workout that you only need to do once a week. I know it sounds too good to be true, but there is a catch - it requires a lot of will power and mental toughness.

If you have that, then you're going to love this highly effective super short workout.

The Concept Behind The Most Efficient Workout You Can Do

If you have been following my work for some time you would have read my blogs on High Intensity Training or HIT (note, this is different to High Intensity Interval Training or HIIT).

You may have read Super Slow High Intensity Training: Is 15 minutes of Strength Training A Week Enough?

and - Body By Science High Intensity Training Review: My 9 Month Experiment

Or maybe you're familiar with the work of Doug McGuff and the book Body By Science

These articles and experiments were a result of me taking a deep deep dive into the world of HIT training - training popularised by Arthur Jones back in the 1970's.

I was a doubter at first, but after my 9 month experiment that saw me take out the Realfit PaeloFx competition  I knew there was something to this kind of training.

Note: For those who aren't familiar with HIT or Body By Science style of training, I highly recommend you read the articles above. But for a quick overview read this definition:

The training focuses on performing quality weight training repetitions to the point of momentary muscular failure. The training takes into account the number of repetitions, the amount of weight, and the amount of time the muscle is exposed to tension in order to maximize the amount of muscle fiber recruitment.[1]

You do this using controlled movements with even force loading on the muscle and you ensure you keep constant tension on the muscle at all times.

Time For A Change

There was one problem with the Body By Science approach. Variety. After 18 months training this way I got bored.

Worse, I missed barbells.

I missed explosive training.

Around the time I started getting bored three things happened.

First I decided to defend my title at the 2017 RealFit competition.

Second, I no longer had access to gym machines, only a barbell and some dumbbells.

Thirdly, I was introduced to the book titled  Neuromass by Jon Bruney. You can read a great excerpt from the book HERE I highly recommend reading this excerpt.

I picked up a copy of this book and quickly understood the theory.

You stress the muscle through 3 phases:

  1. A controlled movement (similar to a super slow set). These are called 'Grinds'
  2. An explosive movement - called Dynamic Power Drills
  3. An isometric finisher - Called Isometrics

I liked this protocol as I could use a barbell and body weights, and it still utilised some of the 'time under tension' concepts I had great success with.

So I decided to use this protocol in the lead up to my 2017 competition. 

If you want, I documented all my training and experiences in a log that can be read HERE.

But to cut a long story short - this Neuro-Mass protocol was too much for me. The volume was too high, the workouts too long (I missed the short workouts), and it was too hard to get 2-3 quality sets in without form breaking down.

So I made some adjustments.

And after a good year of tweaking, I've found the perfect protocol. It's so simple you're going to have your doubts. 

But it's working for me and my clients, and I know it will work for you.

Neuro-Mass: Alex Fergus Version

Ok enough of the back story, time for the protocol!

Here goes:

  • One Session a Week (though you could probably do it once every 5 days)
  • Full Body Workout (upper body push, upper body pull, lower push, lower pull)
  • Minimal rest between exercise sets
  • One set to exhaustion for each body part (this set is called a Neuro-Set)
  • Each 'Neuro-set' is broken down into 3 parts and is based on the core protocol outlined in Neuro-Mass:
    • The Grind - This is effectively a Body By Science super slow rep. You aim to keep constant tension on the muscle, so no lock outs, no pausing etc, and you use a slow tempo of around 5-6 seconds (so 5 seconds down, 0 at the turn around, 5 seconds up, 0 at the top etc). Aim to keep tension on the muscle for 90-120seconds. You must give it 100%!
    • The Explosion - Once you hit failure from The Burn. Then you do 6 explosive reps hitting the same muscles (i.e. a clap pushup after a bench press, a squat jump after a squat). You need aim for 100% intensity at each rep. You must give it all!
    • The Isometric Hold - Finally, you aim to load the same muscle group in a isometric/static hold. You want to aim for at least 60seconds here. So for chest you would grab the back of a chair and try and crush it, for legs you could do a wall sit.


And thats it. Thats the workout.

You can see me doing the workout in full here: 

Remember, this is simply based Jon Bruneys Neuro-Mass protocol. I just modified it to make it simpler, quicker, and more in line with the HIT / Body By Science protocol that I had such great results with.


Neuro-Mass: Alex Fergus Edition Examples:

If you're still confused after my video and description above, here are a few examples of a set:


The Grind: Bench Press (barbells or a machine), non-lockout, 5 second tempo, full range of motion with a weight that you can only move for 90-120seconds.

The Explosion: Immediately drop to the floor and do 6 explosive pushups (clap pushups if you can do them, otherwise explosive pushups trying to get up as fast as possible is ok).

The Hold: Grab the back of a sturdy chair, or each side of a 20kg plate and try and crush it using your chest. Hold this for 60seconds.

Remember, you are only doing 1 set of this, so make sure you take each exercise to 100% failure!

You can see me doing a version of this below (note, it's sped up!)


Lower Body Push (Quads)

The Grind: Back squat, non-lock out, full range of motion but stopping short of knee lock out. Controlled movement, 5second down, 5 second up. Aim for 90-12seconds (9-12 reps if using a 5second tempo)

The Explosion: Immediately rack the bar and do 6 vertical jumps. Aiming to get as high as possible with each jump.

The Hold: Do a wall sit for 60seconds plus. If this is easy, next time hold some kettlebells for each weight.

You can see me doing this below (note, the video is sped up)



More Examples:

I have put together a document with a list of possible excercises, I've included examples that you can do without any gym equipment, and that need gym equipment.

CLICK HERE to download that.

As you can see from my clips above, you can easily do this using only a kettlebell, or even body weight only.


The Work-Out Summary

In summary:

  • You hit each major muscle group once (chest, back, quads, hamstrings are the four groups I try and hit each workout)
  • 1 set comprises of 3 parts - the grind, the explosion, and the hold.
  • You only do 1 set for each body part
  • For optimal results, you need to push yourself! each set (and each part within) should take you to the limits
  • For best conditioning benefits, have minimal rest period between each body part (i.e. once you have finished the chest hold part, move straight into the burn for the back etc)
  • For best performance results, do the upper body sets first, and the lower body sets last.
  • To help you understand the difference between the 3 parts in a set just think:
    • The Grind - don't stop moving, no rest, slow, and it should burn!
    • The explosion - explode as hard as you can 6 times
    • The Hold - empty the tank. This is the last time you will hit this muscle group.



Please leave any questions you may have below, I will answer them and add them to this list:

  • How is this different to a Body By Science Workout?

The body by science workout only uses the first 'part' - the constant tension/burn part.

  • How is your modified protocol different to the Original Neuro-Mass workout?

Less volume, one set only (and one set to failure), full body workout (versus split routines), one session a week (versus multiple sets per week), the recommend times/reps in my version are different to the Jons version.

  • Which protocol will produce better performance/strength gains?

I haven't tested it, but my guess would be that the original would produce better results from a size and maybe a strength point of view - simply because of the extra volume.

But I'm looking for the minimal effective dose, I want the benefits of training without the high training load. And I still defended my RealFit title (putting out some great numbers along the way) using my modified protocol.

  • Can I do it more than once a week?

Sure, I just found my performance suffered and I needed a good week between workouts.

  • Can I do multiple sets per body part?

Sure. I did this the first few weeks, but I found the second set was always rubbish compared to the first. So I cut it out.

Multiple sets may be useful if size is your goal however.

  • Can you help me with more exercise ideas?

Sure, download this table HERE.

  • Do you have a workout plan built that I can use to train this way?

I use this style of training with clients in my Hormone Reset program. Otherwise, check out my Size & Strength program for a more conventional way of training. 


Found This Interesting? Then You Might Like:


This blog post was written by Alex Fergus. Alex is a ISSN Sports Nutrition Specialist, Fitness Professional and certified Superhuman Coach who continues to expand his knowledge base and help people across the world with their health and wellness. Alex is recognized as the National Record Holder in Powerlifting and Indoor Rowing and has earned the title of the Australian National Natural Bodybuilding Champion. Having worked as a health coach and personal trainer for over a decade, Alex now researches all things health and wellness and shares his findings on this blog. Learn more about Alex's Credentials HERE.


Get FREE Updates & EXCLUSIVE Content

Join Over 30,000+ Subscribers!


What's Your Best Email?