Magic Workouts In Only Minutes a Day!!! Really??

Someone asked me recently what my thoughts were on sub 10 minute body weight calisthenics workouts. Hmmm, an opportunity to render an opinion, on strength training. I usually don’t do that, but I will give it a shot.

I recently learned the hard way what happens when you workout at high intensity for a very short amount of time without being prepared. Three 90 foot sprints cost me eight weeks of hamstring pull rehab. Why? Because I moved my body at high intensity without being able to properly move at a slow speed.

I was having trouble with getting the right muscles to fire when I walked, and somehow I thought sprints would be a good idea. Huge (not too mention expensive!!) fitness FAIL on my part. An extreme example, but it goes to show you what you can happen when you introduce intensity without preparation.

Now, what does this have to do with “NEW MAGIC WORKOUTS IN ONLY MINUTES A DAY!!! HOORAY!!!” you ask? Well, everything quite frankly. Do more in less time, and you may end up doing less for a long time.

If an exercise protocol calls for high intensity movement, with essentially non existent rest with as many reps as possible in a set amount of time, you better be pretty damn strong to pull this off. MMA/UFC fighter strong would be a good start. If, in your current level of strength/fitness, you can get through one of these workouts without any form degradations whatsoever, bravo.

Can this type of workout get results? Sure, why not. After all, its metabolic training its core, and we know that’s the key to fat loss. All of the physiological adaptations needed to get more fit on several levels can take place with this method.

Since these are body weight workouts, isn’t that better than using a seated machine? Yes, always.

So if this is the case, then what’s the problem? IMHO this:

Most people have desk jobs.
Desk jobs destroy mobility
Desk jobs reduce kinetic chain function.
Reduced mobility + Decreased Kinetic Chain Function + High Intensity Interval Training = A Higher Likelihood of “And what will you be seeing the doctor for today?”
In the amount of time (10+ years) I’ve been training people, the amount of times I’ve seen proper posterior chain function is at best, BEST, 10%.
And that’s probably a very generous 10%. Meaning, in my experience mind you, I’ve seen very few people who have proper function of the muscles of the back half of the body to properly protect/support the spine moving slowly, let alone at a bat out of hell pace.
Most of the time people will blow through these workouts with a “FORM BE DAMNED!” mentality because they have to finish the workout in the allotted time!
Other than this, I “love” it…..

So, then what do you do if you are short on time but long on motivation to get fitness results? Honestly, if you can have a metabolic conditioning program custom designed for your current movement skill level that’s the best way to go.

Your next best bet is to buy “The New Rules of Lifting: SUPERCHARGED” book. All you need is a little bit of discipline and the drive to follow the program. I always recommend these books because the authors get it. They program difficult things, but there is always progressions to make sure you are doing things right. See, they get it.

Am I saying to not do these kinds of workouts? No, unless injured/sick/in need of recovery, I will very rarely tell someone not too train. Although kipping pullups at the end of your 3rd trimester may fall into the category of stupid human tricks performed in a gym to stay away from.

My beef with these kind of “revelations” is that while yes, the science is on the side of fat loss and improved bio markers, there doesn’t seem to be any mention of form, what proper form is, what you should feel and more importantly, if you are feeling pain, a reason as to why.

I also very rarely see different levels of these things for people to progress through. Its like someone picked a bunch of random workouts and decided, this is our workout of the day…..

What I am saying is do whatever kind of exercise you enjoy, but you need to know there is quite a bit more to working out than just sweat and sore muscles. This is another thing that gets me. It is really easy to learn how to move incorrectly. Add in speed, and its even easier.

Here is what an exercise program should include. There is more to it, but here are a few things to look for:

MOST CRITICAL: developing proper motor patterning, the unsung hero of weightlifting.
I was told a story one time that someone asked Arnold Shwartzenagger in his competition days what the difference between 5 and 500lbs was. Apparently his response was “can you move five pounds correctly?” Meaning, can you move a light load with good form? If so, you can go heavier. Seems obvious, but you’d be surprised.

Correcting dysfunctional muscle imbalances.
If you sit at a desk for prolonged periods of times, rest assured you may have a few and your program should fix them.

Knowing which exercises to program for a given goal, pathology, injury, etc.
This is HUGE, especially when it comes to successful training. If you can move 300lbs for 5 sets of 10 in a deadlift, but your back kills you the next day, your knees hurt and you wake up next to a half empty bottle of ibruprofen regularly, guess what, that’s not good. But hey, you’ll be the strongest person in urgent care, good for you!

Knowing the right amount of sets and reps to program.
There’s more to it than “well today is international chest/shoulders/tri day (Mondays), so I will do X sets/reps of bench, military presses and tricep extensions.”

Knowing when to dial back and rest.
Another rather “under utilized” part of any program. Stuart McGill told me “if it hurts to hit your thumb with a hammer, you don’t get a bigger hammer, you put the hammer away. Same thing here. If you’re sleep patterns are changing, you’ve lost enthusiasm to train, have constant thirst, or constant carbohydrate cravings to name a few, time for a rest!

It makes me nuts when people train incorrectly. Be it with bad form, bad exercise programming or with too much weight just because they can move it.

Long story short, training should enhance your capacity to perform work, ie, go about your daily tasks with more ease.

Here’s what you need to ask yourself when starting a new program:
1) How do you feel when you wake up?
2) Are my daily tasks getting easier?
3) Does it seem easier to pick up my kids, lawn mulch, laundry baskets, etc?
4) Do I have fewer aches and pains?

If the answer to the above isn’t a resounding yes across the board, you may need to make some changes. Even if your clothes are fitting better. Looking good but being broken doesn’t count for improved fitness.

I don’t make the rules of biomechanics up, I just play by them! And sometimes, when I don’t, well, its “Let’s tell Al what his parting gifts are today!! Well Chuck, Al gets to Ice 6-8 times/day, he doesn’t get to ride his bike for 8-10 weeks and he’s won a weekly vacation in a physical therapy clinic for the next two months!!”

Alright, like always, loved or loathed what you just read, drop a comment and let me know!