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Are “Micro Workouts” the Answer for Busy People?

Are “Micro Workouts” the Answer for Busy People?

Microworkouts for busy people featured image

One of my most controversial opinions is that you can get in shape while working out for only 10 minutes at a time.

Sounds crazy, right?

You might think, “What’s the point of a workout that short?

But when done right, these quick sessions will get you the required stimulus for maintaining, or even gaining, muscle.

I’m going to explain this fully in this post, but before we go any further, I want to let you know that my ultra-short, super effective workout programs are going to be fully available through my brand new app.

It’s launching at the end of July 2024. You can ensure you get a space on the initial launch and get access to these workouts in the app by getting on the pre-registration list here.

Short workouts and fat loss

Fat loss requires a calorie deficit.

You can lose fat with zero workouts if you bring your calorie intake down low enough.

Even people in comas can lose fat if they’re fed fewer calories than what their body burns at rest (BMR – basal metabolic rate).

For most people, some mixture of increasing their daily expenditure and modifying their diet to reduce intake (and increase satiety) will be the best approach.

But increasing expenditure by doing more resistance training is generally a bad idea.

That’s because your training sessions won’t burn many calories at all – maybe 200 or so – and significantly increasing volume comes with a bunch of side effects for little extra calorie burn.

To burn significant calories, you’d have to ramp up your resistance training a lot.

This will get you nowhere fast, and will probably send you backwards because it’s very unlikely your body will be able to recover from high volume, high frequency resistance training.

You’ll beat yourself up, not be able to recover from it, and end up with repetitive strain injuries that may become chronic.

The FAR better approach to training when you want to lose fat is to just do the minimum needed to maintain muscle while you you let your diet and movement take care of fat loss.

What’s the minimum training needed to maintain muscle?

The minimum requirement to hang onto your muscle is surprisingly low.

In fact, studies have found that you can maintain muscle with a third of the work that was required to create it.

All you have to do is train every major muscle group, with high intensity, once per week, and you’ll maintain muscle.

High intensity simply means you’re taking your sets close, or all the way, to failure.

And if you’re fairly new to lifting then this is will probably lead to gaining muscle whilst losing fat, not just maintenance.

The best exercises for maintaining muscle efficiently are compound exercises.

Compound exercises work multiple muscle groups at once, allowing you to train all major muscle groups in the minimum time.

Example compound exercises for each muscle group:

  • Chest – flat or incline dumbbell/barbell/machine bench press, pushups, chest press machine
  • Shoulders – Standing/seated dumbbell/barbell/machine shoulder press, handstand pushups, pike pushups
  • Back – pull ups, chin ups, any kind of row (dumbbell, barbell, machine, inverted/bodyweight)
  • Quads – any squat (e.g. barbell back/front squat, smith machine, goblet squat, belt squat, safety bar, hack squat etc.)
  • Hamstrings – any deadlift variation (Romanian, straight leg, conventional etc.), Good mornings
  • Glutes – Also hit by the above, but can be targeted more by hip thrusts with barbells, dumbbells, bodyweight and machines
  • Abs – will be hit by all of the above – especially free weight or body weight versions.
  • Likewise – forearms are going to be hit by everything for your upper body due to the gripping requirements, triceps will be hit by the compound pushing exercises and biceps by the compound pulling exercises.
  • Calves may need some small amount of isolation work like standing or seated calf raises (can be done with dumbbells and barbells, not just machines)

If you want practically unlimited variations of these workouts (and other short, effective, time saving workouts) available to you through an app where you can track them, as well as customised nutrition programs with meal plans tailored to you, get on the waitlist for my new app – launching end of July 2024.

So you can work everything with just seven exercises and you only have to do one hard set for each. This will be enough to maintain muscle while losing fat – and even possibly gain it, depending on your training experience.

Planning this across the week is easy. You just pick one exercise for a muscle group from the list above and do one hard set close to failure. The next day you move onto a different muscle group and exercise. This fits nicely across a 7 day week.

Is One Set Really Enough to Maintain Muscle?

Yes! One set per muscle group per week, provided it is taken close to failure, is more than enough to maintain muscle (which should be the primary goal of training when you’re trying to lose fat).

You can even gain muscle on one set, but it’s probably worth your while to do a little more – 3 sets per workout perhaps. This will still only take you 10 minutes, maximum, but will provide you with a significant additional stimulus for building muscle whilst still being easy to recover from and not taking much time.

It’s important to acknowledge that every set adds a smaller stimulus than the one before it (assuming intensity is equal).

Your first “proper” set (i.e. not a warm up) actually gives your muscles a bigger stimulus than any other set in your workout.

Each set you do for a muscle after the first, provides a smaller stimulus than the one before it.

You actually have to do 18 sets to get double the amount of hypertrophy compared to doing 3 sets – see image below:

Example 10 Minutes Per Day Workout Program Training From Home

Monday: Dumbbell bench press

Tuesday: Pull ups

Wednesday: Dumbbell Goblet Squat

Thursday: Seated dumbbell shoulder press

Friday: Single arm dumbbell row

Saturday: Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift

Sunday: Dumbbell calf raise

What about rest days?

You won’t need them following a plan like this, provided you’re rotating through muscle groups in the correct order.

As long as you’re not working the same muscles on consecutive days, each muscle group will be getting plenty of recovery time.

However, you could combine some of the days so you’re not training every day, leaving you with rest days if you prefer. This will lengthen your training sessions but also provide you with days off.

Other ways of training everything throughout the week

Studies have consistently found that how you split up your training doesn’t really matter, as long as you get it all done in the week.

So, you could just do everything in ONE long workout on one day in the week.

Or you could split it up into two, three or four workouts.

The only caveat I’d add here is that to ensure optimal recovery and get the best results you shouldn’t train the same muscle groups on consecutive days.

Ideally each muscle group should get about 72 hours of rest before you train it again.

This approach is perfect for busy parents!

This is how I train these days and I’ve noticed no difference to my results compared to when I trained 5x as much.

When my first son arrived, I tried to persist with my long, 4-5x per week early morning workouts but I found it no longer fit with my new responsibilities.

In the end I settled on a 4-5 training sessions per week for 15-20 minutes in my lunch breaks.

I expected my results to get worse, but if anything they got better!

I was able to focus harder on what was really important and bring the proper intensity to those exercises.

And the reduced volume meant it was easy to recover between workouts, something that was welcome on my new regime of reduced sleep!

I’m on a mission to make more time-crunched parents aware of this way of training. Too many people assume they don’t have time for enough training because they think they need to do much more than they really do. Their answer is to do nothing at all when they could be micro-dosing and getting significant benefits!

If you want to access a huge variety of workouts programmed this way and track them through an app that will also give you a customised nutrition plan, then get on the list for my new app here – launching July 2024.

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