It’s not easy to get or stay fit if you’re busy and have to do all the adulting…right?
Not if you know how!
Over the years I’ve worked with hundreds of clients who barely had time to work out two to three times per week. For most of them, our training sessions were the only major physical activity they got for the week, yet they still made tremendous progress.
How did I do that with them? By focusing on getting them better, not just tired or out of breath.
And what gives the most benefit in the least amount of time?
Rebuilding and maintaining lean muscle.
We start losing muscle after our mid-20’s, making it easier to gain fat and harder to lose it. And if we don’t do anything about it, that loss of muscle makes us look and feel old before our time.
The good news is that it doesn’t much to counter that loss and to look and feel great.
And no, you won’t get bulky!
Avoiding strength training out of fear of bulking up overnight is like not driving to work, home, or the store because you’re afraid of suddenly becoming a top level NASCAR driver.
Here are my top two favorite strategies for busy people to get and stay fit:
- Timed bodyweight training
There is a theme for both of these strategies: high repetitions.
High rep work is great because it allows the tendons and connective tissues to get stronger along with your muscles which reduces your chances of getting hurt.
The (relatively) lighter workload allows you to train pretty much every day because you won’t be as sore from each workout, making it easier to establish a consistent training habit.
The higher number of reps really helps you dial in the movements and get them right.
It also works logistically, because you don’t need very much in the way of equipment, and you don’t have to mess with changing the weights after each individual exercise.
A quick side note:
Even though we’re talking about lighter loads and higher reps, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t work hard.
The idea is to get stronger and move bigger weights, we’re just using a different set and rep scheme to get there, one where you really earn the right to go heavier, rather than getting ahead of yourself. It’s the difference between can and should.
Those last few reps should still look good, your movements should still be quick and powerful, but you should be very glad when the set is over.
Strategy One: Timed Bodyweight Training
If you don’t have much in the way of weights or time, then timed bodyweight training is a great solution. I would still recommend getting a set of suspension straps. If you bought one piece of equipment for your home or travel workouts, buy a TRX or Jungle Gym.
Start with the most challenging movements and switch down to easier versions as fatigue sets in. This allows you to keep moving and get a lot done in a short amount of time. These are sample sets. You can adjust the challenge up or down as needed.
3 minutes of push-ups:
- 1 minute of hand release push ups
- 1 minute of dive bombers AKA Navy SEAL push ups
- 1 minute of push-ups on knees or hands elevated on a bench
5 minutes of leg work:
- split squats -1 minute per leg – you can repeat that for each leg for 4 minutes of more challenging work and then finish out with a minute of side lunges or squats.
- 1 – 2 minutes of side lunges
- 1 minute of squats
3 minutes of pulling:
If you have a TRX:
- 1 minute of 2 way rows
- 1 minute of Y’s & T’s
- 1 minute of biceps curls
If you’re using a pull-up bar or similar set up:
- 1 minute of rack pull ups
- 1 minute of inverted rows
- 1 minute of Y’s & T’s with light dumbbells
3 minutes of abs:
- 1 minute of hollow body hold (legs higher if you need to make these easier)
- 1 minute of feet together sit ups (start with partial sit ups if needed)
- 1 minute of Pilates Corkscrew (smaller circles to make these easier)
If you did all four sections (push, legs, pull, and abs) with a minute to rest in between each category, you’d get a total body workout in 17 minutes.
Strategy Two: Complexes
These are 3 – 5 strength movements strung together as a series. With complexes, keep the reps a little low, just around six to eight. The overall number of reps will be high because you’ll cycle through these series multiple times.
The goals are to move well, control the weights, and don’t set them down until you’ve completed the complex. The one exception to this is ab or mobility work.
Warm up for five minutes with push-ups, squats, lunges and you should be good to go.
Here’s my favorite complex for getting started:
- DB Squat – Front, Goblet x 6 – 8
- DB Overhead Press (both or alternating) x 6 – 8 total or R/L
- DB Lunges x 6 – 8 R/L
- DB Bent Over Row x 6 – 8 total or R/L
- Figure 4 Stretch x 2 – 3 R/L
Go through that series four to five times.
I also really love barbell complexes. Again, these are amazing for building lean muscle and burning fat in a short amount of time.
Hands down, this is the best article I’ve read on the subject and there are a ton of great complexes outlined.
Keep getting stronger!
Don’t just pick a comfortable set of weights and stay with them indefinitely. Every week or so, either increase the number of reps or the weight. Again, with complexes, you should top out at 8 reps. You can also make these harder by taking up to 5 seconds to lower the weights.
After that, if you’ve been using the same weights and doing them for the same number of repetitions for more than two weeks, it’s time to go up.
Don’t, however, take a couple weeks off, lose the progress you made, and then rediscover the 10 pound weights over and over like you’re Dory from Finding Nemo!
Real, look-like-you-actually-workout fitness can get done in a way that works in real life, even if you’ve got a busy schedule and you have to do all the adulting.
I’m stoked to announce that my new studio is opening January 22, 2018 at 6620 Montgomery Road!
Classes are held M/W/F, 6 – 6:45AM and 8 – 8:45AM
Contact Charlie at firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve your space!