Don’t have an hour to squeeze in a workout? Don’t worry you’re not alone. For most of us fitting a workout into your day can be very challenging.
And time isn’t the only challenge…after a long day at work, it’s hard to get motivated to workout. All you really want to do is go home, eat and relax.
That’s why I started doing short, high intensity workouts. Plus, I find getting motivated to do short workouts much easier. Just knowing that I can go into the gym or go out for a run and get out a great workout in less than 30 min…and still reap all the benefits of working out for an hour (or more) is motivation in itself.
Although I can usually spare 30 minutes for a workout, lately I’ve been experimenting to see how short of a workout I can do and still keep in great shape. In fact, just the other day I was swamped with work and it didn’t seem like I’d have any time to work out. But instead of taking a 10 minute coffee break, I decided to do a 10 minute workout.
Here’s what I did…
1 minute of Burpees (as many as possible)
1 minute of Pull Ups (as many as possible)
Repeat 5 times (no rest between exercises)
BTW, if you can’t perform pull ups, you can change it up with any other upper body exercises like push ups or inverted rows. And if you have access to a pair of dumbbells you can do chest press, shoulder press, upright rows… well you get the idea. But here’s the key to the workout - burpees. It’s the full body exercise that works your entire body and gets your heart pumping to increase the intensity.
If you don’t know how to do burpees, here’s a quick video.
So the next you’re strapped for time, try this short but intense workout. I promise you’ll get a great workout in just 10 minutes!
Anyway, going back to my initial question, “How short of a workout can I do and still get all the benefits of a full workout session?”
Well, according to Dr. Tabata, you only need 4 minutes…no joke. Here’s the workout - 20 seconds of any exercise (only stipulation is that the exercise must involve the use of your legs) performed at maximum effort followed by 10 seconds of rest, repeated for a total of 8 times.
The workout was part of a study Dr. Tabata did to see what kind of physiological effect doing super short high intensity workout produced. And the results were very impressive. The study showed that the 4 minute workout significantly improved both aerobic and anaerobic capacity - demonstrating that intensity had more to do with improving one’s overall fitness than duration and volume. Since the study came out a few years back, I think it’s been one of the most sited studies proving the effectiveness of short high intensity workouts.
Now here’s the interesting thing, in the original study only a small percentage of elite athletes, who were tested, actually completed the workout. Although the workout was only 4 minutes in duration, it was much too hard to finish. This shows that when intensity is high enough, you simply can’t last very long.
If you still have doubts, next time you’re in a gym give the work out a try. I recommend using a spinning bike since it’s the safest equipment to perform this kind of workout on. Make sure you set the resistance of the bike to an appropriate resistance. And when you start, don’t hold back. Remember, this is an ALL-OUT sprint for 20 seconds followed by a short 10 second rest, repeated for a total of 8 times. Too many people pace themselves which defeats the point of the workout. I promise you, if you this workout correctly, you won’t be able to finish it.
The point that I’m trying to make is this… time is irrelevant if you’re working out with high intensity. Intensity trumps all.
So to answer my own question… in theory, I can probably get my workout time down to less than 4 minutes. BUT would I want to? Probably not. If you’ve ever done any kind of exercise at an ALL-OUT effort, you know how painful it can be. And as much as I like working out short and hard, I’m not a masochist. I’d much rather workout with slightly less intensity (85 - 90% of my maximum effort) and workout slightly longer. I think for me a 20 - 30 min workout is just the right amount of time.
In hind sight, time isn’t the issue after all. It’s all about intensity. The important thing to remember is that the more effort you put into the workout, the less time it requires for you to reap the benefits!
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