These three workout protocols will get you into the best shape of your life in only ten to twenty minutes per day. You’ll find instructions for the exercises at the end of this blog post — but I encourage you to read the whole post to gain some context.
Minimal Effective Dose (MED)
The minimal effective dose (MED) is what we are trying to achieve here. The MED is simply the smallest dose that will produce a desired outcome and anything beyond the MED is wasteful.
For example, water boils at 100°C at standard air pressure. Water is not “more boiled” if you add more heat. You would save money on your gas or electric bill if you didn’t continue to increase the temperature of the water — thereby conserving resources for something else more productive.
I am a big fan of CrossFit and you will find me here at least 3 days per week. I am well aware of the risk associated with moving increasing weight quickly, but I am also aware that there is risk-benefit ratio for any activity you choose.
From my perspective, the benefit of crossfit is constantly varied, functional movements performed at high intensity. All CrossFit workouts are based on functional movements, and these movements reflect the best aspects of gymnastics, weightlifting, running, rowing, etc.
I also believe that humans are pack animals and the support and fellowship of a social group in a crossfit box is an important aspect of health.
Again, from an ancestral point of view, I believe having a movement practice is key to living a long, healthy and independently active life. I personally use and am inspired by a number of resources, including:
I recommend starting with ‘CrossFit light’ and personal training to progress slowly and make sure you have all the prerequisites of movement. As I tell many of the desk bound athletes I see in the office (those that have to work in high-risk sitting environment), even exercise done with the best intentions can be a significant dose of damage, if you are lacking the prerequisites of movement, such as spine, shoulder, and hip range of motion.
Top 3 Exercises
If you are not quite ready for CrossFit or you travel or you work out at a local ‘Globo Gym’, then you can try these 3 exercises — which will get you into the best shape of your life.
DISCLAIMER: See your healthcare professional before starting any of my exercise recommendations!
1. Bike Sprint Intervals
This is my introduction to High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) made simple. All you need is access to stationary equipment, such as a bike or elliptical.
- Set the bike up on an easy to medium gear/setting and warm up for 5-10 minutes.
- Increase the resistance to a moderately high gear, which gives you difficulty spinning. Note the gear or setting.
- Pedal in that gear for 30 seconds as quickly as possible. The last 10 seconds should be quite uncomfortable.
- Pedal in an easy gear for 2 mins.
- Repeat steps 3 and 4 , two more times initially, and slowly start building up every week (i.e. adding one more set per week).
- Add this to your lifestyle routine 1x/wk. Minutes can make a huge difference over weeks, months and years! Please note: if you are a seasoned runner you can alternately jog for 10 mins and find a spot that allows you to run for 20-30 seconds all out. Then sprint this distance and walk back to the start and add two more times initially, and slowly start building up every week (i.e. adding one more set per week). I like to run or bike down to Royal City Park with my kids, take off our shoes and perform these sprints in the grass on the soccer field on the north side of the river.
2. Super Slow Workouts
In my experience, the most common reason for not being physically active is lack of time. As a parent, I am quite familiar with the disappearance of time.
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is one of the most efficient ways to exercise. Of course, if you enjoy spending more time completing your workout, feel free to continue, but you may be overtraining. Your heart and lungs cannot tell difference between a bike and a squat exercise; they only ‘know’ the energy requirements as they attempt to meet them.
This exercise is inspired by the book, Body By Science. I tend to incorporate this type of workout when I travel or when I am visiting a ‘Globo Gym’. The protocol was initially called Super Slow and there have been many variations of this protocol. You simply pick 4-6 compound exercises and perform them very slowly.
First, pick a weight that you can normally complete 10-12 repetitions to fatigue, then perform each exercise for 1-2 minutes at this slow pace. An easy way to start is to raise and lower the weight with a 10-second count in each direction. Go as slow as possible with minimal arm shuttering — aim for a smooth up and a smooth down.
Machines are recommended, but not absolutely required, for two reasons:
- Simplicity/User-Friendliness (ie. in order to eliminate the complexity of exercises)
- Safety/Injury Prevention
Here’s an example of one of my typical HIIT workouts:
- Pull down: 125 pounds for 2 minutes
- Military press: 110 lbs for 2 minutes
- Dumbbell Squat: 40 lbs per side for 1:30
- Seated Row :120 lbs for 2 mins
- Seated Chest Press: 150 lbs for 2 mins
For further info, see the following resources:
3. Kettlebell (KB) Swings
Why kettlebell swings? They provide incredible full body training.
Kettlebell swings involve an incredible amount of muscles, with only one single exercise. In fact, kettlebell swings work everything from your core to your shoulders, your quads, your hamstrings, your glutes, and especially your heart and brain.
All you need is a kettlebell. I use a dumbbell, if I do not have access to a kettlebell. Start with 10 swings every other day for 1 week. Then proceed to 20 every other day for a week. You can continue up to 50 every other day.
Thanks to Tim Ferris and Pavel Tsatsouline for their inspiration and guidance.