Often, I’m told by my clients or readers that they simply do not have enough time to train. While I concede that finding an hour a day three or four times a week for exercise when we have so many more constraints on our time can be difficult, I still maintain that there is ALWAYS time to train. It’s really just a question of how important it is to you.
For the most part, schedules can be reworked to create adequate time for exercise. After all, aside from our families, what else in life is so important that it merits pursuit at the detriment of our physical health?
However, hearing the same problem articulated over and again got me thinking: could I devise a program that would allow people with a restricted amount of time to achieve their fitness goals?
My answer to this poser is below. The workout is not intended merely to offer a method of ‘ticking over’ until more time is available, but rather to offer a chance at positive composition change – that is to say, gain muscle and lose body fat in just ten minutes per day, Mon-Fri.
Generally, for people who want to alter their body composition for the purposes of aesthetic advancement, I am an advocate of either very low intensity cardio over an extended period of time (e.g. walking at 105-120BPM) or extremely high intensity cardio for a very short period of time (e.g. 100m sprints).
It goes without saying that walking for 10 minutes a day isn’t going to help your fitness much, so we need to look at high intensity work. Tabata drills are a good option. Originally devised for martial artists in Japan to shed fat stores, these involve short, sharp bouts of action – normally 8 sets of 20 seconds, with just ten seconds rest between each set. That gives us enough time for two drills in ten minutes.
The great thing about Tabata drills – apart from their time-efficient nature, of course – is that they normally only use your own body weight for resistance, so you can do them anywhere. Good examples are reverse lunges, mountain climbers & bent arm to straight arm planks.
For the purposes of our 10 minute workout, however, we want to use the movement that absolutely maximises the spike in metabolism that exercise creates. For this, I recommend:
The kettlebell swing – a fantastic exercise that helps generate power, burn fat, increase aerobic capacity and enhance muscular endurance; and
The burpee – an exercise that tests your heart and lungs to the max (make sure to pace yourself carefully)
To gain muscle with just ten minutes workout time is quite a task – but it can be done, with a little help from a type of exercise that is known as static contraction training.
This form of resistance training involves holding a weight far heavier than you would generally use at the strongest point of the lift for a period of 5-10 seconds. For example, if you normally lift 50kg for 3×8 when doing military presses, you would increase the load to 80 or 90kgs.
Many people are cynical when first introduced to static contraction training, but I’ve seen strong results from the approach. It works by recruiting more muscles fibres than normal weight training, consequently sending a signal to the brain warning it that new muscle must be grown to better handle the scenario.
Static contraction training typically consists of 2 workout days per week, with 5 exercises per workout and just one static hold of 5-10 seconds per exercise. So, it’s completely feasible that you could perform your entire workout in just ten minutes.
Be sure to select the maximum weight you can hold and aim for progression each time you train. For safety measures, you may want to consider starting with fixed machines as I suggest in the workout below, or find a gym partner who can spot you.
Monday: Static Contraction Training Workout 1
1 x Seated Shoulder Press Machine or Military Press
1 x BB shrugs
1 x Tricep Pull Down
1 x Preacher Curl
1 x Weights ab Crunch
Tuesday: Tabata Drills
1 x Kettlebell Swing
1 x Burpee
Thursday: Static Contraction Training Workout 2
1 x Hyperextension
1 x Chest Press Machine or Smith Machine Bench Press
1 x Lat Pull Down
1 x Leg Press Machine
1 x Calf Raise Machine
Friday: Tabata Drills
1 x Kettlebell Swing
1 x Burpee
Rest and Nutrition
Don’t be misled by the duration of the training sessions: there will still be a significant demand on your body to recover from these workouts, so taking in adequate calories will be as important as it always is.
I would recommend consuming a 20pc surplus of your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) on the four training days, and a 10pc deficit on the three rest days. This should allow you to achieve the holy grail of reducing body fat whilst at the same time increasing muscle mass.