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By Michael Volkin (aka The Volkinator)
A typical gym workout lasts 30 minutes to 1 hour, and often includes significant weight-lifting. If exercises are performed incorrectly, the load on the muscles and stress on the joints of these repeated movements causes both short and long-term damage to your body.
Most people continue to work out despite a known injury, aching back, or sore muscles because of the improved appearance of their physique as a result of the working out. However, over time, the improved appearance becomes harder to maintain and a “plateau” eventually occurs.
A workout plateau is when someone continues to exercise and sees diminishing returns on the improvement of their physique. In addition to these hardships, a gym workout causes a time constraint for many would-be gym goers. In addition to the 30 to 60 minute workout, the average gym member has to factor in the time for driving and parking.
Recently, several scientific studies – see Further Reading below – have been conducted which analyzes the optimal duration and intensity for a proper workout. Some experts claim high intensity and fast workouts are the most beneficial, others claim slow meticulous movements with heavy loads is the easiest way to maintain a great physique and optimal health.
Mini workouts have proven to be extremely effective to both the health of the individual and improvement of the physique, yet often if the most underutilized form of working out. Three to five workouts a day varying in duration from 10-15 minutes provides a boost in the metabolic rate of an individual throughout the entire day. Therefore, mini workouts are more effective at burning calories throughout the day rather than working out all in one block. For proper nutrition, an individual will eat 3 meals a day; the same theory should be applied to working out.
Typically, I work out at the gym during my lunch hour with three other coworkers. The three of us decided to give the concept of mini-workouts a try for 2 full months. Before we started, we recorded our weight, body fat percentage and body measurements.
We used a fitness product I invented called Strength Stack 52, which concept centers around bodyweight mini-workouts. Instead of doing one 45 minute workout during our lunch hour, we met 15 minutes before and after work and 15 minutes during our lunch hour to complete mini workouts. The three of us were still exercising 45 minutes per day and to keep the results as pure as possible, we did not change our eating habits or lift any weights.
Each of us saw positive results at the end of the two months performing strictly bodyweight exercises in intervals of 15 minutes 3 times per day. The three of us averaged 11 lbs. of weight loss with the highest of us losing 18 lbs. Keep in mind that weight loss occurred with no change in our diet from already active people. Each of us also experienced muscle gain, reducing our body fat percentage an average of 2.2%. We all agree the biggest benefit was our mental stamina and attitude. We all feel better throughout the day and our 2 o’clock “is the workday over yet?” feeling has gone away.
Whether our success is a result of breaking a plateau or the result of the effectiveness of mini-workouts can’t be determined in just 2 months. However, the reason doesn’t matter. The results speak for themselves and the mini workouts were fun. Instead of looking forward to one large workout in a day, we looked forward to 3 intense and fun workouts in a day.
Other benefits we experienced as a result of the mini-workouts included:
– Less muscle soreness
– Less joint pain
– Increased cardiovascular stamina
– More mental stamina and intensity per workout
– More calories burned per day
Although we experienced positive results testing the mini-workouts, we all miss throwing a few dumbbells around. We have developed a hybrid program where we now do a mini-workout in the morning and start our lunch hour workout with a mini-workout. After our second mini-workout (during the lunch hour) we perform a weight training program.
Experiencing the mini-workouts was an eye-opening experience for us. We all subscribed to the “no pain, no gain” philosophy and we now know that no part of that old adage is true. You can in fact gain muscle and lose weight performing small, fun and challenging workouts three times a day.
Michael Volkin is the author of Ultimate Basic Training and inventor of Strength Stack 52 fitness cards.
Anderssen and Stromme. Physical activity and health – recommendations. Tidsskr Nor Laegeforen, 2001; DOI: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11875902
Burgomaster et al. Six sessions of sprint interval training increases muscle oxidative potential and cycle endurance capacity in humans. The Journal of Physiology, 2005; DOI: http://jap.physiology.org/content/98/6/1985.full
Chmidt et al. Effects of long versus short bout exercise on fitness and weight loss in overweight females. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 2001: DOI: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11601564
Jakicic at al. Prescribing exercise in multiple short bouts versus one continuous bout: effects on adherence, cardiorespiratory fitness, and weight loss in overweight women. International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders, 1995; DOI: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8963358
Little et al. A practical model of low-volume high-intensity interval training induces mitochondrial biogenesis in human skeletal muscle: potential mechanisms. The Journal of Physiology, 2010; DOI: 10.1113/jphysiol.2009.181743
Talanian et al. Two weeks of high-intensity aerobic interval training increases the capacity for fat oxidation during exercise in women. Journal of Applies Physiology, 2007: DOI: http://jap.physiology.org/content/102/4/1439.full.pdf
Trapp et al. Metabolic response of trained and untrained women during high-intensity intermittent cycle exercise. American Journal of Physiology, 2007; DOI: http://ajpregu.physiology.org/content/293/6/R2370.short