For many years, I exercised for at least one hour a day, five days a week. It seemed legitimate, yet I never felt as fit as I expected given the time I invested.
Then I discovered a workout that achieved twice the results of my previous routine in only 33 percent of the time. It's an ideal workout for the busy entrepreneur or leader who wants the benefits of exercise but doesn't want to waste their time.
I created this routine while working with a retired special forces Army Ranger. He mentored me, and shared his methods for hacking optimal physical performance. In less than a year, I was in the best shape of my life, despite working out less than I ever had before.
Why? Members of the special forces need to achieve the maximum amount of benefits for any given endeavor. They only do what works, and they do not waste their time. In essence, they are professional optimizers.
As a result of that experience, I created the following workout. I still do it every week. It is a powerful, no-frills workout that maximizes results in the shortest amount of time possible.
Before doing this workout, I could barely do three pull-ups, period. After two years of this routine, I could do 30 pull-ups in 90 seconds. Here's how I got there.
The foundation of this workout is based on the following objectives:
Maximizing the health benefits of exercise (muscular, cardiovascular, mental, and emotional)
Achieving No. 1 with the lowest amount of valuable resources (time and money)
Achieving No. 1 with a low probability of injury
Focusing on results, not time targets
My goal was (and is) to consistently build functional strength over time. I focused on body-weight exercises that strengthen muscles, ligaments, and tendons at the same time. My goal was to be more like an Olympic sprinter and less like a bodybuilder.
This routine is based on high intensity interval training (HIIT). The goal is to achieve muscle breakdown as quickly as possible by going "all out" for a shorter amount of time. In my experience, this routine is twice as effective as the average workout and takes one-third of the time.
Simply put, this workout breaks down into two straightforward parts: sprinting and a Tabata-style workout routine on a pull-up bar.
Part 1: Sprinting
After a warm up (jogging and stretching), I start the clock and begin the workout.
In a park or on a track or athletic field, I complete 100-yard sprints. After finishing one sprint, I walk back to the starting line and immediately start the next sprint. I do this 10 times.
- Engages all your leg muscles at the same time
- Builds muscle via fast-twitch fibers
- Maximizes cardiovascular thresholds
- Burns a massive amount of calories in a short time
- Increases your overall resting metabolism, promoting fat loss
Part 2: Tabata and pull-up bar
Next, I immediately move to a pull-up bar. Ideally, this is in the same park or complex as the field where I just finished sprinting. My goal is to be on the bar in less than five minutes after sprinting.
I immediately begin a Tabata-style workout that quickly alternates between exercise and rest. I do the following exercises in quick succession, without stopping:
- 20 seconds of pull-ups
- 20 seconds of rest
- 20 seconds of sit-ups
- 20 seconds of rest
- 20 seconds of chin-ups
- 20 seconds of rest
- 20 seconds of push-ups
- 20 seconds of rest
I repeat this series of exercises for three complete revolutions. Then I'm done.
Why use a pull-up bar? Together, these body-weight exercises demand that you use every muscle, tendon, and ligament in your upper body at the same time. Your muscles won't outpace your ligaments and tendons. The exercises are also easy to do, symmetrical, and have a very low propensity for injury.
Total time investment
The combined time of this exercise routine is around 28 minutes (20 minutes for sprinting and eight minutes for the pull-up bar HIIT).
- I use a Tabata app on my phone to alert me in 20-second intervals. Check your app store to find one you like.
- You can customize the Tabata intervals for your progress or needs.
- I do this 30-minute workout every other day. That's it. Obviously, you can work out more than that, but I've found the additional days achieve diminishing returns with regard to time. Three to four days a week gives me the rest days I need and frees up more time to meditate, work, or have fun.
- I try to do this workout at public parks. It's great to be outside and it's free.
- If I'm at a gym (or hotel), I run a short distance quickly (i.e., two miles at sub-eight-minute miles) on the treadmill or I jog and then add leg exercises into my Tabata routine (squats, bridges, and calf-raises).
- If you can't perform an individual exercise for the full 20 seconds, then just hold your body while exerting effort until the timer sounds. The goal is to tell your body that it needs to get stronger, and that won't happen if you stop when you start struggling.
- I follow a mantra from Bruce Lee: Exercise as hard as you can, but not so hard that you'll be too sore for your next workout.
- Watch videos on YouTube to learn how to do each exercise with the proper form.
- If you're starting from scratch, please note that I did not start sprinting immediately. Sprinting can lead to injury when your ligaments and tendons are not strong yet. It's important to build up to it. Over the course of many months, and before I started sprinting, I steadily increased my cardio threshold from a starting point of a two-mile jog to a milestone of running two miles at an under-seven-minute-per-mile pace.
- Sprinting is demanding on your heart, which is great when you're in shape. Yet it can be hard on your heart if you're not yet in shape. The ramp-up schedule above helped my heart, lungs, and cardiovascular system get into shape before I started sprinting.
I am not a doctor, licensed trainer, or medical professional. I am simply an entrepreneur who hacked my workouts to achieve optimal performance in the shortest amount of time. This is not intended as medical advice. Always seek a professional's input if you have questions about your body, health, or exercise goals.