A few years ago, a home workout video, 6-minute abs, became the butt of jokes within the fitness world. The concept was you could build a fit and strong body in minutes without spending time and money training at a gym. These videos disregarded a lot of debate and humor. Still, more and more trainers and exercise science specialists are shifting toward the concept of short and effective workouts. These workout trends are known as micro workouts.
Micro workouts are brief strength exercises that can be done anywhere, any time of the day. They can last seconds or several minutes. It may focus on simply one exercise or could be a circuit of exercises. Your schedule may not allow a 90 minute round trip excursion to the gym, but there are moments in the day when you can strength train.
For example, are they heating food in the microwave? Perform calf raises until the timer beeps. On hold with a call? Perform a wall sit. Fifteen minutes before your next Zoom meeting? Do a short circuit of lunges, push-ups, and pull-ups. These brief workouts don’t seem like much, but the effects compound over time.
Micro workouts, however, are finding their place and being backed up more and more by trainers and science. They are optimal for individuals with busy schedules, busy lives and prefer to train at home, in their yard, or in parks.
Bodyweight-focused exercises are effective for building strength. They also pair well with micro workouts. When combined, the two may increase your overall training volume during the week, allowing greater recovery and greater stress on muscles. Take for example, a traditional gym split approach. You may train arms once a week. On arm day you may perform 3 sets of 10 reps of bicep curls with dumbbells. That comes to 30 reps of work for the week for that exercise. Now, let’s say at home you perform 10 chin-ups a day, every day. That comes out to 70 reps a week targeting not only your biceps but several upper body muscle groups. You need less recovery and can produce more work.
A workout program is simply a launchpad. There are dozens of routine splits, approaches, and styles. They all can work, but it depends on individual taste and preference. One should find a workout they enjoy and can be committed to. The workout program launches your fitness. It gets your body moving, but many other factors determine how you lose weight or build muscle. Without proper nutrition, rest, stress management, consistency, and form, a workout plan is useless.
Muscular strength is the amount of force a muscle can produce with a single maximal effort. The size of your muscle fibers and the ability of nerves to activate muscle fibers are related to muscle strength. A muscle builds strength by responding and adapting to external stimuli. The muscle itself cannot count reps, sets, or time. It adapts to stressors placed on it over time. The body does not need several chest exercises and 90 minutes for stimulus with micro workouts. One simple push-focused exercise, done with good form and time under tension, can produce results.
The Advantages Of Micro Workouts
- Time-saving. Workouts can be done in seconds or in as little time as 15-20 minutes.
- Minimal space and equipment. They can be done at home, in the park, or even while waiting in the checkout line.
- Quicker recovery time.
- Money-saving as these can be done without a gym membership, coach, trainer, or class instructor.
The Disadvantages Of Micro Workouts
- It may take some time to adapt and change your mindset on how to approach fitness.
- One may need guidance for proper form or progression if one is not familiar with training.
- Often these workouts are done solo. So there is less of a socialization component.
Micro Workout Examples
- Perform 20 alternating lunges immediately, followed by 15 push-ups and 5 pull-ups. Take a short rest and resume the circuit 3-5 times for a full-body workout in under 15 minutes.
- Place a pull-up bar in a doorway of your home. Every time you pass under the bar perform a couple of reps of pull-ups or chin-ups.
- Set a workout timer for five – 1 minute rounds. For each minute perform the following exercises: Jump rope, pulse squats, push-ups, band curls, forearm plank.
- Watching your favorite sports team play while at home? Each commercial break performs an exercise. For that 2-3 minute periods perform as many good, controlled reps of an exercise. Consider alternating an upper body and a lower body exercise each commercial break such as wall sit, dips, bridges, push-ups, lunges, and pull-ups.
For many, the concept of micro workouts can be hard to comprehend. For decades fitness and strength training have been focused on routines, schedules, and hours of dedication. Entire businesses thrive on this concept and many have seen success from it. Yet for thousands of years, humans have built strength from daily labor tasks with repetitive motion. Our bodies adapted to the stressors to build strength. Fitness should be simple, easy, and convenient. Micro workouts may be a good option for those tight on time, limited resources, or lacking motivation for enduring fitness endeavors.