Staying fit is no easy task.
You always need to dedicate time (and energy) to your workouts otherwise you lose it.
But if you are like most of my clients (and me) the amount of time you have to exercise changes day to day, week to week, month to month.
Most workout “programs” expect you to spend 1 hour 3 days a week in the gym. Or some other strict, non-negotiable workout schedule.
Learn a new way to make exercise fit your schedule, instead of making your schedule fit exercise by reading below.
Often I have only 20 minutes to workout.
Sometimes I only have 10 minutes, sometimes I have an hour or more. Most often I have 30-40 minutes.
Between a wife, baby, job, and hobbies I need flexibility with my workout program.
I have noticed that many of my clients have the same problem.
The solution: 10-minute workouts.
Why? Because you can do one (ten minutes) you can do 6 (one hour), you can do 3-4 (30-40 minutes). You can plan for different time periods every day and you can adjust in a moment’s notice.
And you can get more variety in your training so you don’t get bored, while still repeating the same workouts to track your progress.
How does the Ten Minute Workout Template Work?
Instead of a long drawn-out program we focus on smaller segments. This means you can easily modify the training plan to fit your upcoming schedule or change when life happens.
Your first order of business is to get your warm-up down. Your warm-up is always segment number one.
If you don’t know how to warm up, check out this article which will teach you how to build a proper warm-up.
Now if you have 20 minutes do an additional workout segment.
If you have 30 minutes, do two more.
And so on and so on.
What do these “workout segments” look like?
The segments are 10 minutes of exercise, designed to give your body a great workout.
There are an infinite number of ways to build 10-minute workouts. But here are 4 of my favorite protocols:
1 - Do as much of X as you can do in ten minutes
2 - Rep ladders of 2 or more exercises
3 - As many rounds as possible (AMRAP)
4 - Interval Training
5 - Every minute on the minute (EMOM)
These are all effective training techniques and you can use them all in your training.
Do as much of X as you can in 10 minutes
This is as simple as it can get. You have something to do and you do as much as you can in 10 minutes.
Don’t confuse “as much as you can” with “10 minutes continuously.”
When you are doing this kind of training appropriate rest is important.
Here are two ways that you can know when it is time to take a rest:
1 - The form breaks down
2 - You have to breathe through your mouth instead of your nose
Practice makes permanent.
So we always want to practice efficient and safe movements.
When you get tired you start moving in strange ways. This is a sign to take a rest.
There are two exceptions to this rule. Competitions and Emergencies. Regular workouts don’t fit either of these exceptions.
An important note here is that you need to know what good form is on the exercise you are doing. If you don’t, it is a good idea to learn about it or hire a coach who can help you. Or at the very least read a good book about it.
Luckily with the advent of the internet, there are infinite resources that can help.
If you get a coach make sure that they are educated and competent so they can help you in the area you are choosing. For example, I am qualified and experienced in teaching people kettlebells, calisthenics or yoga, but I don’t know Pilates, so I don’t coach anyone with Pilates.
Due to the internet you have a wide variety of coaches and educational resources. For example, I coach people in person and virtually around the world.
But always make sure the source you are using is a good one. Bad instruction will cost you more in the long term through pain, frustration and injury.
Often we aren’t a good judge of our own form while exercising. It is easy for our ego to get in the way. But there are some tricks that can help us when we are working by ourselves.
One of these is nasal breathing. While it is (arguably) better for you to do this most of the time often people won’t use it while exercising in order to get more air.
An easy way to make sure you aren’t exhausting yourself is to stop when you can’t maintain nasal breathing. For example, you could run with your mouth closed. If you can do that for 10 minutes pat yourself on the back. If you have to open your mouth, stop running. Walk until you can return to running with your mouth closed.
This trick works with most exercises, not just running.
Here are 5 examples that I use with myself and the people I train:
10 minute Run
10 minute Jump Rope
10 minute Forward Forward Lunge
10 minute Crawl
10 minute Carry
This is a great way to combine 2 (or more) exercises for a workout segment.
You climb a ladder of reps of the two movements for the entire 10 minutes. Tracking how far you make it and making the exercises more difficult is how you see progress in this method.
For example, you could use push up and squats.
Start the ten-minute timer and then…
Do 1 push up followed by 1 squat
Do 2 push-ups followed by 2 squats
Do 3 push-ups followed by 3 squats
Do 4 push-ups followed by 4 squats
Do 5 push-ups followed by 5 squats
Keep going until the timer goes off.
Once again you DO NOT have to do the reps continuously.
For example, if you are supposed to do 5 push-ups before moving on to 5 squats it is ok to do 2 push-ups, rest as much as you need to, do 2 more push-ups, rest as much as you need to and then do 1 push-up.
After you have finished the 5 push-ups (2+2+1) you can move on to the squats.
Whenever you feel your form is breaking down or that you might not be able to finish a rep take a break.
During training, you should have no missed reps. This means you shouldn’t ever have to stop in the middle of a rep. You should never do 3 push-ups, then go for a fourth and not quite make it.
If you are missing reps, check your ego at the door. I promise you will get better results in less time if you follow this simple rule. Do you want to feed your ego or actually start improving?
While this will work with 3 or more exercises I almost always keep it at 2. The reason is that I want the exercises to be difficult and for you to get a good amount of repetitions. And if I want to do more exercises I will just add a ladder of 2 more exercises.
If you make it to 10 then you will have done 55 reps of each exercise. Not bad for 10 minutes!
Generally, if people can make it to 10 in ten minutes I give them harder variations of the exercise. For example, instead of doing push-ups you could do incline push-ups with your feet on a chair.
And of course, the simplest way of making anything weight-based more difficult, is to add more weight.
And if people can’t get at least 4 (10 reps each) then I give them easier variations. For example, if you are having trouble with push-ups then you can push your hands on a desk and do elevated push ups.
On another note, one or both of the exercises can be bilateral, meaning you have to do them on both sides. For example lunges, or one arm overhead press.
This works especially great when the two exercises use different muscle groups or movement patterns.
Here are 5 examples:
Push-ups and squats
Pull-ups and push-ups
Hinge and overhead press
Pull-ups and lunges
Single leg deadlift and incline rows
As Many Rounds as Possible (AMRAP)
In this version, you have the reps of the exercises you are doing stay the same and you see how many rounds you can do in 10 minutes. As you progress you will be able to do more rounds.
Once again when the form breaks down stop and rest. You always want high-quality movement. This also works well with nasal breathing.
Generally, I have found 2-5 exercises work well for this version.
This is also a great place to sneak in some mobility or activation work, especially when there are 4 or 5 exercises.
Here is an example with different amounts of exercises:
2: 10 kettlebell swings - 5 push-ups
3: 5 Rows - 10 Push-ups - 15 squats
4: Leg Lowering 5 each side - Single Leg Deadlift 5 each side - Kettlebell halo 3 each direction - OHP 3 each side
5: Child’s pose breathing 5 breaths - Hip rocking 15 times - Goblet squat 5 reps - Kettlebell halo 3 each side - Pull up 2 reps
Once again as you get tired you might have to take breaks before finishing all of your reps of a given exercise.
Generally, if someone can’t do all of the first round “unbroken” meaning only resting between exercises it is too difficult and the weight or reps need to be adjusted to make it easier.
If someone never needs to take a rest during a set then I usually make it more difficult. Once you get to this point there is little room for improvement on getting more rounds in the set time of 10 minutes. We can decrease the rest but now we have gotten away from the strength training toward cardio. While this workout definitely gets both when we are short on time we want to be more on the strength training side on the spectrum.
With this method, we are having you work for a set amount and rest for a set amount during the 10 minutes. There are two fundamental ways we can do this: time and distance.
With time, instead of setting a timer for 10 minutes we set an interval timer to let us know when to work and when to rest for a total of 10 minutes
For example, work 15 seconds, rest 45 seconds - 10 rounds
Or work 1 minute, rest 1 minute - 10 rounds
Or work 4 minutes, rest 1 minute - 2 rounds
There are plenty of interval timing apps in the app store for both android and iPhone.
The second option is to use distances. For example, you could run a certain distance (say 40 meters) then walk it back and run it again for 10 minutes.
Or you could run 100 m, walk 50 m, and repeat for 10 minutes.
Using distance is also a great way to get carries (insert link) into your workout.
Kettlebell swing 15 seconds, rest 45 seconds for 10 rounds
Jump rope 30 seconds, rest 30 seconds for 10 rounds
Farmers carry 20 meters, walk 20 meters, repeat for 10 minutes
Leopard crawl 10 meters, walk 10 meters, repeat for 10 minutes
Every Minute On the Minute (EMOM)
This method involves doing a set amount of work every minute and then resting for the remainder of the minute.
A key thing to notice here is it means the faster you get the work done the more time you have to rest.
This doesn’t mean you should let your form deteriorate to get it done as fast as possible. It is better to cut the prescribed work load than it is to rush through with poor form and risk hurting yourself.
For example, you could do 10 one arm kettlebell swings each side (20 total) EMOM.
This would be 200 swings (100 each side) total in 10 minutes.
You don’t have to keep the exercise even on each side every minute. This is particularly helpful when you want to do something heavier.
For example, you could do a heavy kettlebell snatch 5 times EMOM. This can be done either alternating (5L, 5R, 5L, 5R, …) or all on the same side then switch halfway through (5L, 5L, 5L, 5L, 5L, 5R, 5R, 5R, 5R, 5R). This second method is very popular in kettlebell sport training. The reason being in competition competitors are only allowed one hand switch during the event.
This method is similar to Interval Training but you can “earn” extra rest by moving faster. But what generally happens as the timer ticks you start losing rest as you get fatigued and the moves take longer.
Say we are doing 10 bodyweight squats and 5 push ups on the minute. In the beginning it could take you 30 seconds and you'd get 30 seconds of rest.
But as you get fatigued and move more slowly it might take 35 seconds. Now you only get 25 second of rest. And since you are more fatigued the next round takes 40 seconds and you only get 20 and the cycle continues.
While you can speed up and get more rest each round remember:
Technique is everything.
Once it deteriorates it is smarter to do fewer reps or cut the workout early and live to train another day. Instead of getting sloppy to get more rest so you can finish a “workout”.
Kettlebell long cycle clean and Jerk 5 each side on the minute
10 Bodyweight Squats + 5 Push ups on the minute.
This is just an introduction to how you can use 10-minute segments to adjust your workouts to fit your lifestyle and accommodate the constant changes that pop up.
You can make your own or use the examples above to get a few segments that you can start incorporating into your training. Make sure to switch it up every so often so your results don’t start stagnating and so you can keep the workouts interesting.