Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
20 Mar

10 Full Body Workouts You Can Do in 10 Minutes Flat

KettlebellsIt’d be nice if regular activity was woven into our daily lives so that we could stay lean, strong, and fit without really thinking about it, but that’s not the world most of us live in. We have to set aside time to move our bodies. But, as I always say, this doesn’t mean we have to exercise atop a conveyor belt with a TV in front of it doing everything we can to forget that we’re even exercising in the first place. It doesn’t mean the workouts have to take an hour to complete. And it certainly doesn’t mean you need a gym to get in some good activity. That’s why I started writing the Workouts of the Week, a compendium of fun, effective, varied workouts for you to try. Readers still visit the archives to shake up their routines, so be sure to check them out if you’re in the market.

Today, I add ten additional fast but effective workouts to the list.

Max Reps Multiplied

Choose two movements – one upper body focused, one lower body focused – that are complementary and do not conflict with each other. Pullups and squats, good. Deadlifts and squats, not so good. For each movement, perform the maximum amount of consecutive reps you can do. Multiply that number by four to give you a target amount of total reps. You have ten minutes to reach the target rep count in each exercise using any set and rep scheme you desire. So if you were able to do eight pullups and six front squats in a row, you need to do 32 more pullups and 24 more front squats. For weighted movements, 50 reps (including your initial max set) is the upper limit. For bodyweight movements like air squats and pushups, the upper limit is 100 reps. If you reach the upper limit, add weight next time.

Baby Steps

Very few of us launched right into full-blown bipedalism out of the womb. Instead, we crawled, crawled, and crawled some more. Contrary to the popular belief that crawling is just a useless placeholder for walking, moving around on all fours develops shoulder mobility and strength and contralateral awareness, plus the basic ability to move around and explore the environment. Adults should crawl too. It’s a little different for us, though. We’re heavier than babies,  so crawling can be taxing, particularly on the upper body. We’re also not used to crawling, so it’s a new movement all over again for many of us.

The easiest way to learn how to crawl correctly is to start on the hands and knees. Assume the position. Place your left hand/left knee close together and your right hand/right knee further from each other. “Step” forward with your left hand and right knee, then follow with the right hand and left knee. Continue in this contralateral fashion. You can certainly try to crawl ipsilaterally (right hand/right knee forward), but your movement will be suboptimal. Once you’re comfortable on your knees, move to the balls of your feet and hands.

For the workout, crawl for seven minutes out of the allotted ten. The three minutes of break time can be divided into as many break periods as you like (e.g. three 1-minute breaks, or ten 18-second breaks, etc.). Crawl forward, crawl backward, crawl uphill, crawl downhill. Crawl sideways. Just explore the environment from the vantage point of a big baby.

Short and Heavy

Rather than a description of Gimli son of Glóin, this is a prescription for heavy kettlebell swings and short sprints. Every minute on the minute, do ten swings with a weight that’s heavy for you and follow it immediately up with a short 5 second all-out sprint. Because the actual workout part of the workout will be short (but very intense), put every fiber of your being into the swinging and especially the sprinting. It doesn’t sound like much, but it will be after ten minutes.

If you don’t have a kettlebell, any weighted object that’s able to safely pass between your legs will work. Sandbag, weight plate, dumbbell, small child, etc.

The basic kettlebell swing is detailed in this video by Dan John. Watch it if you need to know how to perform the swing correctly. To switch things up from the standard swing, check out this video from Clifton Harski for some ideas on how to do it.

Park Play

Here in the United States, a single guy is liable to get the cops called if he so much as glances at a jungle gym set. Heck, most of the ones I see actually have signs explicitly forbidding childless adults from being there, so for this workout, you’re going to have to be covert about it. Stick to times when the playground is empty, partly for your security and partly so you don’t bowl over any kids during your workout. Or, bring a kid (hopefully your own) to join in with you.

The makeup of this workout depends on the equipment at your disposal. Most jungle gyms allow you to do some sort of pullup, so do some of those. If you can swing across from bar to bar, all the better. Climb poles, vault over barriers. Avoid taking the stairs and instead climb the structure itself. Crawl up slides, then slide back down and finish with a roll onto the ground. Just keep moving as if you’re a kid on a candy-fueled bender. Maybe there are some hot lava monsters afoot, too.

Spend ten minutes doing everything you can think of to move around on and interact with the playground equipment. Ten minutes is long enough to get a great workout but short enough to evade suspicion. For more ideas watch this, this, this, this and this Primal Blueprint Fitness videos.

Burpee Ladder

The burpee is a simple yet humbling exercise. You begin with a pushup – that’s easy enough, right? – and spring up to the bottom of a squat, then stand and jump as high as you can before repeating the movement pattern. The first seven or eight burpees are always pretty easy, because you’re so focused on doing the movement that you barely realize the amount of taxation your body is accumulating. Once you finish that first set, though, the realization that you’re in for a rough time sets in.

Do ten of these the first minute, nine the second, eight the third, and so on. The faster you perform the burpees, the more rest you’ll get until the next set. The slower you perform the burpees, the less rest you’ll need since the burpees will be easier. What do you choose? Where do you strike the balance between intensity and rest? That’s for you to find out.

Dig, Dug

For this one, you’ll need a couple pieces of equipment. First, a medium sized garbage can. Second, a bunch of sand, diggable dirt, or gravel (the beach would work nicely here). Third, a shovel.

Using the shovel (or your hands if you prefer), fill the can at least a quarter of the way for women and halfway full for men. Once the can is at the requisite fullness, squat down so that you’re straddling the can and wrap your arms around it. Pull the can toward you (bear-hug style), maintain proper neutral spine, and stand up with the can in your arms. Perform three sets of 5 squats. If the can isn’t full enough to be a challenge, add a bit more material in between sets. After the third set, spend the rest of the allotted ten minutes filling the can up the rest of the way.

Travel Rearrangement

I often find that traveling affords me unique and effective ways to exercise. Either the place I’m staying at has a great gym with all the equipment I’d ever need, or perhaps the location is such that outdoor activities are encouraged and unavoidable. But sometimes you end up in those joints with a few mismatched dumbbells, a broken elliptical trainer, and surrounding environs comprised entirely of strip malls and parking lots. When that’s the case, how’s a guy supposed to get a good workout in? Burpees in the bathroom and dips on the chairs are effective, but those get old fast.

Next time you’re stuck in a hotel room, antsy to work out, consider rearranging the furniture. I’m serious here. That old CRT TV that weighs a million pounds? Move it over to the opposite corner. The entertainment center? Slide it across the floor to the other side. Flip the sofa up and over, flip the mattress, lift the easy chair. Pull, push, slide, lift, carry, and heave furniture around. Do this for ten minutes and work up a great sweat. But of course, be careful. We wouldn’t want any damage charges added to your hotel bill.

Beach Sprints, Modified

If you haven’t seen my old beach sprint video, check it out now. The cool thing about sprinting on the beach is that it’s easier on the joints and yet harder on your muscles because you’re working with a softer, more forgiving surface that absorbs a lot of the impact. How about we take it a step further and move toward the surf?

For Beach Sprints, Modified, you’ll be sprinting through shin to knee deep water. Wade out to where the water is lapping at your thighs and run sprints up and down the beach. Do 30 seconds on, one minute off, until the ten minutes are up. Classic beach sprints are also a dependable staple, of course.


You’ll need a partner for this, partly to steer the car and partly because you’re going to need a rest. You’ll also need a car.

Choose a street or parking lot with a slight elevation. It shouldn’t be such that you have to turn your wheels toward the curb when parking. In fact, it should be barely perceptible to the naked eye.

Have your partner sit behind the wheel with the car in neutral, the engine off, and the parking break released. Get behind the back bumper, face the car, and push the car up the slight incline. I recommend around 20-30 yards depending on the weight/size of the car. Don’t sprint it so much as walk it. Think of this as a test of your strength rather than something to throw yourself blindly upon. It’ll be a grind. Take full steps and be sure to place your heel on the ground with each step. Take a minute to rest, then push the car back the other way, slightly downhill, only going twice the distance as the first run, and sprint. You’ll find you go about twice as fast going downhill. It’s a very different feeling than the grind-it-out sensation of the uphill push.

Switch places with your partner and try to get another round of pushing in before the ten minutes is up.

Try not to throw up. And again, be extremely careful when attempting this challenge.

Could You Carry Your Prepubescent Self?

Forgive the convoluted name, but it makes sense when you learn what the workout entails: carrying a weight equal to 1/3 to 1/2 your current bodyweight for a full ten minutes. Use a barbell loaded with the requisite weight, a heavy sandbag, or an actual prepubescent version of yourself. Carry it for ten minutes using any method desired; just don’t put the weight down. Carry it on one shoulder, or both. Carry it in the front rack position, or placed on your traps. It doesn’t matter, and variety is actually probably best.

While merely standing there might seem like the easiest way to reach ten minutes, from my experience you’ll end up focusing too much on the weight and get discouraged. Instead, try walking around. Be the crazy guy who walks around the neighborhood with a barbell. Walk around your yard. If you’re game, throw in a few lunges and presses while you’re at it. Just don’t drop the weight until the ten minutes have passed.

If you have a little more than ten minutes and access to the outdoors, might I recommend the Outdoor Stamina workout?

That’s it, guys. Hope you’re able to get some use out of these workouts. I definitely have.

What about you? What are your favorite ten minute go-to workouts?

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. I’m going to start off carrying the chubby one-year-old for ten minutes (easy) then move onto the six-year-old (wriggly) and then finally the nine-year-old (Muuuum! Put me doooown! My friends will see you!)

    CCUK wrote on March 20th, 2013
  2. I needed this. I’ve been doing the 4 essential exercises for the past 8 months and I just needed some variation, not in the exercises per se, just in the approach…thanks

    TwinDad wrote on March 20th, 2013
  3. Good list. I like how simple it is.
    Similar to crawling, I like to make my way along this town’s riverside because it’s steep and there’s lots of plant/tree life to maneuver past and use as holds.
    I do Park Play. If I feel like it I’ll “show off” (demonstrate skills) at the park when there’s kids there. I like to do big jumps off the swings, just touch the ground with my feet, and turn it into a roll. Once after I climbed up a curling tube slide and on the structure in various ways a kid started climbing up the slide but his humbug guardian forbade him to continue.
    Beach sprints reminds me of a bout of intermittent euphoria Sunday. It started with a little red wine and coffee, and then as I was right about where I wanted to be I saw a cat that I think I recognized; it might be a stray. It was a little nervous but I opened a can of sardines for it, which drew it over, and then I mashed them up and dumped them out so it could eat easier. It ate a bit as I lay on the ground beside it and then continued on its walk so I ate the rest and continued on mine, barefoot through crunchy snow, down a river. After a while I put my boots back on. My feet were a bit roughed up.
    Suddenly I had an undeniable urge to eat mud, like I was posessed, so I had a couple mouthfuls, and then started walking back up the river, in it.. wearing my regular clothes, coat, boots. At one point the water was waist high. I didn’t care. I wasn’t even cold. I felt great.

    Animanarchy wrote on March 20th, 2013
  4. Rearranging furniture in the hotel room is something I do all the time, even though I had not thought of it as a workout and I don’t spend 10 minutes doing it. While not a whole body workout, here’s another great hotel activity for those who travel and want to get your intervals done in short order. Every hotel has stairs for their emergency exit, and nobody but me ever seems to use them very often. While I take the stairs in a hotel most of the time just to get up and down, even in a 2-3 story hotel, running up and down the stairs is a great way to do intervals. 10 minutes of this is way better than most of the hotel gyms. I actually find this fun–but I’ll admit my notion of fun is not everyone’s cup of tea!

    Tim wrote on March 20th, 2013
  5. My workouts have been getting longer and longer (not to mention boring) lately as I’ve slowly increased my amount of reps on all the exercises I do. Reading Mark’s post and the comments here I think I need to reduce the reps and rest periods in between and make the workout more intense. Sounds like a plan!

    Richard Long wrote on March 20th, 2013
    • Back when I lived in a house with the luxurious furnishings of modern technology (I really miss those! but when moping about the dreariness of camping all winter, I just have to remind myself of people who did the same thing.. in wars, and the eskimos, who do it as a way of life) I had intermissions in my workouts. I’d burn through some sugar stores and then hop on the computer for a bit as my muscles recharged. (With a fresh cup of tea or coffee, likely). Websites, games, movies, music, youtube.. there were lots of enjoyable ways to keep the mind occupied while catching up on energy.

      Animanarchy wrote on March 21st, 2013
      • Though, to digress, I can take solace in the fact I have unlimited access to the outdoors and nary a responsbility to adhere to, save my own survival.

        Animanarchy wrote on March 21st, 2013
  6. Awesome! Well I just completed 10 minutes of “Max Reps Multiplied” and I have to say it’ll be a favorite of mine. Time sure flies.. was able to complete only 3x my max reps of both Pullups (max/12) did 36, Air Squats (max/50) did 150. A great workout in a minimal amount of time. I’m satisfied but know I can do better. Did sprints yesterday as well as some chin-ups. I’m telling myself that’s the reason why I didn’t have the juice today. Oh yeah. also logged 70 miles walking around Vegas just last week. All is good and getting better!

    Rob wrote on March 20th, 2013
    • Have been doing Air Squats w/ absolute must unless you want to do 200 or more otherwise! Although that’s ok too. Certainly mixing up the amount of reps per set is wise as well. Pullups and Air Squats are a great combination and make for a very effective workout.
      The Burpee Ladder: I did them in 30 second segments instead. A minute is too long. I’ll try what another poster did and that is do 10 burpees (maybe more) per minute for ten minutes and see how it goes.

      Rob wrote on April 4th, 2013
  7. Thank you Mark for the excellent workouts, and especially for your humor. I laughed out loud when you wrote,
    “Short and Heavy
    Rather than a description of Gimli son of Glóin,”

    Keep up the fantastic work of bringing IT to the people.
    Crawling off now….

    Dana wrote on March 20th, 2013
  8. LOL to moving hotel furniture around! I can’t wait for trips to the beach this summer, I’ll definitely be getting my sprint on.

    Amber wrote on March 21st, 2013
  9. What a great post. I was laughing hysterically through this.

    Marisa wrote on March 21st, 2013
  10. Rather than crawl, you can do the ‘primordial walk,’ which may be even more beneficial. Just ‘walk’ around on your hands and feet, nothing else touching the ground.

    Stan wrote on March 21st, 2013
  11. Pretty neat routines! I really liked the ”cars” and the ”park play” one.

    Jess wrote on March 21st, 2013
  12. Mark, the local park is a great place and probably overlooked by many. We have one around the corner and with the pull bars and rings along a long jogging trail it has all I need for a great workout.
    thanks for the detailed post!

    Manny wrote on March 21st, 2013
  13. Mark, Thanks for the list of full body exercises. With my hectic life, it is very difficult to go to the gym for a workout. Some of these, I can do in my basement before I head off to work in the morning. Although at age 56, it may take me a bit longer than 10 minutes. :)

    Dennis wrote on March 21st, 2013
  14. I love these because of the simplicity and the perspective to view the environment we live in as a gym.
    The last one is exactly what I do with my 1/2 my bodyweight daughter on the 128 steps to the 8 floor where we live.
    I will give the car a try too.

    Martin wrote on March 21st, 2013
  15. Hey Im starting to get into this hard core. I didnt think I could change. Man what a difference positive thinking and a tune up on the way I live life. Any more suggestions would be appreciated and welcome.

    Hank wrote on March 21st, 2013
  16. Not a lot to say from me except I eagerly await to reads your daily posts. Mark you are inspirational and your passion and interest in living a healthy lifestyle long term and look after our well being is the message I get from you. Your daily thoughts & advice has helped my health and improved it two fold. Just want o send you my many thanks :)

    Melaus wrote on March 22nd, 2013
  17. Anybody think its sad that an adult has to be covert when visiting a park lest they arouse suspicion?

    Splint wrote on March 22nd, 2013
  18. These are some great simple exercises and perfect for me to workout around the house. I can do the crawling around but I don’t think I want to push a car.

    Suzy Harmon wrote on March 22nd, 2013
  19. A good workout for me is placing dumbells with a little weight on each side of me, squat, lift them, do a curl, lift them over my head, bring them to hip level, and squat putting them down. It works upper and lower body, and it’s quick. I do 12 repetitions 3 times. The burn is great.

    Paul wrote on March 22nd, 2013
  20. Ouch – Just did the 10 minute 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 burpee workout. Mission accomplished. Sweaty, breathless, done. 10 minutes.

    Chris Sturdy wrote on March 22nd, 2013
  21. Another great article. I have been interested in bodyweight excercises for a while now and have found little that beats a good burpee and a set of sprints. I love muay thai and think bodyweight excercises are the best way to develop functional strength that can be transfered into this type of sport.

  22. A lifestyle change has meant a lot more travel for me recently – as a keen runner, the good news is that there is always somewhere you can run regardless of which hotel you are staying at – just get outside (often pre-breakfast)!

    Though I agree, you need to be creative if you want a bodyweight or hotel room workout! Pulls – pushes – lifts are all usually possible if there is no hotel gym.

    Most important is that fitness regimes and habits don’t have to stop because we are on the move or living life in the fast lane!

    10 minutes is definitely enough to get an effective high intensity workout in!

    Luke M Davies wrote on March 23rd, 2013
  23. Who doesn’t want quick, challenging routines AAAnd get results! Me and I bet anybody else who’s fitness savvy. I love your suggestions, they’re tangible and interesting. I’ll be checking your blog out for more, in the meantime, apart from teaching yoga, I’ll get to trying your suggestions :) #CherylKarina

    Cheryl wrote on December 27th, 2013
  24. I do a mix of max rep and burpee sometime. I find that doing 5 burpees then 10 barbell squat thrusters until you reach 100 squats will burn you to ashes even if you take your time.

    Burpee + another exercise always make hardass workouts!

    Jonathan wrote on January 16th, 2014

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