It’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. We have to work out. 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 or even happen in a gym.
All you need is ten minutes to get a great workout that hits every body part and promotes extensive training adaptations. Here are ten ideas for you to try next time you want to hit it hard.
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.
Babies naturally crawl, but adults should crawl too. Crawling around on all fours develops shoulder mobility and strength and contralateral awareness, plus the basic ability to move around and explore the environment.
For the workout, bear 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
This is a simple, effective workout of 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.
Sprinting can be running on a flat surface, or it can be sprinting up a hill. You can also sprint on a rower, a bike, a stair climber… anything at all. Just sprint.
For ten minutes, play in the park. 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. Climb any trees that are around, sprint any hills. Just keep moving as if you’re a kid on a candy-fueled bender.
Spend ten minutes doing everything you can think of to move around on and interact with the playground equipment and park environment. Ten minutes is long enough to get a great workout but short enough to evade suspicion. Never stop moving.
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.
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, fill the can a respectable amount. Once the can is full enough to be challenging, 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. Do squats almost to failure, then dump it out, fill it back up, and repeat. If the can isn’t full enough to be a challenge, add a bit more material in between sets.
Rearrange the Room
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.
Modified Beach Sprints
If you haven’t seen my old beach sprint video, check it out now. The cool thing about sprinting on the moist beach sand 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 modify it?
One way you can modify beach sprints is to wade out to where the water is lapping at your knees and run sprints through the water. Do 30 seconds on, one minute off, until the ten minutes are up.
Another way is to move to the totally dry sand. The deep, soft sand that makes you go half speed but double the effort. Extra points if you run up a dune.
You’ll need a partner for this and a car.
Choose a street or parking lot with a slight incline if you can.
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 for 30 seconds. Don’t sprint it so much as walk it. Think of this as a test of your strength. 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, only going as fast as you can. Sprint.
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.
10-Minute Loaded Carry
Choose a weight equal to 1/3 to 1/2 of your current bodyweight and carry it for a full ten minutes. Use a barbell loaded with the requisite weight, a heavy sandbag, or a kettlebell. 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.
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?
About the Author
Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending more than three decades educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates flavorful and delicious kitchen staples crafted with premium ingredients like avocado oil. With over 70 condiments, sauces, oils, and dressings in their lineup, Primal Kitchen makes it easy to prep mouthwatering meals that fit into your lifestyle.