Meet Mark

Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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October 15 2007

My Weekly Workout Routine

By Mark Sisson
42 Comments

I’ve received a number of emails from readers asking for more details about my workout routine, especially after publishing a Case Against Cardio and the recent video of my beach sprints. Though I do snowboard and hike and love to try my hand at new stuff – especially while traveling – this basic weekly routine has been my foundational regimen for years. Of course, depending on travel, business and family matters, the routine varies, but this is the general idea. Over the years I’ve concentrated much more of my efforts on weight training, with great results. And I’m definitely an “outdoor” kind of guy. One thing I really appreciate about living in Southern California is the great weather; you can’t beat a hike for a natural, challenging work out. (By the way, if you’re not doing resistance activities, I encourage you to start. Weight-bearing and resistance exercises are essential, particularly as we age.)

Monday

Weights: 45-55 minutes of chest/shoulders/triceps training

Tuesday

Intervals: 35-40 minutes on the Lifecycle (5×1 minute hard intervals within that time)

Wednesday

Weights: 45-55 minutes of back/biceps/legs training

Thursday

Beach sprints (Weather permitting!)

Friday

Weights: 45-55 minutes chest/shoulders/triceps (I rotate every other week – Monday/Friday – to back/biceps/legs)

Saturday

I hike for at least 2 hours or, if I’m traveling or pressed for time, I repeat my Lifecycle workout

Sunday

The best day of the week: 2 hours of ultimate frisbee in a multi-family pick-up game. It’s great to spend time with the kids and our friends and get everybody into fitness together. This has become my favorite activity by far.

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42 thoughts on “My Weekly Workout Routine”

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  1. Interesting routine, Mark. Care to divulge what lifts, set, and rep range you’re doing for your weight training schedule?

    1. With all respect to any one who still uses weights, a crucial part of my evolution as an athlete was to let go of the old bodybuilding paradigm. (Though I really do miss cleans and presses) Age and injuries forced me to adapt and modify. As we all know by now, We can maintain and build muscular mass and strength with simple, bodyweight movements. I like to keep it real simple. After all, a pushup is a pushup. I average 400 a week. Pullups(and variations) squats, and “The king of total body exercises”: The Burpee. 100 in 7:15 Age 59
      And then, of course your choice of 4 different interval workouts:
      1) soft sand sprints: 80 yds.X 10 / 30 sec rest = 10 min total
      2) stairs: walk or run or combo. Approx. 30 sec. climb / 30-45 sec rest/ 10 Rnds
      3) Rowing machine: One min. on (try for 250m)/ one min. off 10 rnds
      4) Swim sprints. A whole other world. In the pool or, much better: 55-60 Degree ocean swim. Cap and goggles only. 50 stroke intervals. mix it up.

  2. I’ve been doing this program for a week now (since I first e-mailed Mark about it after reading his Case Against Cardio) and I have to say that I am impressed enough with my results to continue my experiment for another week. All of my workout buddies think I am INSANE. I went from doing cardio 9 times a week (60+ min a pop) and weight training 5 days a week to doing what Mark does (3-4 days cardio w/ 2 days sprints & 3 days of weights on non-consecutive days). So basically I cut out a TON of cardio and some of my weights. The results? In ONE week I’ve lost 2 lbs and gone down 1% in bodyfat. I know that doesn’t sound like a lot but I’m going to try it again this week:) Thanks Mark!!

  3. Charlotte, if it makes you feel any better all my friends and family think that I am nuts when I tell them how little I work out. I do about 90 minutes of weight training per week, about 10-15 minutes of intervak training per week and then just take enjoyable 30-60 minute walks whenever I can. People also look at my weird when I tell them I am a 1 set guy when it comes the weights.

    Most the time I just keep my diet and fitness routine to myself unless someone specifically asks about it.

  4. primalman,
    A few weeks ago I would have thought you were nuts too but now I think you may be on to something. Can I ask – what is your bodyfat % at? Do you do your one set to failure?

  5. I plan on returning to weight training and doing something like this once I recover from double hernia surgery. 4 more weeks of going nuts. I won’t cut out all cardio. Instead will probably work some sprints into my road rides and start taking it easier for the majority of the ride. Adding weights probably twice a week. Then modify from there.

    Since I can’t ride at all and I was riding 100 miles per week, I’ve started losing weight again. After reading Mark’s article and a couple other’s I began to suspect that I needed ease off and definitely include cardio. Hopefully once I can start again, I will resume losing weight because its been about 6-7 months since any good progress.

  6. Charlotte, I really do not know what my BF% is for sure. I can only estimate. I am about 172 lbs. and my waist is 30-31 inches, so I would guess somewhere around 8%, give or take.

    I do one set as hard as I can, stopping when I cannot do anymore reps. I did abou 4 sets of each exercise for years and years. I then did the research and found that sets 2-4 were probably a waste of time. So, I did an experiment on myself and started doing just one hard set and found that it works just as well.

  7. My background is in running and cycling (I used to do biathlons until the guys with the guns insisted we change the name to duathlon),and I always neglected my upper body. I’ve just started a program using a kettlebell (google it if you haven’t heard of them)and it’s great. The best thing is that you don’t have to “go to the gym.” You can do all the workouts in the back yard. Some of the workouts are about developing strength and others help with endurance. I’ve tailored mine so that one of the workouts serves as an interval workout, and I’m gaining some upper body strength for the first time in my life. I credit Primal Nutrition for the bulk of my 25 pound weight loss, but following Mark’s advice on exercise has played a big part as well. My old influences were Marty Liquori, Dave Scott, and Greg Lemond. Now it’s Mark and Grok! 🙂

  8. That’s pretty similar to my routine Mark. Except I do still add a bit of cardio to my routine. Four days of weights, around 30 minutes each and on three of those days I do a bit of cardio, usually on a bike or treadmill. Nothing too serious, just around 30 minutes. Not sure how much it helps, but I know I like the way I feel afterwards.

    Plus I hike on the weekend when the weather permits.

    Gal

  9. A bit late with this comment, but I notice you don’t really have a rest/recovery day. I am sure that with your background you are aware of whether you need rest or not; but Mr De Vany, for example, would cavil at the Primalness of this regimen since it defies the law (his law??) of randomness and intermittency. What do you think?
    Huw
    http://Www.runflux.com for running news and links

  10. Huw,

    Good point.
    I wind up taking unplanned days all the time…so I don’t plan them. When I travel I’ll go a day or two without working out. If I’m fried from an intense session the prior day, I take a day off and pick up where I left off. Sometimes my kids have soccer days (I coach) and it’s just not worth it for me to fit a workout in. I used to agonize over lost days. Now I couldn’t be bothered.

  11. Thanks for your reply, Mark – and it makes your routine sound even better. (I’ve given up agonising about lost days, but some of the athletes I coach need tons of reassurance when they lose a day!)

  12. Hi Mark,

    I’ve recently come across your site, and have been avidly trying to catch up on the several years worth of posts you have here.

    Having come to this one, you mention that you were going to post details of your weights regime, but I cannot seem to find it.

    I’m just interested on your hearing your thoughts around how a weight program should be structured, beyond the ‘lift heavy’ detailed in the primal blueprint.

    I personally achieve the lift heavy goal by following the stronglifts.com 5×5 program.

    Looking forward to your response.

  13. Mark,

    Do you do one set of reps on your weight lifting days of the week?

  14. Mark,

    Do you lift one set of reps on your weight lifting days during the week?

    I’ve tried 5 x 5 but no luck gaining muscle mass. First 3 sets are light to warm up for the last two heaviest sets.

  15. David, all depends on what day it is and how I’m trying to mix it up. I will say that at 55, it’s a little dicey to do one set of really heavy. The injury potential is greater, so I usually do 3-4 sets now. Sometimes I’ll do ten sets (like if it’s a pull-up marathon)

  16. Hi Mark its only been a few months since i discovered your site through Rustys fitness black book, and thanks to you guys i have gone from ok to awesome, please we are still waiting for you to post your weight lifting routine, weight range, sets, reps etc, it will really be appreciate. thanks alot

  17. Great stuff. Can I ask what is a lifecycle? Treadmill or exercise bike?

  18. Hi Mark,

    I was wondering, do you specifically fuel the cardio/more strenous activity you do or eat specifically afterwards to aid recovery etc?

    Many thanks

  19. I weigh 290lbs and push myself hard when I workout. My workouts and diet(paleo) are designed to stimulate HGH and Testosterone.

    Here is an example of my workout:

    Goliath Circuit (I’m a dork 🙂 )
    3x Burpee + Clean + Push press
    1x Deadlift, 275lbs
    1 lap Carcass carry (carry an 80lb sandbag on my shoulder for about 40 seconds)
    100x Jump rope
    5 rounds for time

    I do a similar workout to this at about 3pm every once in awhile. EVERY time I go to bed that night, I feel incredibly hot and I can’t sleep. I know that there is a phenomenon called the “HGH Flush” but I thought it was right after the workout, not 7hrs later.

    Has anyone experienced this? Am I not getting enough of something? (i.e. salt, etc) I sweat a ton but I drink a lot of water (1 gallon). Am I shocking my system? I go from about 400g carbs per day to about 50g. I live in West Texas where it is dry and between 90 to 100 degrees.

    Also, I want to point out that Mark is exactly right about the 5×5 program. It does stimulate the most HGH and Testosterone because I feel energetic afterwards and the following day. But I don’t do it often because I am so out of shape I am sore two days later and then for the entire week (delayed onset of muscle soreness).

    Thank you for your time,

    Steve

  20. I’ve recently moved to strength/olympic/body weight training at 30 minutes x 4-5 days a week with 1 trail run a week. I used to be an endurance junkie so this is a major change from the 12-15 hours of training I used to do. Plenty of benefits including no longer married to food(eating mostly paleo now), increased muscle mass, decreased body fat, increased performance, and I’m rarely sick compared to 4-5 bugs a year when I was an endurance ‘junkie’.

    The best advantage is the free time I have!

    1. I read the article. I would say we were born to “sprint.” As a chiropractor, I notice that a lot of my toughest cases are chronic cardio / marathon type runners. They always re-aggravate their knee, ankle, hip, and back problems and completely reverse any progress made. The typical marathoner I see regularly also gets weekly med/sport massages, has done several rounds of PT for various injuries, and has had a few surgeries already. The patients I am pretty certain train more “primally” require MUCH less maintenance (and look a heck of a lot healthier). I know this is all anecdotal, but it is a trend we talk about in our profession all the time. It’s frustrating as a practitioner, certainly. Marathoners abuse their bodies are less healthy for it. Period.

  21. u should workout just one part of your body PER DAY example

    monday: back
    tuesday: chest
    wendesday: legs
    thursday: shoulders
    friday: arms

  22. wud this routine work

    m-chest/bicep
    t-tricep/sholders
    w/back/core
    th-off
    f-repeat

    i dont do cardio im a smoker

  23. Hi Mark,

    Did you ever give the details of your weight workout. I am 58 and recently purchased both of your books. I have been on the program for 3 weeks but do not feel the bodyweight workout is enough. Any helpful advice?

    Ray

  24. I am assuming you have changed up your training since this post Mark. I would be interested to see an updated sample of what your weekly workout routine would look like. Always good to see what the master Grok is doing 😉

  25. *edit…

    From what it sounds like this was more of a 3 day body split with standard weightlifting. From your more recent articles your doing 2 maybe 3 full body HIIT routines with a sprint/interval day? Are they mainly like the stuff you put out in PBF or the WOWs. Or do you hit the weights in the gym or what?
    Thanks…

  26. @Greg. Yes, this post was written over three years ago. I train a lot less now and in alignment with PBF. I will do an updated version very soon.

    1. I know this olddddddddddddd but I have been hooked on beach body dvds mainly your buddy tony Horton. and I am kicking those routines out the door because I am at my goal weight and I want to add little more muscle I want to look like you Mark!!! but I am used to to dvds telling what to do and or having a planner of all the exercises in front of me with no guess work. do you have any thing out that lists what you do, how many reps , how many times? I guess I need guide to hold my hand to kick the dvds.

  27. I know I’m coming late to the party, but I’m still trying to figure out what you all are talking about when it comes to reps, sets and cycles. Here is what I think Mark suggests – don’t count the reps in a set, just do a chosen number of reps. So instead of 3 sets of 5 reps each for a knee pushup, do as many as you can do, then switch up to the next exercise. Is this right? And then do this cycle, twice.

    I’ll take any advice on what’s I’m doing, I’d like to know if I understand this correctly.

    I work on a Lifespan tread-a-desk, and I now walk (very slowly) for 1.5 hours a day. I like working standing up, and when I can walk, I do it. Minimum 1 hour is the goal I set myself, and I’m topping that.

    About 5 days a week, I start the day with body weight exercises. At first, I was doing x reps in 3 sets, in 1 cycle. But after reading Mark’s blog posts, I changed that recently to do as many knee pushups, full squats and knee planks as I can, repeating that for two cycles. Well, I can’t do two cycles yet, but I will get there!

    I bought a chin up/pull up bar, and I’m going to install it this weekend so I can that to the deck.

    I used to LOVE to sprint, in my 40s, but now I’m 60, and not very fit. I am going to try this again, though, really, really liked sprinting.

    So is this close to what you all recommend? Did I understand the change from reps in sets to ‘just do as many as you can’?

    Thanks!

  28. Mark you are a legend, I love you.
    I wonder, what is your eating schedule surrounding workouts, I just watched your keto chat with Tom Bilyeu and you mentioned something about “can you do a workout and not eat for an hour and a half”

    I am wondering your opinion on protein shakes, when and what to eat pre and post workout,

    I generally workout at the end of my intermittent fasting period, and then generally eat directly after the workout. Keen to hear your thoughts,