Intense Workouts for Busy People

The Six-Phase Fitness Formula for Super Busy Folks

Crossfit’s been doing it for years. We’ve all seen the results first hand in the 2006 hit film, “300.” And in the same year, Canadian researchers stated that shorter routines involving bursts of high-intensity exercise offer the same health benefits as programs involving longer-duration exercise at a lower intensity.

Health officials recommend 30 – 60 minutes of exercise, daily. How many people actually satisfy those requirements? Not many. In fact, the primary excuse for not being able to workout is that you don’t have time.

In the Canadian study, published in the September issue of the Journal of Physiology, Martin Gibala compared one group of young men performing 90 to 120 minutes of exercise with another group performing interval training lasting just 20 minutes. Each group performed their workouts 3 times a week.

The professor of kinesiology at McMaster University in Hamilton found that both groups showed similar improvements in exercise performance and the way their muscles used oxygen.

Dr. Tabata of the National Health & Nutrition institue of Tokyo, Japan set out to find a training protocol which was high in intenseity, promoted fitness, and was brief. Dr Tababa knew that high intensity workouts stimulate your metabolic rate, causing more calories to be burnt over the next 48 hours. In addition, the more fit you are, the more likely you are to burn fat as fuel. Dr. Tabata also knew that too much aerobics would lead to muscle breakdown, and so he wanted to keep the sessions as brief as possible.

In Tabata’s study, he separated subjects into a high intensity and a moderate intensity group. Results showed the the high intensity group had a 14% increase in their VO2 max (aerobic fitness) as opposed to a 10% increase with the moderate intensity group. In addition, he found a 28% increase in anaerobic capacity (muscle power) in the high intensity group. There was no improvement in anaerobic capacity with the moderate intensity group.

From the Tabata study, Crossfit, 300 guys, the Canadian study, and my own empirical evidence we find that short, intense workouts increases aerobic capacity, burns fat, improves sports performance, improves aerobic recovery abilities, burns more calories overall, releases GH (Growth Hormon) into the blood, and increases your lactic acid threshold.

With all these benefits, you’d think that everyone would be performing short, intense workouts.

However, I still hear of people spending 2 hours lifting weights or performing cardio in the gym. More is not better with exercise. In fact, more can have catabolic (muscle breakdown) effects on your body, especially with aerobics. And, as mentioned earlier, people don’t have time to spend 30 – 60 minutes in the gym, how will they have time to spend 2 hours in the gym like all the bodybuilders want you to?

Those that are ready to start training at a higher intensity, I have outlined an 6 – point program to help you steadily transition from low intensity, long duration to high intensity, short duration:

Phase One - Superset Everything!

The first step in condensing your workouts is to superset. Now, I understand that for some people going from straight sets to super sets wll be difficult. The best way to transition is to alternate between two exercises with rest in between. For example, lets say you have a chest workout that has you doing incline presses, flat bench press, dumbell flyes, and cable crossovers. Here is what my version of that would look like:

A-1) Incline Bench Press
A-2) Incline Dumbbell Fly
B-1) Flat Bench Press
B-2) Cable Crossovers

To start off, you would rest one minute between each exercise. For example, perform an incline bench press, rest 1 minute, then do an incline dumbbell fly. Go back to an incline bench press, and alternate in that manner until you have completed all the sets. Gradually decrease the rest intervals until you are performing 0 rest within the superset. Between the superset, you can rest a bit longer, perhaps starting off with two or three minutes, and work your way down to just one minute of rest.

Phase Two - Tri-set Everything!

Follow the basic parameters outlined above. For the chest workout, I would perform a heavy set of flat bench press, then triset the three following exercises.

Once again, start off with 1 minute of rest between each exercise, then work your way down to 0 seconds.

Phase Three - Circuit Train!

With circuit training, what you are doing is putting together all four exercises and performing them back to back in the fashion described earlier. These have also been called Giant Sets. Call it whatever you want, the concept is the same. Progress the same way as before.

Note that you may not have to increase the weight that you lift during this time. You may even see new growth due to the fact that your workouts are becoming harder.

Phase Four - Learn to Train Full Body!

This is a very difficult concept to understand for those that are used to split training. Read my article on transitioning from split training to full body for more information. The basic idea here is to have one upper body pushing, one upper body pulling, and a lower body exercise. Here is a sample three days a week full body program:

Day One:
Bench Press
Bent-over Row
Back Squat

Day Two:
Push Press
Pull-ups
Deadlift

Day Three:
Push-ups
Power Clean
Front Squat

Start off with straight sets, then slowly transition into supersets and trisets. You can add in a few more exercises if you wish to try circuit training. Be aware that this would then become an extremely intense workout.

Phase Five - Time Your Workouts!

Now we’re getting into real Shah Training mode! Start timing your workouts. Timing your workouts adds another level of competition into your training. It is no longer just you and the weight. It is you, the weight, and the time. I know from experience that just a 5 second improvement in time requires a lot of work. Take a month to time every single workout that you perform in the gym. You’ll notice the difference.

Phase Six - Mix in the Cardio!

So far, I have not said much in terms of the cardio. Right now if you are timing your workouts and perfoming fullbody circuits, you should feel as though you are performing cardio. But you haven’t perfomed cardio until you’ve actually done cardio. Ok, that sounded dumb. Here’s an example of what I mean:

3 rounds for time of:
400 meter run
Push Press
Pull-ups
Deadlift

The idea here is that you somehow mix in your cardio session with weight training. You can either perform some sort of cardio before each round, after each round, or alternate weight training exercise with a cardio exercise. This works great with jump roping or shadow boxing.

Want a simple way to implement this six-phase formula?

Turbulence Training is one of the few programs I know that has successfully been able to implement nearly all the high-intensity principles outlined in this article. Creator Craig Ballantyne has created hundreds of workouts to help busy people get into shape with limited time and resources. Now you can access his entire vault of programs...