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Micro Workouts

The Perfect Micro Workout: Hit Every Major Muscle With 3 Exercises

Are you pressed for time and unable to commit to a comprehensive workout which covers all the major muscles in your body? 

The perfect solution is a so-called "micro workout"!  If you are unfamiliar with this term, it is typically is based around brief and efficient workout sessions based on both strength training and functional movements to work every major muscle in the body. 

What Are Micro Workouts?

Micro workouts, short bursts of strength exercises, offer the flexibility to be performed at any location and time, done at once in 10-20 minutes or in installments throughout the day. Ranging from mere seconds to several minutes to high intensity interval training circuits, these workouts may involve single exercises or a sequence of movements done in succession, whichever suits you. 

While the usual 45-90-minute gym session might be impractical given your schedule, there are opportune moments in the day to engage in effective strength training. 

These short sessions not only save time but help you maintain optimal fitness levels during those days when a trip to the gym is out of reach. 

Not only are there obvious benefits, there are some less obvious findings from all sorts of recent research that give us good reason to rethink our approach to exercise. Current studies are showing that short bursts of exercise of a mere 5-10 minutes done throughout the day can reduce mortality and improve cardiorespiratory fitness and insulin sensitivity!

"Researchers at McMaster have found that a single minute of very intense exercise produces health benefits similar to longer, traditional endurance training.

The findings put to rest the common excuse for not getting in shape: there is not enough time.

“This is a very time-efficient workout strategy,” says Martin Gibala, a professor of kinesiology at McMaster and lead author on the study. “Brief bursts of intense exercise are remarkably effective.”"

Targeting the major muscle groups with a mix of bodyweight-centric and compound dumbbell exercises with a focus on frequency ensures that you will make this sort of training as productive as possible while at the same time, keeping it brief. So definitely no excuses to miss workouts!

There are numerous findings suggesting that frequency - performing same the movements, more frequently, can lead to superior gains in lean muscle mass.

The Benefits Of Micro Workouts

  • Time saving. Workouts can be done in many short 1-5 minute intervals throughout the day or in shorter sessions. Also no more commuting to the gym is even more time saved.
  • Easier to manage fatigue. With shorter training sessions, it is easy to make ongoing progress by continually training below one's fatigue level.
  • Better recovery. This is due to the above point and also that there is less metabolic stress per workout, as there is less involvement of the glycolytic system that one would ordinarily get when training with a typical gym routine for longer periods of time per session. The traditional workout routine results in more waste products such as lactic acid buildup and delayed onset soreness.
  • Flexibility. Being able to "cut up" ones training needs into compartmentalized bits provides lots of opportunity to fit other things in such as mobility work, drills, cardio (Tabata protocol jump rope or jumping jacks), or rehab band work and so on.
  • Save money. Training in your own home, has economic benefits too, considering that the average cost of a commercial gym membership is around $600-800 per year, including initiation fees and annual fees. Add the costs in commuting to and from the gym and the cost of time saved, this can be a substantial benefit for many.
DB RDL to Row - credit: Shutterstock

The Downsides Of Micro Workouts

  • Not for those seeking highly specialized types of training or specific goals, such as powerlifting, Crossfit, Olympic lifting and so forth.
  • Training alone. For some who enjoy training as part of a group or with a partner, this can be an obvious downside due to the social benefits that this could provide.
  • Loss of a "third space". Outside of the home (first space) and work (second space), the gym or fitness center can legitimately be regarded as a so-called third space which allows one to get away from the former two and into another alternate environment where one can potentially connect, relax, and maybe even forge new social relationships.
  • Lack of instruction. Without someone like a trainer or others to instruct and correct form and technique this might be a barrier for trainees who are completely new to working out.

The Perfect Micro Workout

The following routine includes all the four necessary constituents for a full-body routine: a push, a pull, a squat and a hinge movement.

These four movement patterns are covered in only three exercises, as the hinge and pull are combined with a dumbbell Romanian deadlift ("RDL") to row. 

This routine can be done in any the following ways:
One set, every minute on the minute ("EMOM"), with the prescribed reps taking you 15-20 seconds with 40-45 second rest intervals, spending 5 minutes on each movement, doing five sets of each in 15 minutes

One set of each exercise done one after the other, split into several sessions throughout the day.

Muscles worked:

DB RDL to Row
Low back
Upper back

Foam Roller Dumbbell Hack Squat

Push-up to Downward Dog
Serratus anterior
Achilles tendon

The Workout:

1. Push-up to Downward Dog
Perform 10-15 reps per set.

2. Foam Roller Dumbbell Hack Squat
Perform 10-15 reps per set.

3. DB RDL to Row
Perform 10-15 reps per set.