3 Ways to Hack Your Fitness
Fitness doesn’t have to be difficult or time-consuming. Here are three simple strategies to improve your fitness in a short amount of time.
Figuring out an exercise routine can be stressful. Trying to find the time to fit everything in can be even more stressful. There is so much information out there, and it causes more confusion than it fixes. There have been times when
I am trying to figure out an exercise program, and there’s just so much that needs to be incorporated that it’s impossible to make it work; 5 strength training sessions, 3 cardio sessions, interval training, plyometric training. How are we supposed to fit all of this in?
I’m beginning to realize more and more what’s really important when it comes to exercise, and prioritizing accordingly. And in some instances, exercise isn’t the most valuable thing you could be doing.
Being a national representative athlete, fitness, and especially reaching top fitness levels, has always been a big deal for me. But as I’m getting older I’m realizing that it’s not the most important thing. While exercise and movement are hugely important for health, it’s the combination of everything in our lives that creates total wellbeing.
These are the top 3 strategies you can use to achieve strength and fitness, without spending hours in the gym.
Super Slow Lifts
Dr. Doug McGuff popularized this method in his book, Body by Science. This method is a lot tougher than it seems but has huge results in a very short amount of time. Dr. McGuff outlines a 12-minute workout that you can do once per week that will give you huge muscle-building results. It’s highly backed by research, and people swear by it.
“The literature came down overwhelmingly in favor of a single set of exercise as being sufficient; only two out of the forty-seven studies surveyed showed any benefit (and a marginal improvement at that) to be had from the performance of multiple sets… Additional sets produce nothing but more time spent in the gym.” — Dr. Doug McGuff
Essentially, you do one set to failure for each exercise, performing each rep as slowly as you possibly can (about 10 seconds up and 10 seconds down). You can either do this on machines, as follow:
- Seated Row
- Seated Chest Press
- Seated Pull Down with Ab Crunch
- Seated Shoulder Press
- Seated Horizontal Leg Press
Or you can complete these as free-weight exercises, although this may make it more challenging and less effective. The free-weight exercises are:
- Barbell squat
- Barbell deadlift
- Military press
- Bench press
- Barbell row
High-intensity interval training (HIIT), and specifically the Tabata method (8 rounds of 20 seconds maximum effort followed by only 10 seconds of rest, for a total of 4 minutes) have huge benefits for fitness and muscle gain and are incredibly efficient. When I’m at the gym and I want to skip my Tabata set, I’ll tell myself, “It’s only 4 minutes of your life. You can handle that.” And then it’s done, and you feel great about yourself.
Tabata sets are tough, but they’re so quick that it’s always worth it. People see huge increases in fitness levels within a short amount of time. I aim for two of these sessions a week. My favorite method is on the rowing machine, but I’ll use the bike sometimes as this also builds leg muscle. If you like running, then try that. But it’s tough. You will never see me running a Tabata set.
Incorporating low-level activity throughout your day is important for so many reasons. Firstly, we all know that sitting for prolonged periods is bad for us. It’s important to break up periods of sitting with movement. Ideally, for every 25–30 minutes that you sit, you should move for 5 minutes. But at an absolute minimum, get up every hour.
Low-level activity will also increase your fitness levels, even though it feels like you’re hardly doing anything. You can go for a walk, do some squats or lunges, burpees, anything. I like to keep a kettlebell nearby so I can just pick it up and do 10 swings.
Modify your environment to make incorporating low-level activity throughout the day easier.
It’s easy to forget, especially when you’re involved in a task. I have to set alarms (on a Pomodoro app), otherwise I just forget. Even with the alarms I sometimes skip the break and keep working. It’s definitely one thing that I struggle with. No matter how much I read that sitting is bad, if I’m doing work I’m probably not going to get up until it’s done.
One thing that consistently works for me, however, is drinking a lot — water, tea, coffee — so that I have to get up almost every half an hour to walk to the bathroom. This guarantees I’m going to stand up regularly.
Fitness doesn’t have to be complicated or time-consuming. You can achieve effective results in a short amount of time, by incorporating
- Super-slow lifts,
- HIIT sessions, and
- Low level activity throughout the day.