VERY simple alternating strength-training program
May 16, 2012 8:20 PM   Subscribe

I want two quick and easy strength-training exercises I can alternate and do every day, in order to get my exercise groove back. What are two complementary ones?

Pretty simple. I've stopped working out for the last few months, which sucks. I want to get back in the habit, but diving straight back into StrongLifts 3x/week seems to dead-end into 2x/week, then 1x/week, then none. (The soreness for three days after my first couple of squat-sets doesn't help.)

I'm thinking if I just had fifteen minutes of exercise every day, that would be enough. I could stop by the gym in my work clothes, do a few sets, and be done. Maybe after a month of pulling this off I'll go back to something more serious like StrongLifts.

But all the programs I'm used to involve taking entire days off to give your body time to rest. I'm afraid that would derail me. What's a very simple, one-per-day program that will get me back on track? I don't want CrossFit or anything that involves looking up or learning new exercises.

I was thinking something like squats/benchpress/squats/benchpress/squats/benchpress, 5x5 each. Is that good? Better suggestions? Bodyweight exercises? Bonus points for developing my pecs (vanity), and being doable in the basement dumbbell gym instead of the across-the-street barbell gym (laziness).
posted by Jacen Solo to Health & Fitness (12 answers total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
Squats rule. I'd do pullups instead of presses though, gets more of the rest of you involved in the movement. If you can do 3x15, start adding weight.

If you want to go full on bodyweight and not need to be anywhere special, replace squats with burpee pyramids (1 burpee, sprint 50 or so yards (easy to use telephone poles), 2 burpees, sprint, 3 burpees, etc.) If you can get up to 20 and back down you are well above where you need to be to get back on whatever lifting program you like.

I'd maybe suggest a single day a week of deadlifting, but part of that is that I just love deadlifts.
posted by teishu at 8:35 PM on May 16, 2012

Off the beaten path:

Dumbbells - Turkish Get Ups and Bent over two dumbbell rows. Go for reps with the TGUs and weight for the rows.
posted by unixrat at 8:44 PM on May 16, 2012

Here's a dumbbell routine you can do every other day: The Magic 50.

That usually takes 20-25 minutes, which goes a bit beyond your fifteen minute target, though.

To make up for that, on the other days, you can do this bodyweight routine on the other days:

10 burpees
10 mountain climbers (each rep consisting of four alternations)
10 squat jumps

Two sets of these takes under five minutes. It's not a pure strength workout, but it's a good complement to the Magic 50, from which you'll probably need to recover a bit.
posted by ignignokt at 8:55 PM on May 16, 2012

If I had to pick 2 body weight only days I would also go with:
-burpees on the odd days. with a pushup in the middle and a very tall, very high, very upright jump for fast hips. Start with good form and increase reps. After a couple weeks try to hold form and rep count but do them faster.
-running on the even days, but I'd make it long and slow. doesn't really meet the 15min requirement. A better option, if the time limit is pretty fixed, might be stair climbing. Not on a machine though, real stairs.

If I had to pick 2 weighted exercises I might try:
-odd days: bent over rows.
-even days: lunges

If I had my preferred choice I would probably choose 3 different types of exercise:
-A strength day. If I can pick only one I choose burpees
-An aerobic day. Running for efficiency, though I hate it, swimming for love but it's time consuming. Best compromise - erging (rowing machine) if available. In a pinch the afore mentioned stair climbing.
-A stretching/stabilizer day. The be-good-to-you-and-take-care-of-the-little-things-so-you-don't-tear-a-rotator-cuff day.
*Twice through plus one rest day == 1 week.
posted by mce at 8:56 PM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

I was thinking burpees like mce said plus pull ups. Two body weight exercises that are tough but you can modify to make harder as you improve. You'd get most of the larger muscle groups anyway.
posted by 2bucksplus at 9:21 PM on May 16, 2012

Does it have to be two? What about cycling through four days, alternating lower and upper body:

DAY 1: Squats (barbell) OR Bulgarian Split Squats (dumbbell)
DAY 2: Overhead press (DB or BB) OR bench press (DB or BB)
DAY 3: Deadlift (BB) OR Single-leg deadlift (DB) OR RDLs (DB)
DAY 4: Pull-ups OR Pendlay row (BB) OR dumbbell rows half-kneeling on a bench

I suggest four exercises because it is important you balance pressing movements (like squats and bench/overhead press) with pulling movements (like deadlifts and rows). This is especially crucial with the upper body, where people tend to over-emphasize the "pec stuff" without working on their backs. This can result in serious shoulder problems down the line as well as a host of postural issues.

This kind of thing should get you in basic shape, though you may see yourself plateauing on the weights since you're not giving yourself any rest days. Keep in mind you are going to be dealing with DOMS (soreness) whenever you start up a new program. Continuing to exercise through the soreness will actually help alleviate it (provided it's normal old "Just got back in the gym" soreness, not "I tore something" soreness).

If I were you I'd also alternate overhead pressing with bench pressing, but I understand if you don't want to get that fancy yet. It's just something to keep in mind for the long term in order to balance things out.
posted by schroedinger at 9:26 PM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

schroedinger: More than two days, and especially multiple possibilities per day, exceed my "this is easy, I have no reason to skip a day (...or two... or three...)" threshold. I can expand complexity and correctness once I'm back in the gym on a regular basis: for now I just want a simple "do this on even days, do this on odd days" program.

So far the only answer that's really hit this point was mce's "bent over rows + lunges."
posted by Jacen Solo at 9:55 PM on May 16, 2012

mce, 2bucksplus: any quick guidelines for reps/sets on bent over rows/lunges/burpees/pullups? Off the top of my head I'd default to 5x5 for bent over rows/lunges, no idea for burpees, and 3xF for pullups.
posted by Jacen Solo at 9:59 PM on May 16, 2012

For the rows I would start with something pretty light and enforce that with a high rep scheme. 3x20 for a the first several days, maybe dropping to 12/10/8 when you're pretty sure you're not going to pull anything. 5x5 is fine if you're sure your form is good and you've been at them long enough that you're not going to inflame anything

Lunges I would try to start with a fairly low number and really stress the form. I like 5x5. When they're all sharp and snappy bump up the reps a little. Or add a little instability, or a little weight. I like doing mine (lie: I did a bajillion after my knee injury and each one felt like ice pick stabbing death. But I digress) with weight in a backpack. For sometime my knees were pretty asymmetrical, ability wise, and I found lunging onto a staircase helpful.

pullups and burpees? pretty much as many as you can do with good form. You can squeeze out a couple extra pullups if, after failure, you use a step and only do the eccentric motion. Also - try playing with pullup grips - wide/narrow, top & bottom. You may find you can do more with good form if you cary the stress a bit.

Burpees can have all kinds of variation. I'd work on something like (3-5)x(6-10) until you're very happy with the form, crispness and explosiveness of the exercise. Then try alternating a longer set with a very short (3-5) high impact set. Burpees are super easy to cheat on, I would suggest trying to make it a point of pride to have a nice clean set. Volume isn't the priority.

In the end IANYC(oach). At least it would seem unlikely that you're one of my high school aged swimmers unless there's someone I really need to have an Attendance Is Important(tm) talk with. The best set of reps/super sets is the one you're likely to stick with. Good form is the only form, taking it slow is better than racing off a cliff, achievement comes one day in a row, lots of days in a row.

IANYC(coach) but I am happy to offer advice and an opinion. I work with minors and disabled adults all day and as such I tend to couch such advice that may be repeated so as to be rather conservative and restrict liability. I hope the above was specific enough to be useful and not too overbearing.
posted by mce at 11:28 PM on May 16, 2012

Keep it simple - push-ups and sit-ups every day. It violates some rules (like rest) but it works, just ask the military (yes they do even more, but the point is you get a benefit to daily push-ups and sit-ups). Routine - it often works when nothing else will.
posted by caddis at 3:54 AM on May 17, 2012

Three exercises. Odd days do squats. Even days do pull-ups and push-ups.
posted by smokingmonkey at 6:05 AM on May 17, 2012

any quick guidelines for reps/sets on bent over rows/lunges/burpees/pullups? Off the top of my head I'd default to 5x5 for bent over rows/lunges, no idea for burpees, and 3xF for pullups.

Lately I like: 2x exercise #1 with a rest in between, then 2x exercise #2 with a rest in between (an idea I stole from P90X). So:
10 burpees
count to 20
10 burpees
10 pull ups
count to 20
10 pull ups
Alternate types of each as you go, with the goal of doing 3 rotations of the above. I would do:
Regular burpees (10, rest, 10)
Regular "front" pull ups (10, rest, 10)

Knees up burpees (10, rest, 10) - When you are in the plank position, bring one knees in to your gut, then the other.
Wide "front" pull ups (10, rest, 10)

Wide leg/wide arms burpees (10, rest, 10)
Chin ups (10, rest, 10)
posted by 2bucksplus at 12:52 PM on May 17, 2012

« Older Name this obscure work-related principle of...   |   No time left to lose Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.