"I'm not going to have time to get a good workout in today..."
Have you ever you ever found yourself uttering this phrase?
If you are like most avid gym goers, you probably have, and I'm sure you believed it at the time.
After all, you've been programmed to believe that the longer a workout is, the better it must be.
Well I am here today to tell you that is not always the case. I'm going to show you how to get an incredible full body pump in under 20 minutes. This is not some aerobic class gimmick with thousands of reps - you are going to be using relatively heavy weight on a few big compound movements, and the pace at which you complete the required reps is going to leave you totally spent.
So warm up, stretch out, grab your gallon jug of water and get ready for "The 15 minute Total Body Beat Down".
The prescription to this workout is extremely simple:
Despite its basic appearance, hidden within the structure of this workout is the key to its sheer brutality and effectiveness. The workout is set up as 3 big compound movements - each one targeting a different area of the body.
- Pull ups (strict, not the "Kipping" variety) for the back, bicep, and forearm muscles
- Bench Press for the pecs, triceps, and delts
- Squats for the lower body
Time Frame Training
Each one of these exercises will be done with what is known as "Time Frame Training". Time Frame Training (TFT) was first developed and utilized by my mentor Dr. Eric Serrano. TFT refers to completing a set number of repetitions of a given exercise within a certain time frame. In this case you will be completing 50 reps of each movement in 5 minutes. While reps and time are the two variables that are easily applied, the third variable - weight - is also of equal importance.
A common mistake when utilizing Time Frame Training is selecting too light of a weight due to the large number of reps within the given time frame. Selecting the proper starting weight is key. Most strength routines are prescribed using a percentage of the lifter’s 1 rep max (%1RM). An example would be a bench press routine calling for 5x5 using 75% 1RM.
For Time Frame Training, I prefer to select a weight based on Max Reps (MR) or Weight for Max Reps (WMR). MR would be defined as the maximum amount of reps you are confident you could perform with a specific weight or body weight exercise, while WMR would be the weight you could use to complete a given MR.
It's crucial that this weight is the heaviest possible weight you could use to perform the exact number of reps. A WMR10 does not mean a weight that you can comfortably do 10 reps with or even multiple sets of 10 such as 5 x 10.
Ok, so now you may be thinking, why is this important or necessary when choosing a weight? Let’s use this workout for example. For the bench press, it may be tempting to throw a light weight on the bar and push for a big number of reps right off the bat.
Maybe you would use 135lbs and knock out 25 reps during the first minute. You would feel pretty fatigued and need a long recovery before tackling another set of maybe 15 reps. By now you are probably 3 minutes into the time frame and have another 2 minutes to complete the last 10 reps. While challenging, this set up is not going to give us the challenge we are looking for strength wise.
Now suppose you know you are supposed to utilize a weight that is your WMR10 (the heaviest weight you can do 10 repetitions with), you may instead start with 185lbs. After getting 10 reps in the first 20 seconds you have roughly 40 seconds to rest before starting the next set so you can average 10 reps per minute.
At this point fatigue will be setting in, so if you don't get 10 reps for the second set, immediately lower the weight 10-20lbs and finish the set. You may have to break a set of 10 up into mini sets such as 6/4 or 4/3/3 to continue to average 10 reps per minute. Continue to use this pattern to complete 50 total reps within 5 minutes. You will have lifted more poundage over the course of the given time frame than if you had just arbitrarily picked a light weight to rep out.
Now if you just picked a WMR10 for every TFT 50 in 5 minutes, that would make it simple, right? That works for some exercises, but others such as the Squat, due to the energy needed and extreme demands it places on the nervous system, require a different prescription to make it realistic to complete.
Let's say you have a WMR10 of 225lbs on the Squat. After that first set you may only have 30-40 seconds to recover. The next set is going to be a struggle. For this reason, I recommend using a WMR15 on the squat and trying to average 10 reps per minute. If your WMR15 = 205lbs, that first set of 10 may feel easy, the second minute of 10 reps more challenging, and eventually your 5th minute may be 3 mini sets - 4, 3, 3. Still brutal, but realistic to complete.
So now that you understand the concept of Weight for Max Reps and its importance to Time Frame Training, what is the strategy for body weight exercises such as pull ups? I think the best strategy for using TFT with bodyweight movements is to complete the average rep per minute required (in this case 10 reps per minute) with the STRICTEST possible form.
If you are someone capable of doing 20 Pull-ups in that initial minute, chances are that first big set will leave your lats and biceps gassed and your form will start to suffer on the later sets. Next thing you know, your final minute of pull ups are comprised of some swinging, kipping half reps that barely resemble a real pull up and are doing nothing to increase your strength. Even for a guy like me who can "rep out" 30-40 pull ups with ease, doing 10 super strict slow reps every minute for 5 minutes is challenging.
Keeping all of that in mind, here is the slightly more detailed prescription:
- Pull ups: 50 strict reps in 5 minutes
- Bench Press: 50 reps in 5 minutes. Start with WeightMaxReps10, strip weight as needed in order to get 10 reps per minute.
- Squat: 50 in 5 minutes. Use WMR15, average 10 reps per minute
- Rest 1.5 - 2 minutes between exercises
I promise that if you pick the correct starting weights this will be one of the most challenging - and quickest - workouts you have ever done. Since this full body routine is a complete shock to the system,
I recommend using it no more than once a week - I typically utilize it only once per month. Feel free to incorporate this same method of TFT 50 reps in 5 minutes into any existing workout plan you follow. 50 Lateral Raises (WMR10) in 5 minutes makes a great shoulder finisher.
The 15 Minute Total Body Beat Down is perfect for when you are pressed for time and are unsure of when you will make it back to the gym and want to absolutely crush your entire body. Now you have no excuse not to workout today…so block off a few minutes and get ready to get an incredible full body pump and a crazy cardio sweat at the same time. Stay tuned to Muscle & Strength for more of my unique workouts and crazy challenges!