Quick Workout Options In 5 Minutes Or Less

quick workoutWhen I was in law school, I worked full time during the day and went to classes at night.  That was four years of long days and nights and four years where I felt like I didn’t have time for exercise.

Of course that was back when I thought exercise meant going to the gym for an hour and following some glossy fitness magazine workout of 3 sets of 10 reps per exercise on a 6 day per week body part split.  This was before my stint in the Army and way before I started studying to be a personal trainer.  Looking back with a “had a known then what I know now” eye, I actually had plenty of time for exercise.

Can you really get a good quick workout in 5 minutes?

My short answer is “yes”.  My long answer considers a host of factors from training goal to current fitness capacity to exercise selection.  That being said, I believe that 5 minute (or less) sessions are great for two situations: habit creation and when you need a quick workout because you really are pressed for time.

Habit Creation

I’ve been talking about habit creation quite a bit lately.  As my years of helping people lose weight and get fit have piled up, I’ve become convinced that lack of motivation is not the issue when people don’t follow sound nutrition and exercise practices.  So I’ve softened around the edges a bit and toned down my “drill sergeant” approach in exchange for trying to figure out what makes habits stick.  And one of the best tactics I’ve come across for habit creation is beginning far below the perceived level of compliance.

If you want to build the habit of flossing, start with just one tooth.

If you want to build the habit of expanding your social network, start with speaking to just one stranger.

And if you want to build the habit of exercise, start with just 5 minutes.

5 minutes of exercise still feels too daunting?  Fine.  Start with 4 minutes.  Or 3, or 2, or just 10 damn seconds if need be… The key is to decide on an amount that seems so ridiculously easy that there is not a single shred of doubt in your mind that you will actually do it.  And once you’ve flossed that single tooth or done that five minute quick workout for a few days, momentum will build and your time on task will naturally expand.

The Clock Ticks

I will concede that some people really do have extremely limited time for exercise.  That is if “exercise” stays within the mental confines of packing up a gym bag full of workout clothes, driving to the gym, grinding away on a treadmill for 45 minutes, and then driving back home.  But finding just 5 minutes?  Anyone, yes anyone, can find five minutes.

Breaking-Bad-Season-4aMaybe that means waking up 5 minutes earlier.  Or learning to accept the odd stares at the office when you crank out squats at your cubicle for 5 minutes.  And if you are already in a good habit of exercise, 5 minute sessions can come in handy when you really don’t want to exercise… like when you’re on that beach vacation or you’ve allowed yourself to get sucked into a Breaking Bad marathon (not that that has ever happend to me or anything).

So How Do You Do It?

So you’re ready to give 5 minute exercise sessions a go, but you want to know how to get started.  Below are 4 training protocols that work great with 5 minute sessions:

1.  Interval Training.  Interval training is short periods of high intensity exercise followed by short periods of rest.  Sprints are the perfect example of interval training.  But nearly any exercise that cranks the heart rate can work well for intervals.  Try 30 seconds of kettlebell swings followed by 30 seconds of rest for 5 minutes or 45 seconds of burpees followed by 15 seconds of rest for 5 minutes.

2.  Max Reps.  Select an exercise and do as many repetitions as possible in 5 minutes.  Rest as needed, but get back to work as soon as possible.  Count your total reps and try to beat your score with the next session.  High intensity exercises such as burpees work well, but slower more controlled movements such as the pull up can also work with max rep sessions.

3.  Max Rounds.  Pick two or three exercises and assign a set number of repetitions for each.  Then go through the cycle or “round” as many times as possible during the 5 minutes.  Try 3 pull ups, 6 push ups, 9 squats for a full body max rounds workout.

4.  Circuit Training.  5 minute sessions fit perfectly with 5 exercise circuits.  Select 5 exercises and perform each for max reps in one minute.  Move from one exercise to the next without rest.  A circuit of skipping rope, push ups, box jumps, pull ups, and burpees performed for one minute each will convince you that you can definitely get a good workout in 5 minutes.

5 Minute Fitness 275Want more 5 minute quick workout ideas?  Well I have just what you’re looking for… My latest Kindle book, 5 Minute Fitness, is available for FREE from Thursday January 31st through Saturday February 2nd, 2013.  And normally it’s just $2.99 which is not bad for a short book that provides over 100 options for 5 minute workouts.  If you pick the book up, your ratings and reviews are always appreciated.  Get your copy today by clicking here.

Stay strong,




  1. Charlotte says

    Oh man, Breaking Bad marathons are so evil. That show is scientifically proven to be more addicting than actual meth.

    Anyway, great article! Flossing just one tooth is a great example…who could resist flossing a second and third, and then just finishing and having that good clean feeling all over??

  2. says

    I don’t watch much television. But when I do… Oh, man. It always seems that I discover a show that’s been on for a few years and I want to catch up on the past seasons. I’ve fallen victim to Breaking Bad, Dexter, and Californication.

  3. says

    I really wanted to tweet this article, was looking for a button, but alas, no button! I do like your simple design though.

    I got the book, now it’s time to dive in!

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