Minimalist Approach to Exercise

Still aiming for 4-5 gym sessions a week like a sucker? Over-training is one of the fastest ways to undo all your hard work optimising your sleep and diet. Unless you’re a professional athlete, you probably don’t need to be doing so much. Over-training is a great way to burn out your adrenals, and to increase your stress load which prevents your body from operating in a state of optimal health.

My whole life I’d been aiming for 3-5gym sessions per week, on top of various other activities like rock-climbing, football training, touch football, surfing, and I was never been able to sustain this level of activity. Once I hit my ‘targets’ for a few weeks, I found I would inevitably come down with some kind of illness. In the past 2 years it has clicked…I was over-training.

After reading this page, you’ll be armed with the right information to rethink your exercise schedule. Typically this means finding more time in your week, feeling less sore, improving endurance, and increasing your strength.

Following these strategies has helped me to lose 10 kilograms, improve my squat and deadlift while training much less frequently, being less sore, and having more energy. Tim Ferriss, Pavel Tatsouline, Charles Poliquin are all advocates of the minimalist approach to exercise, perhaps it’s time you reconsider your approach.

Treat exercise as a practice, rather than a session. The aim is to practice a technique well, not to get sore or go to failure. Following this strategy is the first step to developing a healthier and more sustainable connection with exercise.

Don’t overdo it. Your body needs to repair. You can only produce so much cortisol, growth factor – everyone has a different threshold for different exercises. Your threshold can change depending on sleep, nutrition, time of year, stress levels, recovery status. HRV is a great tool for the biohacker out there to monitor your recovery. Over-training will set you back in your training, slow down gains, make you prone to injury and illness, and can wreck your adrenals.

Chose healthy exercises for you. Be as functional as you can be, I don’t recommend performing any exercise to failure. More of the Pavel school of thought. Increase the neuronal connection to your movements, connecting to all 6 cylinders. Rather than building another 2 cylinders and having them misfire constantly. I found a useful rule of thumb to be:
If you’re in the gym for more than 45minutes, you’re doing something wrong (warm-up, practice, warm-down and all).

Core – Exercises, Yoga, Pilates, Other.
Squats – Whole body functional exercise
Grip Strength – The principal of radiation
Deadlifts – Whole body functional exercise.
Pullups  -Upper body functional exercise.
Arnold Press – Upper body functional exercise.
Interval/Sprint Training – Box Jumps, Running, cycling, surfing, other – get your heart rate up for a few minutes at a time (3-5) for minimum 20minutes, two – three times per week.

Dedicate to staying nimble and functional. I’ve made a habit of stretching as part of my morning routine, even if only for 5minutes, it is a great way to prepare for the day. I also rarely sit on the lounge, but tend to stretch on a yoga mat instead. Our TV unit doubles as a stretching station with foam roller, bands and balls always ready. Carve out time for a minimum of 3-5 stretching sessions per week and reap the benefits.

Move Well
Physio, Personal Trainer, Lifting Coach, whatever floats your boat… you need help. The only way to truly master your practise (notice it is not a workout) is to get feedback. The best form of feedback is from a skilled professional. Find a good mentor for your chosen sport, practice, injury, whatever, and take all of their knowledge and lessons learnt from them. Fail smarter.

How does this compare to your current training regime? Spend some time to rethink your training (and recovery) schedule, and I bet you’ll be able to get some time back in your week.