The Reason 20-minute Workouts Don’t Work (And How to Change That)

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May 31, 2014 in Peak Performance
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Awesome Planche

Imagine you found the secret recipe to getting shredded abs, toned arms, a defined chest and strong back and legs – and it only took 20 minutes a day of exercise and an easy to follow nutrition plan.

Would you do it?

Men and women alike have been trying to find quick and easy ways to get fit for decades. But it still seems like they never work and new exercise routines are coming out – claiming to be better and quicker than ever.

There is just one problem – when is the last time you asked someone how they got in great shape and they answered, “Oh, I’m doing this great workout that I do at home for 20-minutes everyday!” Probably never.

Out of the thousands of workouts that claim to get you in shape fast, it’s amazing that we don’t hear of their success stories more often.

I’m going to spill the beans on why secret 20-minute workout plans don’t work, and how to change that – but you are not going to like it.

Before we jump into how to workout for 20-minutes a day and get great results, lets look at what the underlying problems are.

The Problem

Why do men have trouble getting and staying fit?

Well, how much time do you have? There are many roadblocks in our lives that keep us from achieving our goals. Not all of them are bad roadblocks either, they are just pieces of our lives that deter our attention from our own fitness. Below is a table that puts a few of them into perspective.

Roadblock: Beer

Cause

Downing an ice-cold beer after a long day/week is a type of meditation for guys.

Effect

These empty calories are almost never used for energy – and end up going straight to our gut.

Why so difficult?

Meeting friends at the bar is often more fun and social accepted than spending your Friday night at the gym.

Roadblock: Food

Cause

For most men, food is viewed as a single thing that has one purpose – ‘to get in my belly’ and to satisfy hunger. The consiquences are rarely a priority in a guys life (unless his girl yells at him).

Effect

Guys eat burgers, fries, ice cream, potatoes, Philly cheese steak sandwiches without regard for physical consequences. All these extra calories are making you look like the Michelin Man.

Why so difficult?

Manly men don’t count calories – they eat man foods like steak and potatoes to grow big and strong (and fat and unhealthy). It’s not socially acceptable. Plus, guys are lazy and we already have enough stress at work to worry about food.

Roadblock: Family life

Cause

The kids want Fruity Pebbles and need hockey equipment, your wife needs chocolate and new clothes – while having a family is the most amazing thing in the world, it can be deterring to your journey to health and fitness (unless you have their undying support)

Effect

Sometimes with all the craziness of having a wonderful family, guys forget about their own well-being. Coffee only breakfasts, eating one meal a day at dinner, a jam-packed day of work and family activities, and a house full of kid’s snacks can be detrimental to your waistline.

Why so difficult?

Hopefully you have the support and resources to live a healthy lifestyle but sometimes having enough money, time and motivation to work on your fitness become scarce.

Roadblock: Work life

Cause

To live in America you need to make money. Almost everything in this country is based on income: social status, opportunity, ability to take care of your family, etc. This causes guys to work a ton, which in turn causes more stress and less time and energy for fitness.

Effect

The stress from work often clouds a guy’s brain causing him to get elevated cortisol levels. This leads to an array of health issues like increased blood pressure, depressed immune system and loss of sexual desire (uh oh) – not to mention you’re not even thinking about fitness when you’re stressed.

Why so difficult?

You can’t just stop working and workout all the time, so the problem becomes balancing work and life. Because of the importance of income, a healthy lifestyle almost always takes a back seat to work and stress.

With these roadblocks and many others, it takes a strong will and a determined mind frame to achieve success in any fitness program. From these roadblocks, we can narrow the problems down to two main categories: Lack of time and/or resources

Us gentlemen don’t have the time to exercise or think about eating healthy, and we don’t have the resources (like money or motivation) to stop living the way we are, and make a healthy change.

So if we don’t have the time or resources to get in shape, why isn’t a 20-minute workout the perfect prescription?

I’ll give you a clue, it’s not because it won’t work physically. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that adults get 150 minutes of cardiovascular activity every week as well as functional training for 20-30 minutes a day. The ACSM recommends that this can be broken into large chunks of exercise (60 minutes) or smaller more frequent spurts (at least 10 minutes).

The reason is that we have information overload and a lack of focus. These two things are knocking down guys desire to shed their gut and become a gladiator.

There are simply too many workouts and diets out there for the common dude to know which one will work for them. This overload of info may cause the brain to freeze and move onto other things – a sort of attention deficient disorder, according to Russell Poldrack, a Neuroscientist and researcher at University of Texas.

“It’s clear (at least to me) that the inability to focus that is being driven by the speed and richness of our informational environment bears at least some resemblance to the inattention that marks ADHD” says Poldrack.

This theory suggests that with the inundation of fitness information causes us to become overwhelmed and unfocused.

So assuming that you are truly ready to make a change for the better, what is the ‘right here, right now’ solution to starting a successful 20-minute-a-day workout routine?

The Solution

The solution is the easy part; but like I said, you aren’t going to like it.

After you establish your fitness goals, find a workout that fits your schedule, and find or develop a nutrition strategy that will work with your current resources; then hard part comes.

F.O.C.U.S. = Follow One Course Until Successful

There it is. The reason millions of guys around the world can’t make it to the 6-pack promise land is lack of focus.

You’re asking ‘Is this really the answer to achieving your goals of slimming, trimming and toning in just a few minutes a day?’

Absolutely!

Now I am sure that I will get darts of criticism thrown my way from fitness ‘gurus’ and personal trainers alike claiming that 20-minutes isn’t enough, and that those are just minimum recommendations based on averages. The fact is that one of the largest fitness certifying body in America (ACSM) suggests that an adult can achieve health and fitness in small bursts of exercise. (Here is the full position for all you fitness nerds out there.)

Now let me be clear. I’m not talking about training athletes, physique or elite fitness competitors – I am talking about an out-of-shape, sedentary dude who is used to sitting at a desk for 8-hours a day, followed by sitting on the couch for 3-hours a night.

For this very large demographic of guys who are a little flabby and out-of-shape, the 20-minute workout and a ton of F.O.C.U.S. is your answer.

So even though the answer to your prayers is simple, maintaining that focus is the hardest part of all. What you need is to make yourself accountable for your own success.


[Read this article on How to Lose Weight Permanently – it has some great tips on establishing accountability.]


Now that you know all you have to do is buck up and focus on your goals, let’s take a look at a couple 20-minute workouts that I have found success following.

 

(Days 1, 3, 5 & 7) At Home (Days 2, 4 & 6) At The Gym
Warm Up:

Jumping Jacks

Flat-foot Squat hold

Inchworm

Spiderman w/ Twist

Sumo Squat

Warm Up:

 Jumping Jacks

Flat-foot Squat hold

Inchworm

Spiderman w/ Twist Prisoner

Sumo Squat

 

Circuit: (perform 3 sets with 1-2 minute rest after each)

10 x Burpees

10 x Spiderman Pushups

10 (ea) x Bodyweight 1 Leg RDL

10 x YTWL (water bottles)

10 (ea) x Stationary or Walking Lunges

30sec (ea) x Side Plank Hold

 

Circuit: (perform 3 sets with 1-2 minute rest after each)

10 x Burpees

10 (ea) x DB Alt. Bench Press

10 x DB 1 Leg RDL

10 x Cable Row

10 (ea) x DB Front Squat

10 (ea) x Anti Rotation Pull

Stretch:

Squat to Hamstring

Kneeling Hip Flexor

Stretch: 

Squat to Hamstring

Kneeling Hip Flexor

Now as I said earlier, a 20-minute workout isn’t the only magic solution, you could increase or decrease the time based on what works for you.

I am using the 20-minute workout as a solution for this article, but in reality you can do a 30-minute workout, 5 days/week and find success. Or you could do 2 – 15 minute workouts everyday, or 3 – 10 minute workouts everyday. You have options. However, if you can’t fit in a 20-minute workout, you might want to work on your time management skills.

Don’t forget about your nutrition. A 20-minute workout will shed fat only if your nutrition is in check. While we won’t go into nutrition too much in this article, here is an article that dives further into nutrition strategies.

If you follow the above workout for a month, and eat clean, you’ll notice real measurable results. If you do so, it will lead you to achieving your goals or at least moving on to the next step in your training.

After that, come on back to gentlemanawesome.com to continue your journey to becoming an Awesome Gentleman!

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John Timmerman
About the author

John Timmerman

John Timmerman is the founder of Good Monster, a digital agency in Syracuse, NY. He is a former strength & conditioning coach and personal trainer who has trained NFL, MLB, NHL, PGA, UFC athletes, executives and everyone else for 10 years. When he's not burning the house down trying to cook up healthy ways to eat bacon, he's traveling and enjoying life to the fullest!