If you’ve ever wanted to find an easy way of increasing your amount of general everyday movement while also elevating your baseline fitness level, look no further than the #1 fitness breakthrough in recent decades, microworkouts!
Microworkouts are a highly efficient way of ensuring that moving around more becomes a deeply ingrained part of your habitual behavior, without the added stress that can come with pre-planned workouts. In this episode, I discuss the many benefits of microworkouts and give tips on how to easily incorporate them into your daily routine too. I share some of my favorite exercises to do and use a few examples of things I’ve added to my home and home office to illustrate how easy it is to incorporate this practice into your daily life. Of course there are benefits in going to the gym or exercise classes, such as instant motivation and natural camaraderie, but sustaining a committed fitness routine in the face of everyday life can be a daunting task: things get in the way, unexpected events throw you off your pre-planned schedule, there are always errands and chores to take care of, work commitments, kids and pets that need to tending to…. the list goes on.
We all experience days that are busier than anticipated, and after a full day of running around and trying to get everything accomplished, most people are too tired to even think about working out—and this is where microworkouts come in. Whether you’re an elite athlete or just someone who struggles to get it done and adhere to a steady fitness routine, microworkouts are a wonderful addition to your fitness regimen, as they help you become more active throughout the day (every day), instead of just in isolated moments, and your efforts, while seemingly small, truly add up over time.
Because this is a rebroadcast episode, I’ve included some new notes and suggested modifications, such as the importance of being sure to warm up first, which I feel wasn’t emphasized enough before.
Life is busy and we don’t always have time for a perfect workout experience. [01:31]
It is important to warm up first, appropriate to your level. [04:28]
Micro workouts are getting a lot of attention rather than a formal exercise time. Squats are a good start. [06:34]
When you don’t go regularly to the gym, you may find it easy to overdo it and get injured and tired. [09:58]
Brad’s micro workouts are at home, particularly with the hexagonal deadlift bar and pull-up bar. [12:47]
Micro workouts break up the workday and keep you moving all day. [15:34]
Take a luxurious rest between sets. [20:33]
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Welcome to this re-broadcast of getting started with micro workouts. And I don’t wanna be full of hype, but I contend this is the greatest breakthrough that we have seen in the fitness industry in decades. The idea that a workout does not have to be this grand formal occasion, where you have to get in your car and drive to a busy parking lot, cruise around, looking for the closest space, go through the door, get your tag beep get your towel and then go and find to spot on one of the bicycle seats. All that is great and the camaraderie and the easy, motivation that comes from showing up at a fitness facility. I absolutely love, especially since I don’t visit very often. I feel like when I just put myself there, I’ve set myself up to succeed and that’s a wonderful element, but life gets busy and complex and we don’t always have time for a perfect workout experience.
Therefore micro workouts can be a wonderful addition to your exercise schedule, whether you’re an elite athlete or someone who’s struggling to adhere to a healthy, active lifestyle. So this kind of opens the door. It lowers the bar for all of us to become more active throughout the day. What’s especially important here as well. Is that the impetus for increasing all forms of general everyday movement is absolutely health critical. Many experts contend that it’s more important to just be active and moving throughout the day than it is to adhere to a devoted exercise schedule. This is a concept that’s been studied in science called the active couch potato syndrome whereby they studied, uh, devoted fitness enthusiasts. Let’s say people who show up at the gym every day and do an hour workout. They’re they’re, they’re locked in, they’re running their 30 miles a week.
They’re punching their ticket for a lot of classes that population who have otherwise highly sedentary lifestyle habits show the same disease risk marker as a completely sedentary population so that, uh, whatever it is, let’s say seven hours a week. That’s a really devoted exercise program, but guess what? There’s another 161 hours to total 1 68 in a week. So if you’re active for seven hours, Hey, that’s great. That’s better than zero, but it’s not that much better where we have earned this free pass to sit around on the subway in the office building or on the couch in the evening. And so when you integrate microworks, what happens is you inject these opportunities for activity and physical effort, and they break up the prolonged periods of stillness that you experience for most of us when we’re interacting with the screen all day long. And of course, I’m gonna talk about numerous other benefits.
So I’m gonna leave that for the show. But one thing I wanna mention that I probably didn’t emphasize enough is the importance of warming up first or doing a micro workout that’s appropriate to your level. So I talk glowingly about how I throw the garbage away and I walk by the hexagonal deadlift bar in the backyard, and that’s great. And I do a set, but if you’re not adapted to hex bar deadlifting, you don’t wanna do that coming up from your chair after a long afternoon, looking at the screen. And so I also mentioned like running up a flight of stairs every time I have to climb stairs during the day. That’s great. But if you are in the unfit category or uncertain about your ability to pounce into explosive activity after long periods of sitting, why don’t you ascend the stairs slowly, descend, ascend at medium speed, then descend again, and then finally, run a sprint up the stairs. So it’s getting a little bit of blood flowing, especially if you’re doing something that’s involving resistance, like doing a set of pull ups or, uh, lifting some heavy weight off the ground. And so warming up and then getting into these appropriate micro workouts throughout the day. And the other tip from my primal colleague and psychologist, Lindsey Taylor, is when things are on plain sight and your eyes can actually register that kettlebell sitting in the corner of your office, you are much more
Likely to engage than even something as simple as putting it away in a drawer. So you want to hang those mini bands right on the door knob or on the hook on the wall, and look at them throughout the day when you’re sitting in your office. I’m staring at a pull up bar right now, as I record this and we wanna make the opportunity to engage super easy and constantly on our minds. So put sticky notes in your eye range throughout the day and have the implements right there to make it super easy and convenient. And then we get started with micro workouts, Enjoy the re broadcast.
Hi, Breather listeners. I wanna talk about one of my most fantastic favorite new fitness breakthroughs that I’m gonna call micro workouts. It’s starting to gain some traction, some attention, some interest in the fitness community. And this is the idea of hauling off the occasion, brief, explosive effort of strength, uh, during the course of a routine day. So rather than a formal workout, where you get in your car, drive to the gym, put on your weightlifting gloves, whatever, meet the trainer, attend the class. This is just becoming more active in daily life and setting yourself up for opportunities to perform a brief strength effort, such as a single set of deep squats in your office. Over the course of the workday, try doing 20 deep squats right now ass to grass style is highly recommended, instructed. That’s where you get the real explosiveness when you are able to lower all the way to the ground.
And if you can’t lower all the way, keep working on it because that suggests you might have some flexibility, muscle imbalances, things that are limiting your mobility. So you try to get as low as you can, such that your butt is almost touching the ground. Your knees are completely bent, and then you raise up very carefully tracking your knees over the midfoot and doing a nice, uh, form with your squats. But if you do so little as 20, it is a pretty badass effort right there. You’re gonna be burning when you get to about 10. So that’s just one example that you can do anywhere without any equipment. And what I’ve done is set up my home environment for success with this micro workout concept. So I have opportunities to perform explosive feats of strength as I walk outside and throw the garbage away in the can or walk under the doorway to my recording studio, where I have a pull up bar and they also have hanging from the pull up bar this product called stretch cords stretch cords, C O R D Z, which is the popular surgical tubing on a strap with handles.
And it provides a wonderful total body workout with a whole bunch of different options to use the resistance cords, to work different muscles. And I have a nice little sequence that I do for abdominals, for lats, for biceps triceps, hanging off the pull up bar. So during the course of a day, I can choose to go out in the backyard, throw the garbage away and then hit the hexagonal deadlift bar for, let’s say a single set of six reps of deadlifts, or I can do a single set of pull ups and then go about my workday. The reason this is so appealing to me are a couple things first. I can’t say I’m the biggest fan of hitting the gym and throwing a bunch of iron around when I have free time to work out exercise, I mostly want to go do something competitive, like speed golf, or have an outdoor it experience rather than yet another indoor experience.
So I haven’t been that disciplined and focused in getting into the gym two, three times a week that might be optimal over the past few decades of my life. So I know I need to get in the gym more, do some great workouts. And when I go, I’m super fired up and excited, and I quite often have overdone it over the years because I don’t get in there that much. And then I do get in there and I hit it hard. And the next day I’m sore and tired because the workout was too ambitious. So what to do about that? Yeah, I gotta maybe tone it down and go more frequently and less stressful of the workout. And so that’s where this micro workout concept started to take hold. And I’ve been sort of drifting into this area for the past several years where I’ll do these 10 minute workouts, 15 minute workouts, 20 minute workouts at home, oftentimes inspired and motivated by the idea that I should go to the gym and complete a proper workout.
The gym’s only a few minutes away by the way, but I sometimes feel too lazy, too busy, too stressed. I don’t want to carve out that much time to get in my car or ride my bicycle over to the gym and do a proper session and come back home. So instead I convince myself that I’ll do a great workout here and save the time, uh, and the convenience factor, uh, of going to the gym. But a lot of times what happens when you’re at home training by yourself, you’re not super motivated to go for an entire hour or whatever a gym session might entail. So what I was doing was racking up a good number of these miniature workouts, in comparison to my poor attendance record at the gym. And I was happy to pay for the gym membership because it served as a motivator to go get some work done in the backyard and in the house, you get what I’m saying?
It was sort of like the enticement of doing something right here right now, so that I can skip my trip to the gym. So, no, don’t, don’t try this at home. I would say that it’s great to put yourself in that environment at the gym where, you know, you’re gonna get some work done, you have the camaraderie, you have the support of your working out peers. You might have some social interaction that keeps you in the groove and why gyms are a great sense of community as one of the great attributes of a gym itself. But if you’re not getting there frequently enough, and you’re maybe an all or nothing type of person where you feel discouraged, if you can’t get exactly into this super ambitious workout routine, this micro workouts might be the ticket to building more momentum and letting everything flow together from the micro workouts, as well as the beautiful gym workouts as designed and envisioned.
In fact, that seems to be how things are playing out for me. We have our wonderful standing Saturday gym experience. I go with Mia Moore. So I have my teammate, the camaraderie, the motivation. She has a class to attend at a certain time. So I will go do my own thing or go to the nearby track and sprint, but it’s a Saturday morning exercise outing. So I have a really nice full scale and important workout in the books on most Saturdays. But in tandem with that, a little bit deficient on visiting the gym, but I’m okay with it. Because if you add up the cumulative effect of these micro workouts, the fitness benefit is outstanding. For example, I described my hexagonal dead lift bar in the backyard. Let’s say that not every day, but perhaps four or five days a week, I do at least one set.
And some days, even with hours of time in between the efforts, maybe I’ll do three or four sets, no big deal, barely even worth mentioning. I’m not gonna write it in my training diary or anything like that. But if you add up that pattern over 30 days time and consider that, uh, I have 200 pounds loaded on the bar. I know not, not fantastic, but that’s what I have. And if I do six reps, that’s 1200 pounds, right? So if I’m doing that, an average of let’s say modestly, that I’m only doing 12 sets in an entire week, right? 12 sets lifting 1200 pounds each set. That’s almost 15,000 pounds of weight lifted in a week in the routine course of the day of throwing garbage into the garbage can. Same with the pull ups, oh my goodness. Let’s see. I do only one set a day.
Some days only two sets, maybe ones at morning,ones at nighttime. I’m still doing. If I’m doing 12 reps, 13, 14, 15 reps per set, I’m still doing close to 30 pull ups. On most days of the week, that’s 150 pull ups a week, not counting my formal workouts. Can you imagine what happens when I do get to the gym for a formal workout session? My launching point is way higher than if I was just sitting in an office working all day and not doing a single, straight training effort to speak of besides my super impressive ambitious workouts with my personal trainer, my class, or heading to the gym for a prolonged session. So you can see, you can just inch toward a higher level of fitness, improve your performance in your formal workouts, reduce injury risk, because you’re keeping strong and active throughout the week.
Oh, it’s a fantastic new concept. I strongly encourage you to try it out. There’s so many other benefits too. Another one for me is that it breaks up the workday and the stillness and the, uh, peak cognitive function where I’m staring at my screen, trying to do thing impressive, like write a book or take some notes to record a podcast or record a podcast. And then I’m a little bit fried. I need a little bit of a break. So I get to do something physical and not have to get sweaty or get changed into a different clothes, drive somewhere, but just make it part of the routine day. Even if you’re in office setting where you don’t have to pull a bar, the stretch cords, you can find little tools and toys and contraptions to deliver a strength training effect. If nothing else, just a set of deep squats.
And it adds up over time. What this also does is contribute to this hugely important objective of increasing all forms of general, everyday movement. And many of the world’s leading fitness experts, deep into the fitness scene are now stating that general everyday movement is of higher priority than adhering to an ambitious workout regimen. Yes, it’s great that you get your butt up and go to the gym at 6:00 AM and do an hour class. But if you’re sitting around the rest of the day, sitting on the subway, sitting at the office, coming home, sitting on the couch, proud of yourself, patting yourself on the back because you did that. 6:00 AM workout most days of the week, or because you’re putting in 30 miles a week on the roads a as a runner, but otherwise sedentary, you are adding up to no good. And there’s a scientifically validated phenomenon called the active couch potato syndrome, whereby devoted fitness enthusiasts are showing the same metabolic disease, risk factor as sedentary people, despite their devotion to ambitious workouts.
If you think about it, it makes sense. We know that we have 168 total hours in a week. So the fact that you’re out there working out for five or six hours out of 168, it’s better than nothing. Of course, you’re gonna have some fitness attributes to show for it, but the general inactivity patterns of life are strongly predictive of adverse health consequences and disease patterns. If you don’t do something about it and get up and move. So you have to implement these modest objectives, like getting up from your chair and walking around for at least a five minute break every hour, 10 minute break every two hours, a nice midday break, where you can go for a stroll and get some sun and get some exercise instead of prolonged periods of sitting, which mess up your fat metabolism and your cognitive function. So these micro workouts are a great way to get the blood flowing, to get a nice little fitness response, maybe a hormonal burst, a little bit of increase in blood supply and oxygen delivery to the brain because you’ve asked yourself to do even something as modest as 12 pull ups and it all adds up to be a more healthier, more active fitter lifestyle.
eTry it out. Our main man in the endurance scene, Dr. Phil Maffetone is super into this. Also always the trend setter in the forward thinker. He has a term for it. He calls it slow weights, and he writes my typical slow weight. Weekly workout includes lifting three or four days. And each lift is a pretty modest 80% of one rep max. And he’ll do three or four sets in a day. In a day, sometimes back to back like waiting a few minutes and doing another set. I do that as well. I might do a set of pull ups wait a couple, few minutes, do another set, maybe while my lunch is cooking or something like that, you know, I’ll get a couple going. So it’s a little bit more than just that passing fancy of doing one set. There’s no rules here. It’s just a matter of accumulating some good work and some good movement.
Um, sometimes Maffetone will rest three minutes between sets. Sometimes it’s an hour or two or more. The important part of of slow weights is to keep it simple and safe. He writes at the least you only needed to perform a couple of different lifting routines to sufficiently build muscle and bone strength throughout the body. But of course you can do different or more if you want. The two easiest and most effective ones are the dead lift and the squat. So you can do something like just his suggestion, one to six reps in each set. Did you see that one to six reps? So one rep of a deadlift will give you a fitness response it’s worth doing, but of course, if you’re gonna sit there and pick up the bar, you might as well do near exhaustion or near temporary muscle failure. He’s saying that four sets a day is great.
So if you’re doing one to six reps for four sets, you have done your slow weights for that day. He likes the lifting to be fast and explosive. Take at least three minutes between sets. So you’re not getting into that workout mode where you’re generating cumulative fatigue, because you’re not resting much between sets. Those are kind of ambitions that you could save for a proper gym session. And now, as I’ve talked about, uh, during other podcasts, uh, the concept of getting away from these overly stressful high intensity interval training workouts, where cumulative fatigue is a fundamental component of the workout, the exhaustion factor afterward. Instead you go for the high intensity repeat training model, where you take what Dr. Craig Marker calls luxurious rest intervals in between your sets to allow cellular energy, to regenerate and prevent that cellular breakdown that occurs when you ask your cells to perform and deliver maximum output when they’re not fully recovered from the previous set.
So the slow weight is not a time to try to get this fitness adaptation of hanging in there, but instead doing a set, taking a break at least three minutes up to an hour or two hours, this Maffetone says, and then doing another one. So one thing to mention on that is if you are settling over the deadlift bar, with 200 pounds, like I mentioned, this is something that comes with a little bit of a caveat warning sign. Because of course, in a proper workout setting, you’re gonna get your warmup. You’re gonna do five minutes of easy cardio on the bike. Maybe you’re gonna do some stretches, some preparatory drills. Maybe you’re gonna lift an empty bar, an unweighted bar a few times to get the form right, get the blood flowing, make sure that you don’t injure or pull anything hauling off outta nowhere.
So when I describe my hauling off a set of pull ups or doing a set of deadlifts, woo, I’m gonna describe that I have some experience and some familiarity with this type of approach. It’s in the middle of the day where I’m leading an active, busy day, I’m not getting up outta bed and doing a set of pull ups without proper warmup, but you wanna make sure that you got a little bit of blood flowing and some lubrication in the joints before you step over a weighted bar. Okay? And depending on your basic fitness level, you might want to ease into this and maybe some of your micro workout can be a much, much lighter weight, sort of a pre respiratory little set, and then eased into the next one after a couple minutes rest. So just make sure that you’re well, lubricated and ready to go, to do even a mild strength effort.
Now with the deep squats, gee, you should be able to haul off and do a set of deep squats without a whole bunch of warm up or preparation. But again, if you’ve been sitting and your hip flexors are all tight and your hamstrings are tight from four hours of sitting, you might wanna do some halfway squats for a while. Maybe do a set of 10 of those, maybe 20 of those. And then once you got a little bit of warmup going, you can go down and do the, uh, all the way down deep squats. Okay. So take that precaution of getting a little bit of blood flowing. Maybe you’ll do the micro workout at the conclusion of a five minute stroll, including a couple flights of stairs at the office. You get me? Okay. Try it out. It’s fantastic. Raising that platform from which to launch your magnificent athletic feats. Thank you for listening.
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