Only 2 Hours of Exercise a Week?

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It is with great pleasure that I bring you today’s guest post. As you may know, I’m big on identifying and implementing Primal lifestyle hacks that deliver max results with the least amount of pain, suffering, sacrifice and time as possible. So when someone comes along saying they have a research based approach to fitness that will get you amazing results in just 12 minutes a week I listen up. If you are not yet familiar with authors Doug McGuff and John Little’s Body By Science read on to get a great overview, and check out the BBS website.

Before we get into it let me point out that I agree with Doug’s position that before you start throwing stones or dragging heavy rocks you should achieve a certain base of level of fitness. That’s why I developed the Primal Blueprint Fitness protocol that scales for all fitness levels, emphasizes injury prevention and prepares people for more natural, functional movement patterns. But, as they say, there is more than one way to skin a cat. Doug’s methodology is one such way – a way that I encourage you to test in your experiment of one.

Enter Doug McGuff…

When one is first beginning to make the change to a Primal lifestyle, the dietary approach can seem a little intimidating, but the exercise portion can seem hopeless to those who are significantly out-of-shape. Much of the exercise in the Primal approach is a functional activity-based approach. In essence, you are trying to recreate the types of movements and activities that our ancestors might have carried out. In the process of doing so, an exercise effect is achieved as a byproduct of the activity. This is how it occurred in our distant past, and it is what our bodies are evolved to do.

The problem when starting out is that the Primal approach to diet can be challenging because we have suffered metabolic damage that makes it challenging to revert to our genetic default state. There are addictions to overcome, and new metabolic trails to be blazed. This is the beauty of Mark’s 30 day challenges…they help you to navigate through the transition period.

While the dietary changes can be challenging, the challenge of exercise can be almost insurmountable for those just starting out. The one significant problem with a functional approach to exercise, is that it assumes a given level of fitness…a level that may not exist. Further, the activity is simply a re-enactment of what a human should be capable of with an exercise effect occurring as a by-product or side-effect. Also, functional movements (running, crawling, jumping, dragging heavy objects) all involve encountering significant forces. Without an appropriate level of conditioning, these forces can produce injury, and sometimes the injury can be bad enough to permanently sideline any effort at achieving fitness.

Do not get me wrong, these functional activities are an important part of a Primal lifestyle, but they should (in my opinion) be the joyful expression of a body fully capable, not an artificial mimicking of the past as a means of producing an exercise effect. So before trying to throw stones or drag heavy rocks, let us discuss how the beginner can start to establish a degree of fitness that will actually make these activities what they are supposed to be: a joyful expression of a strong body.

Setting Yourself Up to Win Step 1: Decide How Much Time Per Week You Can Honestly Spend on Fitness

Be realistic. Most people shoot themselves down with too much enthusiasm. Don?t think in the realm of 6 our 8 hours, because you know this will not work out in the long-term. Remember, we are looking for a lifestyle change. If I could convince you that you could make major changes in your fitness with just 2 total hours per week I suspect this would make you feel like this is doable. Once you have some hope, you are on your way. So 2 hours it is….120 minutes out of a whole week. Perfect!

Setting Yourself Up to Win Step 2: Take Your Answer from Step 1 and Divide by 10

Yup. You heard right. Divide 120 minutes by 10 for a grand total of 12 minutes. That is all I?m going to give you to get into condition to become a functional human animal. Do not let yourself become skeptical. Do not say to yourself “there is no way 12 minutes is enough”. Simply embrace the fact that there is NO WAY that you will be unable to carve 12 minutes out of your week.

Setting Yourself Up to Win Step 3: Be Willing to Be Shown a Way of Exercising That Is So Hard That 12 Minutes Is All You Can Stand

This is where the catch is. If you do this properly, 12 minutes will be all you can stand. The thought of extending this to 13 minutes will not cross your mind. In fact, within the first 90 seconds you will start to think “how much longer till this is over?”

Setting Yourself Up to Win Step 4: Do No Other Formal Exercise for the Rest of the Week

That?s right…no other planned exercise. But what if you get antsy and want to work out 2 times per week? Fine, but if you do, it needs to be two 6-minute sessions AND they need to be so hard that 6 minutes is all you can stand. In the initial weeks it is perfectly acceptable if you do nothing else. In fact this is encouraged…up to a point. After 4-12 weeks (depending on your starting level of conditioning) you will get the uncontrollable urge to do something active. When (and only when) this happens, you should cautiously go out and do something. It can be as physically demanding as you like, but it must NOT be formal exercise. This activity should be experienced as PLAY…even if others define it as functional exercise. As you become better conditioned, the active genotype that is deep within your DNA will wake up and it will drive you to be more and more active. Once you are at this level, continue to do your once a week workout with ever-increasing intensity, progressively improving your strength and metabolic condition. As you become ever more conditioned, then you will be well-protected as you learn the skills of a fully functional human.

How To: Getting Started

Your 12 minutes of exercise should be composed of 4 or 5 movements. These movements should be basic compound movements that require very little skill to perform. You should aim for low skill movements because all of your attention needs to be focused on effort and rapid fatigue not performing a complex movement that requires a lot of concentration. If you have access to a commercial gym, performing these movements on quality machines will allow you even more focus on effort as opposed to the movement. The best equipment available in commercial gyms would be from Med-X or Nautilus. Plate-loaded equipment such as Hammer Strength or Pendulum is also a good choice. Cybex and other common pieces can work as well, but are generally not as good as the ones listed above. The movements to perform are as follows:

  1. Pulldown: A palms up, slightly narrower than shoulder width grip is best. This can also be done as a chin up (weight assisted chin-ups are available at many gyms).
  2. Chest Press: Set up so starting point is hands just below nipple level and not too deep (hands even with the front plane of chest-shoulder and elbows at about 90 degrees).
  3. Compound Row: A pulling motion in the horizontal plane.
  4. Overhead Press: Use a palms facing each other grip as opposed to palms facing forward which externally rotates your upper arm and impinges the shoulder joint.
  5. Leg Press: Starting point should be leg and hip joint at about 90 degrees. An extremely deep starting position is not necessary.

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