Minimalist Weight Training – Introduction
The Minimalist Training Home Workout for Strength & Fitness
Training for strength, fitness and fat loss often seems time-consuming.
According to the most popular workouts, in addition to hitting the gym five times a week for an hour or more, you also need access to a very well-equipped training facility, which invariably means a lengthy commute.
That all adds up to more time than many people can or want to spend on exercise.
Of course, for some, exercise is their main hobby, and they’re happy to dedicate two or more hours a day to working out.
The gym is their social hub, and they have very few additional commitments.
But, with age comes responsibility, and many adults do not have hours of free time to spend at the gym.
The good news is that you can still build muscle, strength, and fitness with short, condensed workouts.
This style of training is called minimalist or abbreviated training.
This article explains the concepts of minimalist training and provides you with some sample workouts.
What is Minimalist Strength Training?
Minimalist training involves cutting away the flab from your workouts, so you’re left with nothing but the bare bones.
For example, instead of doing several different exercises per muscle group, you only do one, and rather than using isolation exercises, you do compound movements.
This results in shorter workouts and, in some cases, fewer workouts per week.
Using the minimalist approach, you can also simplify your equipment choices and work out with less.
For example, you could use dumbbells, a barbell, or even bodyweight exercises.
The idea of minimalist strength training is to try and do more with less: less time, minimal equipment, fewer exercises, and even fewer workouts, which is a stark contrast to the “kitchen sink” approach that many trainers use.
They throw every conceivable exercise into their workouts, hitting specific muscle groups from multiple angles.
While this all-in approach works, it’s not always practical for home exercisers and anyone who doesn’t want to spend all their free time training.
Who Should Do Minimalist Weight Training?
Minimalist training is not for everyone, and you may not even need to follow a stripped-down program if you have plenty of time and energy for longer, more frequent workouts.
But, if you are struggling to stick to your current workout plan, minimalist training could be the solution you’ve been waiting for.
Minimalist weight training is perfect for exercisers who are:
Short on time
Only got 30 minutes a day to work out?
You can still get an incredible minimalist workout in that time.
Low in energy
With just a couple of exercises per workout, you should find a minimalist strength training session less draining and easier to recover from.
Short on equipment
Do you train at home?
Is your home gym sparsely equipped?
Don’t worry; you can still get a great workout with a minimalist program.
Minimalist training workouts are ideal if you’re beginning your fitness journey.
These total-body workouts are manageable, convenient, and focus on the main compound exercises you need to master before moving to more complex training methods.
And if you’re consistent, minimalist workout routines will get you good results.
If you play sports and hit the weights, you need to find time for practice and sports-specific conditioning.
You don’t want to spend all your time in the weight room.
A minimalist weight training approach means you should have the time and energy to pursue your sporting dreams.
If you have been doing a lot of high volume training lately and are struggling to recover between workouts, you could fall into the trap of overtraining syndrome.
Shorter workouts are much easier to recover from and, as such, could help you maintain strength gains and muscle mass as you get back on track.
Minimalist training can be valuable, regardless of your training goal, your current fitness level, and how experienced you are.
However, while it’s suitable for building strength and fitness, it’s not so helpful for hypertrophy or bodybuilding.
That’s because minimalist workouts are low training volume workouts, and volume plays an essential part in bodybuilding.
You’ll only have time for one exercise per major muscle group per workout with a minimalistic approach.
And that may not be sufficient to trigger maximal hypertrophy.
But, if you do train hard enough, minimalist training can help you build muscle mass.
The Best Minimalist Exercises
What are the best exercises for a minimalist workout program?
These are the big compound lifts that target multiple muscle groups simultaneously.
Instead of focusing on only triceps extensions and barbell curls that are single-joint exercises, you use multiple joint functional movements like:
- conventional deadlifts
- Romanian deadlift
- barbell back squats
- front squats
- Bulgarian split squats
- bench presses
- push ups
- chin ups
- pull ups
- overhead presses
So, even if you don’t have much time for training, these compound exercises that practically work your entire body will give you great results.
Therefore, a minimalist training approach is a highly effective way of getting maximal results in minimal time.
Example Minimalist Training Workouts
There is no one-size-fits-all minimalist workout.
Instead, minimalism is a style of training or philosophy.
While you could throw together two or three compound exercises, you’ll get the best results following a training program.
So, to that end, here are a few different minimalist workouts to try.
Choose the one that best fits your schedule.
Note: Feel free to change the exercises based on your personal preferences and available equipment.
For example, you could do dumbbell goblet front squats instead of barbell back squats.
However, stay true to the programs and use similar exercises.
Leg presses instead of squats is an acceptable substitution, while calf raises instead of deadlifts is not!
Minimalist program 1 – two workouts per week
This minimalist training program involves two abbreviated full-body workouts per week.
The workouts are a little longer than some of the others we’ve provided, but you should still be in and out of the gym in under an hour, with a total training time of no more than two hours per week.
Do each workout once per week, preferably several days apart, for example, Monday and Thursday.
Abbreviated strength training 2x a week – Fit Apprentice Workouts A & B
Minimalist program 2 – three workouts per week
You’ll be hitting the gym three times a week for this program, such as Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
However, while you’ll be training more often than program 1, each workout is shorter.
Abbreviated Weight Training – work out 3x a week – Fit Apprentice Workouts ABC
Minimalist program 3 – four workouts per week
Four workouts per week might not sound very minimalist, but you’ll only be doing three exercises per workout.
Even with your warm-up, you should be in and out of the gym in 30 minutes or less.
Minimalist Strength Training Plan 3 – 4x a week – Fit Apprentice Workouts ABCD
Minimalist program 4 – five workouts per week
If you have easy access to a gym, this program could be a great way to make the most of your facilities while keeping your workouts to around 20-30 minutes.
Abbreviated weight training program 4 – Fit Apprentice workouts ABCDE
Minimalist program 5 – six workouts per week
You’ll just be doing one daily exercise for your final minimalist training program.
Just do 4-6 sets of 6-12 reps to be in and out of the gym in less than 15 minutes.
- Sunday – squat
- Monday – bench press
- Tuesday – chin-up
- Wednesday – deadlift
- Thursday – overhead press
- Friday – bent-over row
- Saturday – rest
- Monday – squat
- Tuesday – bench press
- Wednesday – chin-up
- Thursday – deadlift
- Friday – overhead press
- Saturday – bent-over row
- Sunday – rest
An ascending pyramid with a back-off set at the end works well with this type of program, for example, with deadlifts or squats:
- 12 reps (e.g., 40kg/90lbs)
- 10 reps (e.g., 50kg/110lbs)
- 8 reps (e.g., 60kg/130lbs)
- 6 reps (e.g., 70kg/155lbs)
- 12 reps (e.g., 40kg/90lbs)
What About Cardio?
Cardio doesn’t fit into the minimalist training framework.
By its very nature, cardio tends to be quite time-consuming.
As a result, you may not have time to do cardio and strength training.
However, you could do a couple of things to improve your cardiovascular fitness and, by default, your cardiovascular health.
Tabatas are an ultra-short interval workout that takes less than five minutes to complete.
Try tacking a Tabata workout onto the end of your chosen abbreviated strength program.
Tabatas involve doing eight 20-second intervals with 10-seconds rest between each for a four-minute workout total.
You can use any cardio for Tabatas, including:
#2. Walk 10,000 steps per day
Walking is one of the most convenient types of cardio you can do.
Walk more and drive less to clock up 10,000 steps.
Walk at a brisk enough pace, so you are slightly out of breath.
Some call this type of gait – walking with purpose.
You don’t have to do all 10,000 steps in one shot.
This strategy gives the best results if you spread your walking steps throughout your day.
Just chip away at the 10,000-step target until you’ve done them all.
Minimalist Training – Wrapping Up
Lack of time is a legitimate barrier to exercise.
No one plans on missing workouts, but life has a way of derailing even the best intentions.
But, while you may not be able to commit to two hours a day, most people should be able to find 20-30 minutes several times a week for a minimalist workout.
Such an approach indeed means you do not target smaller muscles like calves; others are trained indirectly (biceps and triceps).
However, you can still effectively work your whole body using the minimalist approach, usually with only a couple of hours per week.
Longer, more comprehensive workouts invariably produce better results, but the benefits of any extra training are pretty minimal.
So, given a choice between minimalist training and no training, the minimalist approach is the clear winner!
So, don’t let lack of time stop you from getting stronger and fitter.
Instead, use the minimalist workout method to achieve your training goals.
You now have five great full-body minimalist strength training workouts for when you are short on time.
Or if you’re over 50 when you might not be as tough and flexible as you were on your high school football team!
However, if you have time for an hour-long workout or more, consider the following two articles:
- Strength Training for Men Over 50 + Full-Body Workout
- 12-Week Body Transformation Workout Plan at Home
Use the strategies in either of these articles to maintain muscle mass and strength, and ward off middle-age spread while achieving the type of body transformation you want.