Busting the Plateau with Mini-Workouts

Atypical workout for an average person consists of about 30 minutes to 1 hour of lifting weights. And that’s just wrong.

If exercises are performed incorrectly, the load on the muscles and stress on the joints of these repeated movements cause both short and long term damage to your body.  Most people continue to workout despite a known injury, aching back, or sore muscles because of the improved appearance of their physique as a result of the working out. However, over time, the improved appearance becomes harder to maintain, and a “plateau” eventually occurs. A workout plateau is when someone continues to exercise and sees diminishing returns on the improvement of their physique.

Recently, several scientific studies have been conducted which analyze the optimal duration and intensity for a proper workout.  Some experts claim high intensity and fast workouts are the most beneficial. Others claim slow meticulous movements with heavy loads is the easiest way to maintain a great physique and optimal health.

Mini-workouts have proven to be extremely effective to both the health of the individual and improvement of the physique, yet often are the most underutilized form of working out. Three to five workouts a day, varying in duration from 10-15 minutes, provide a boost in the metabolic rate of an individual throughout the entire day.  Therefore, mini-workouts are more effective at burning calories throughout the day than working out all in one block.  For proper nutrition, an individual eats 3 meals a day; the same theory should be applied to working out.

A majority of fitness products largely overlook the scientific studies showing the effectiveness of a mini-workout because people usually workout in 1-hour blocks.  This principle has been adopted not because of optimal health of the individual, but rather convenience.  Only a small percentage of people, for very specific reasons (i.e. competitive bodybuilders), will show consistent gains working out in 1-hour blocks.

Putting the idea to the test

Typically, I hit the gym during my lunch hour with three other coworkers.  The three of us decided to give the concept of mini-workouts a try for 2 full months. Before we started, we recorded our weight, body fat percentage and body measurements. We used a fitness product I invented called Strength Stack 52, which centers around bodyweight mini-workouts.  Instead of doing one 45 minute workout during our lunch hour, we met 15 minutes before and after work and 15 minutes during our lunch hour to complete mini-workouts.  The three of us were still exercising 45 minutes per day, and to keep the results as pure as possible, we did not change our eating habits or lift any weights.

The body has an amazing ability to adapt.  If you aren’t constantly challenging yourself with new techniques and exercises, you are not maximizing your workout time. Here’s a sample of a few exercises we did, and I challenge you to incorporate these in your next workout.

1. Body Rocks – Lay on your back with your legs in a vertical position and your arms over your head. Use your abs to rock your body up to almost a seated position. Rock back down. Do these for 30 seconds and your abs will feel like they’ve got the workout of a lifetime.

Here’s a video of what this looks like: body-rocks

2. Shoulder Annihilators – Assume the push-up position with your forearms on the ground. Rotate up and out off one arm ending with your chest perpendicular to the ground.  Your shoulder muscle should be bearing the weight of the body rotation. Do 10 of these for each arm and your shoulders will definitely feel the burn.

Video link: shoulder-annihilators

3. Scorpions – Assume the push-up position. Move your left leg as far as possible past your right leg and rotate your head and body to the left. Repeat with other side. Do 10 of these on each side and your mid-section will wish you didn’t read this article.

Video link: scorpions

Each of these exercises can be found in my new bodyweight fitness cards called Strength Stack 52.  But whether you choose to do the exercises above or find some different ones of your own, keep in mind that varying your workout is of utmost importance. Too many people in the gym workout like zombies, doing the same exercises week after week.  To maximize your exercise time, just spend 15 minutes a week searching the internet for new exercises to do the following week.  It could be the single easiest thing you can do to increase your workout effectiveness.

The results were amazing

At the end of our two month experiment, each of us saw positive results performing strictly bodyweight exercises in intervals of 15 minutes, 3 times per day.  The three of us averaged 11 lbs. of weight loss with the highest of us losing 18 lbs. Keep in mind, this weight loss occurred in people who were already active, and with no change in our diet.  Each of us also experienced muscle gain, reducing our body fat percentage an average of 2.2%.  We all agree, the biggest benefit was our mental stamina and attitude. We all feel better throughout the day, and our 2 o’clock “is the workday over yet?” feeling has gone away.

Whether our success is a result of breaking a plateau or due to the effectiveness of mini-workouts can’t be determined in just two months.  However, the reason doesn’t matter.  The results speak for themselves. And the mini-workouts were fun.  Instead of looking forward to one large workout in a day, we now look forward to 3 intense and fun workouts in a day.

Other benefits we experienced as a result of the mini-workouts included:

-Less muscle soreness
-less joint pain
-increased cardiovascular stamina
-more mental stamina and intensity per workout
-more calories burned per day

Our conclusion

Although we experienced positive results testing the mini-workouts, we all miss throwing a few dumbbells around. So we developed a hybrid program where we now do a mini-workout in the morning and during our lunch hour. But after our second mini-workout (during the lunch hour) we added in a weight training program as well.

Experimenting with the mini-workouts was an eye opening experience for us.  We all used to subscribe to the “no pain, no gain” philosophy, and we now know that no part of that old adage is true. You can in fact gain muscle and lose weight performing small, fun and challenging workouts three times a day.

Try it for yourself, and see.


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Sergeant MICHAEL VOLKIN  (aka: The Volkinator) is a U.S. Army veteran, author, and entrepreneur. He is the inventor of Strength Stack 52, a unique deck of bodyweight fitness cards designed to get you in shape faster than ever before. Mr. Volkin is also the best-selling author of 3 military training books aimed at helping recruits prepare for basic training.