Between work, kids, and tons of other responsibilities, there are some days that it can seem impossible to fit in a workout. That's where micro workouts come into play.

micro workouts for menIf you haven’t heard of micro workouts, it’s exactly what it sounds like.

Micro workouts are short bouts of exercise that you can perform throughout the day when you have a few minutes of free time.

And there is research to show that micro workouts can still have great fitness benefits.

Improve Your Health with Short Bursts of Exercise

A recent study from the Journal of the American Heart Association showed that sporadic exercise lasting 5-10 minutes performed throughout the day can help reduce mortality.

While the AHA recommends 150 minutes each week of moderate to vigorous activity, the research found that this total was independent of how the activity was accumulated (1).

Micro workouts are great because they can be done just about anywhere.

The important thing to remember is that, since these workouts are short in duration, they need to be high in intensity.

One study out of McMaster University in Ontario found that brief, intense exercise can improve cardiovascular health to the same extent as sustained endurance exercise.

This was despite having lower total exercise volume! (2)

So even a short workout, like our 24-minute fat-burner, is far better than no workout at all.

Increase Your Intensity With Micro Workouts For Men

Any workout is going to burn calories, however the higher the intensity of the workout, the more calories you will continue to burn, even after the workout has ended.

This is called Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption, or EPOC for short. So if you are short on time, the key is to really up the intensity.

This ensures that even a workout that is low in minutes will be high in fat burning and strength building.

For example, a study out of the International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism showed that two minutes of sprint intervals produced similar post-exercise oxygen consumption as thirty minutes of continuous running at a lower intensity (3).

Form Still Counts, Even with Shorter Workouts

And, just because you aren’t spending hours in a gym or using a lot of equipment, this does not mean you should forget about form and safety.

Since you will be working at a higher intensity in these micro workouts, maintaining proper form throughout the movements is essential to avoid injury.

Top 5 Micro Workouts For Men

1) Commercial Break Micro Workout

Some days you can’t get to the gym, whether it be a long workday or needing to be at home with your kids. So here are some great moves to do in the comfort of your home.

  • Jog in place for 30 seconds.
    • This can start out as a light jog at first, then increase the pace.
  • Burpees for 30 seconds.
    • You can do these with or without a push-up. Remember to keep your core engaged throughout the movement.
  • Alternating lunges for 30 seconds.
    • Start out slowly and then gradually increase the intensity. Be sure that your knees don’t track over your feet during each movement.
  • Elbow plank for 30 seconds.
    • Don’t let your back arch while holding this position. If you feel your form fading, come out of the plank for a brief second and then resume.

Rest for 1 minute, then repeat two more times. Try to increase the intensity or reps for each movement in each subsequent circuit.

This short workout will give you both cardiovascular and strength training benefits.

Try to move right from one exercise to the next to keep your heart rate up throughout this micro workout.

2) Micro Workouts for the Office

You can still get a workout by accumulating reps throughout the day… even at your desk!

Try these exercises at work whenever you get a chance to sneak in a few reps.

Resistance training using your own bodyweight is a great way for men to add strength training through micro workouts even when you don’t have access to free weights.

  • Tricep Chair dips x 30 reps:
    • This is a quick exercise you can do whenever you have a couple of minutes. Just move to the edge of your chair and lower your body down into a tricep dip until your arms are parallel to the ground. Push back up, being sure to keep your arms close to your body.
  • Bodyweight squats x 15 reps:
    • Bodyweight squats are an easy exercise to do right beside your desk. Be sure that your knees don’t track over your feet. Engage your core and maintain good posture throughout to avoid injury.
  • Push-Ups x 15 reps:
    • Push-ups are a great upper body and core workout. These can be done just about anywhere, and there are a number of variations that can be done throughout the day. You can start out with standard push-ups.The next time you can do military push-ups, or put your feet up on your chair and try decline push-ups. This will allow you to engage different muscles in your chest.
  • Calf raises x 30 reps:
    • Stand next to your chair or desk and perform 30 reps of calf raises. Try changing the angle with this exercise as well. Do 30 reps with your toes pointing forward.Then try the next 30 reps with your toes pointed out, and finally, do another set with your toes pointing in to target all areas of your calf muscles.

Repeat throughout the day when you have breaks between meetings and phone calls.

This is a great way to get your blood flowing during the day, especially if you have a desk job that has you sitting most of the day.

3) Dumbbell Micro Workouts

If you have access to a pair of dumbbells these can be used to get a killer micro workout from just about anywhere. Perform each exercise for 30 seconds, then move to the next.

Rest for one minute, then repeat 1-2 times depending on how much time you have.

  • Bicep curls
  • Tricep kickbacks
  • Shoulder press
  • Lawnmower rows
  • Squats

Resistance workouts with weights has been found to help reduce cardiovascular morbidity and mortality, even at less than an hour total for the week (4).

If you have a pair of dumbbells around the house, these are some great exercises to sneak into your day whenever you have a few minutes.

4) Quick Tabata Micro Workout

Make sure you have a towel and water available for this short, but intense micro workout.

High-intensity interval training has been shown to produce similar calorie-burning potentials over 24 hours compared to longer bouts of lower intensity endurance exercise.

This is despite being much shorter in duration (5).

  • Burpees with push up for 20 seconds, rest 10 seconds
  • Tuck jumps for 20 seconds, rest 10 seconds
  • Mountain climbers for 20 seconds, rest 10 seconds
  • Spiderman push-ups for 20 seconds, rest 10 seconds

Repeat the circuit twice for a quick 4-minute Tabata style workout. If you have extra time you can add on another circuit.

5) Hotel Stairs Micro Workout

Stuck on the road and still want to fit in a short workout?

If your hotel doesn’t have a gym, hit the stairs!

You can modify this micro workout based on how many flights of stairs you have available.

  • Sprint up one flight of stairs, walk or jog back down
  • Next, sprint up two flights of stairs, walk or jog back down
  • Finally, sprint up three flights of stairs, walk or jog back down

Repeat two times through for a quick and efficient cardio workout that will also build up your glutes, quads, and hamstrings.

If you can do this 3 or 4 times throughout the day, that’s even better!

A 2019 study published in Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism found that three bouts a day of vigorous stair workouts done three times a week were highly effective at improving cardiovascular health (6).

When You Can’t Get A Full Workout, Micro Workout!

Micro workouts are a great way to get your heart rate up and fit in a quick workout.

While they don’t take the place of more structured workouts throughout the week, micro workouts are far better than doing nothing at all.

The Fit Father Project is a great place to find a variety of exercise options. This ranges from month-long programs to quick micro workouts for men like those listed above.

For example, this awesome 7-minute workout which is another great high-intensity micro workout you can do on days when you are short on time.

As a busy dad, life can get hectic, but just because you are completely swamped doesn’t mean that you have to miss out on being active.

Micro workouts are an efficient way for men to get their muscles moving and heart pumping on days when you otherwise would have done nothing.

I hope this gives you something to think about?

Your friend & coach,

Holly Smith, M.D. – Osteopathic Medicine, B.S. – Dietetics, NASM-PES Certified Trainer

Writer, The Fit Father Project & Fit Mother Project

Holly is an osteopathic physician, runner, triathlete, and fitness and nutrition enthusiast.

She is board certified in nephrology and internal medicine, has a bachelors degree in dietetics and is a certified personal trainer with NASM-PES certification.

Holly has completed four full ironmans, twelve marathons, countless half ironmans, olympic distance triathlons, half marathons and numerous other road races.

She has also recently qualified for the 2020 World Championships for Ironman 70.3, in New Zealand!

 

References:

1) Saint‐Maurice, P. F., Troiano, R. P., Matthews, C. E., & Kraus, W. E. (2018). Moderate‐to‐vigorous physical activity and all‐cause mortality: do bouts matter?. Journal of the American Heart Association, 7(6), e007678.

2) Gillen, J. B., Martin, B. J., MacInnis, M. J., Skelly, L. E., Tarnopolsky, M. A., & Gibala, M. J. (2016). Twelve weeks of sprint interval training improves indices of cardiometabolic health similar to traditional endurance training despite a five-fold lower exercise volume and time commitment. PloS one, 11(4), e0154075.

3) Hazell, T. J., Olver, T. D., Hamilton, C. D., & Lemon, P. W. (2012). Two minutes of sprint-interval exercise elicits 24-hr oxygen consumption similar to that of 30 min of continuous endurance exercise. International journal of sport nutrition and exercise metabolism, 22(4), 276-283.

4) Liu, Y., Lee, D. C., Li, Y., Zhu, W., Zhang, R., Sui, X., … & Blair, S. N. (2019). Associations of Resistance Exercise with Cardiovascular Disease Morbidity and Mortality. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 51(3), 499-508.

5) Skelly, L. E., Andrews, P. C., Gillen, J. B., Martin, B. J., Percival, M. E., & Gibala, M. J. (2014). High-intensity interval exercise induces 24-h energy expenditure similar to traditional endurance exercise despite reduced time commitment. Applied physiology, nutrition, and metabolism, 39(7), 845-848.

6) Jenkins, E. M., Nairn, L. N., Skelly, L. E., Little, J. P., & Gibala, M. J. (2019). Do stair climbing exercise “snacks” improve cardiorespiratory fitness?. Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, 44(6), 681-684.