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Currently I am assisting in collecting data for a study on movement patterns and coaching at a small fitness facility. The nature of my work does not provide consistent time to train, so I find myself participating in 20 to 30 minute sessions.

They look something like the following:

  • Lower Body Push (today was front squat) 3x8
  • Upper Body Pull (Bent over dumbbell row) 3x8
  • Core (Half Kneeling Stability Lift)3x8

Ideally I would have the time for a complementary half, like

  • Upper Body Push
  • Lower Body Pull
  • Core

But I typically run out of time, and suspect to catch the second half later.

What are the benefits to shorter bouts like this? What about cons? Time between sessions is going to look something like 2 to 3 hours.

Should I be emphasizing strength or hypertrophy with splits like this?

Any knowledge is appreciated, if there's any research, please point me in the right direction. Thanks!

  • Just putting it out there (and I'm sure you know this already), there's a difference between a multiple workouts a day because you're super dialed in and following a solid program vs multiple workouts a day where you don't really have enough time to complete do them properly. You might want to stick with dips/pullups/planks/ mid weight squats. The warmups aren't as critical. I mean if you don't have the time to lift right, you need to embrace that fact (or change it). – Eric Nov 6 '14 at 22:30
  • @EricKaufman Are you suggesting maintenance is the priority? – Ellocomotive Nov 12 '14 at 13:31
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The two problems I had with such an approach were 1) the difficulty in properly warming up for each session and 2) a slight increase managing workload.

Split workouts mean that you either spend a lot of time warming up for each separate session, or you don't fully warm up sometimes. It's easy to skip a full warm-up in such a situation, but it's still a potential problem.

I also found that splitting my workouts meant I had to more explicitly keep track of how much volume I was getting in, and when. It was common for me to over- or under-work myself because either I would plan for a workout that wouldn't happen or I would work out more than I could recover from and not notice because I recuperated my energy between sessions. This lead to minor overuse injuries in my joints.

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I'm just reading a book by Matt Perryman called Squat Every Day, where he talked about frequent training (hence the title) and his finding when experimenting with it.

Dan John also covers this with his Program Minimum works, as I believe does Pavel Tsatsouline in his Power To The People work.

The basis of all of those, from my understanding, is to view your training more as practice than working out. The idea is that you're frequently "practising" the movements that you do in order to gain greater ability in those movements (as Dan John says, if it's important, do it everyday).

Dan John and Pavel's ideas on daily training are all based around getting stronger, but personally I don't think that's the only application of this type of training. You can also use it to learn new skills (which, arguably, is you getting stronger anyway), for example, I got pretty damn close to a free standing handstand when I trained it for 20 minutes every evening. Likewise I've found that spending 20 minutes doing some basic mobility work has improved my squat form no end.

As for the drawbacks of shorter bouts of exercise, I suppose the main drawback is making sure you're adequate prepared for the exercise (though I've found that if I squat every day, back squat in the gym, goblet squat on off days, I actually need less of a warm up to hit upwards of 85% of my 1RM).

Given all this, the only way to really know is to try it, track it, and see how you get on.

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