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I am motivated to do a bit of strength training to increase general fitness and health and fighting the sitting disease I contract at work. Looking muscular or being very strong holds little interest to me. I am looking for a minimum effort solution.

Most strength programs prescribe training 2 sets of each exercise 3 times a week. Even with only 3 exercises: deadlift, squat and press this can take about 45 minutes due to long pauses between sets.

My problem with this is that I find it boring. Especially the breaks between sets. Also I dislike planning and schedules and monitoring progress.

I am therefore considering replacing parts or the whole program with kettlebell and dumbell exercises at home (unfortunately I do not have space for a barbell at home). This way I can do something interesting between sets. More specifically I am considering doing swing, getup and goblet squats since I consider these to be equivalents to the deadlift, press and squat.

As for the planning I was considering doing e.g. one set of each everyday after work. That way it would be routine and nothing to think about. This would also eliminate the pause altogether. I think I could manage to do this using only 15 minutes. The amount of training would stay the same but the rest period would be shorter. Earlier I would think that would be a bad idea. But then I read about Greasing the Groove (GTG). Following this method one can train several times a day as long as one only do 50% of max number of reps in each set.

I am also considering a hybrid approach: I go to the gym once a week and do heavy lifts. The rest of the time I workout lighter at home with the kettlebell and dumbell. One big drawback of kettlebell is clearly the difficulty in doing progressive overloads. This is easier with the dumbell(s).

Any ideas on how I can combine these forms of training to get decent strength training with little effort so that I do not loose my motivation?

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Try having a look at Pavel's Simple and Sinister program (can't remember if it's free or not).

Essentially, it's a swing and Turkish get up based program that uses goblet squats as part of the warm up.

From memory, the rest periods are based on how you feel, so if you get through your first set of swings and only feel lightly out of breath, then go do the second on. Pavel also recommends keeping moving during rest periods, by walking, jumping rope or shadow boxing to keep yourself moving, that should stave off some of the boredom :)

Once I got used to it, I think it took me about 20 minutes to get through the routine every evening after work. Because it uses a sub-maximal load with increased training frequency (every day, or every other day), there is an element of greasing the groove to it, especially with the Turkish get ups.

  • Thank you! This sounds like what I am looking for. Did you find that it worked well with respect to general fitness? And did you get somewhat stronger? – Andy Apr 6 '18 at 12:08
  • @Andy Stronger, yes, definitely. For general fitness, I think so. The reason I'm not sure is I've found general fitness (not getting out of breath when walking up stairs or running for a bus) to be something you only really notice when you don't have it anymore. When I do other training, I recover quicker between sets when lifting and routes when climbing, so it's definitely had an impact on that. – Dark Hippo Apr 6 '18 at 12:52
  • @Andy The other thing, which I've mentioned a few times in answers here, is that I've previously used Turkish get ups to rehabilitate a shoulder injury and get my overhead press stronger. Even if you don't follow the program, I'd recommend throwing them into any routine. – Dark Hippo Apr 6 '18 at 12:53
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You say you are only looking for general fitness and not interested in strength, but then you say you are looking for a decent strength solution. To me, that is a bit contradictory, I am not saying you need to turn into a meathead in order to strength train, but it does require a certain amount of commitment and effort.

I get it, you don't want to spend all of your free time in the gym, I'm there too; a full time job and three kids leaves little extra free time. With that said, there are ways to make it work. I am a fan of kettlebells, they are great strength and conditioning tools.

Using kettlebells, you could do Every Minute on the Minute (EMOM) workouts. Just focus on one exercise and do a set amount of reps each minute. Be realistic in the number of reps you choose, it should be fairly easy to begin with. If you were doing swings, I might start out with 10 min and 10-15 reps. Starting out, it, you probably want it to take about 15-25 seconds to complete the reps. As you get more fit, you can increase reps and/or time.

You may also want to consider mixing it up with Tabata.

Also, you really don't even have to use weights, bodyweight fitness can probably get you the results you want, without spending money on equipment or memberships.

I hope this helps, and that you find what you are looking for.

  • Thank you for your help. Yes I was not being consistent. I am looking for a bit of strength, mobility and endurance. It seems to me that discussion of programs often turn to which is most effective for gains. I am sure Starting Strength is among the best for this. However in my understanding SS is based upon US college football programs. Someone playing college football want to get strong, fast and bulky in a shortest possible time. I just want to stay healthy. – Andy Apr 5 '18 at 20:47
  • BTW I came across this comment: "If you want strength, use barbells. If you want endurance, go for a run or push a prowler. If you want mobility, do yoga. If you want an okay but not great amount of each of these things, use kettlebells." Found it here: startingstrength.com/resources/forum/mark-rippetoe-q-and-a/…. If this is true, it sounds good to me. – Andy Apr 5 '18 at 20:51
  • Yes, I think that is an accurate statement. Kettlebell training is good for all-around fitness, by itself, it is not going to get you huge, in shape for a marathon, or into Cirque de Solei. However, I think it complements all the others very well, and helps improve performance in them. – Alex Estrada Apr 5 '18 at 22:00
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As you noted:

One big drawback of kettlebell is clearly the difficulty in doing progressive overloads. This is easier with the dumbbell(s).

In order to continue to train for greater strength, you must apply progressively-greater stresses to your muscles. Exercises with plate-loaded barbells are ideal for this purpose, as you probably know. Without these, your strength training progress will cease, and probably will regress.

  • I still mostly agree with this, but just learned that kettlebell practioneers can accelerate up to 10 G in the swing. So it could be possible to overload by increasing the acceleration each week until the seldom jump in kettlebell size. – Andy Apr 5 '18 at 20:23
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    I understand this viewpoint (it IS definitely easier to progress regularly with plate loaded barbells), but it's not entirely accurate. The progression in the kettlebell lifts comes at a slower pace but with bigger jumps, the idea is to "master" the movement, be it swing or get up, then jump up by 0.5 - 1 pood (basically 16kg, but kettlebells are traditionally measured in poods). It sounds like a big jump, but if you spend the time really mastering the movement with a lighter weight, it's not as difficult as it sounds. – Dark Hippo Apr 6 '18 at 7:58
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You can use an adjustable dumbbell (up to 100lbs or more) and then do unilateral exercises with it. One legged SLDL, Bulgarian split -or goblet- squats, OHP, and one arm row. With those exercises you cover the most important movement patterns (except vertical pulling, you need a pullup bar for that one but its not necessary)

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