Fitting exercise into your daily schedule can be challenging at times. What if you don’t have the time for an hour-long session of warm-up, strength training and stretching? Could you get by with just 10 minutes a day?
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You can and you don’t even have to leave the house or buy expensive equipment to do so.
You will always have 10 minutes to spare once a day. If you don’t have 10 minutes, you don’t have a life. But the fact that you’re taking the time to enjoy this lovingly crafted article (thanks!) tells me you do have those 10 minutes. It’s all a matter of priorities.
For those busy times, or if you’re trying to get into the habit of working out, I created this 10 minute workout.
What this workout will give you:
Short term effects
- Full-body workout
- Activation of muscles that are mostly passive throughout the day (glutes, core, triceps, deltoids)
- “Feel good” effect post workout
- Improved mobility in the most problematic areas (thoracic spine, hips, shoulders, ankles)
- Improved flexibility in muscle groups prone to stiffness (hamstrings, pecs, hip flexor, biceps)
I can basically guarantee that you’ll feel better after one session. The other benefits listed above will come if you make this part of your daily routine.
Now, you probably won’t get swole from this workout. This little 10 minute home workout is something Dan John would categorize as a tonic workout. These are the refreshing training sessions that make you limber and happy.
The whole thing works like this:
- 10 reps per movement. If it is a unilateral movement (like the scorpion push-up), do 5 each side.
- Do all movements one after another, in the order I listed them.
- Rest as needed, if needed.
Beginners may find some of the movements a bit challenging. Here is the trick: You don’t have to do all 10 reps in one consecutive set.
Instead, do as many as you can. Lets say that’s 7 reps. Rest briefly after those 7 reps (10-20 seconds) and do your 3 remaining reps. Move on the next movement. (If you can barely manage one rep, this exercise is not for you. Scale down the movement.)
Eventually, you should work on minimizing the number of sets you need to complete 10 reps. This will happen naturally with daily execution of your 10 minute workout.
The important thing is to do every movement well. Try to keep your form as clean as possible for every rep. Don’t rush through it, but get it done with minimal rest. If you completed one movement and are not completely exhausted, go tackle the next move immediately afterwards. This will get your heart rate up for that “feel good” sensation after the workout.
10 minutes, 10 movements, 10 reps each.
The 10 Movements
- Thoracic Bridge
- Scorpion Push-up
- Deep Lunge with Rotation
- Goblet Squat
- Row Variation
- Hindu Push-up
- Cossack Squat
- One-legged Deadlift
- Forward Fold
- Pike Leg Lift
1. Thoracic Bridge
Made popular by Max Shank, this is an excellent movement to activate your glutes and improve thoracic spine mobility. It also stretches biceps and pectorals if done right. Make sure that you really squeeze your butt cheeks as if you wanted to hold a coin between them (I know, funny image in your head 😉 ). Ideally, shoulders are vertically stacked onto each other. Listen to the master himself explaining it here:
2. Scorpion Push-up
These are fantastic because they emphasize the shoulders and triceps from a unique angle (the one you’re not doing all day sitting in front of a computer). It also helps with spinal rotation and glute activation.
Note that the outside of my supporting foot is touching the ground. Try to touch your hand with the floating foot.
Admittedly, this might be a challenging one for beginners. If you can’t complete at least 3 reps per side, do regular push-ups or a regression of it. Work your way up to this movement eventually.
3. Deep Lunge with Rotation
Get into a deep lunge, place the top of your back foot on the ground. Squeeze your butt (imagine bringing your tailbone forward). This little pre-stretch is just to “groove” into this position. After a few seconds, plant the hand opposite to the front leg on the ground. Now try to touch the elbow of the other arm to the ground, come back up, make a nice rainbow and reach behind you.
Make sure to do 5 rotations per side.
4. Goblet Squat
If you don’t have a kettlebell or some other heavy object (10-15 kg / 20-30 lbs would be good) to do goblet squats, you might at least have a door and a towel.
Wrap the towel around the door knob and the edge of the door (see video). Now face the edge of the door, holding onto the towel with both hands. Pull the towel UP to the ceiling. Now do a nice squat with straight posture and maintain the pressure you’re applying to the towel (still pulling up, which pushes you into the ground consequentially).
Slooow and controlled is the key here.
You know you’re doing it right if you feel this in your abs.
5. Row Variation
Do you have access to some bars? Great, let’s do bodyweight rows. If not, have a look at these 4 pull-up alternatives that you can do at home. Notice that you could do the door pull-ins very conventiently right after the goblet squats with the door knob.
Please don’t skip rowing.
I urge you to find at least one way to pull. This will do wonders to your posture. Door-frame pull-up bars are super cheap, as are gymnastic rings. If you like fancy equipment, get yourself some TRX bands. Dan John does an excellent job describing useful rowing variations with the TRX bands:
6. Hindu Push-up
Start from a downward dog position. I find it more comfortable if I position my feet shoulder-width apart. Ideally, arms and torso form a straight line, legs and torso form a 90 degree angle.
From there, imagine there’s a low bar that you want to dive under (that’s why these are sometimes called “dive bomber” push-ups). The end position is very similiar to an upward dog or cobra pose in yoga. Squeeze your butt and try to point your nipples to the sky. Either pop back up into the starting position or completely reverse the movement for an additional challenge.
This is a nice move that also covers a lot of range of motion. Depending on your stiff links, you might get a stretch in your hamstrings, calves and lats. In the end position, you’ll work your lumbar spine flexibility and stretch your hip flexors. It also takes your shoulder through a wide range of motion, strengthening your deltoids.
If you lack the strength to perform this movement, simply do a pike push-up (lower your head down from the downward dog position and come back up) and work your way up to the hindu push-up.
7. Cossack Squats
Start from a wide stance and lower down to one side. Keep a straight posture and use your arms for balance. In the lowest position, one half of your body should look exactly as if you were doing a regular squat.
Hold on to something for assistance if this move is too challenging at first.
I love this squat variation because it incorporates mobility work for the hips and ankles, activates the core and provides enough intensity if you’re not yet able to perform pistol squats.
8. Single-legged Deadlift
Stand tall on one leg. Your upper body and the floating leg form a straight line and should stay that way throughout the movement. Now try and bring that line to parallel to the ground. If you stand on your right foot, try to reach that right foot with your left hand (and vice versa). Do it slowly and controlled (don’t swing with your leg).
Watch Al Kavadlo demoing it perfectly:
It’s completely normal if you have to slightly bend at the knee of your standing leg. You should feel a stretch in your hamstring. This is a hinge movement, so try to maximally bend at the waist (moving the butt backwards) and minimally bend at the knees.
The single-legged deadlift challenges your balance, works hamstring strength and flexibility and activates your glutes, lower back muscles and core.
9. Forward Fold
Sit on on the ground, legs straight in front of you. Now reach forward and try to touch your toes. Depending on your flexibility, you might end up just touching your ankles or shins. That’s fine.
Now with your arm strength, pull yourself forward. Imagine there is a camera right in front of you and you want to show the logo of your t-shirt to that camera. This stretches your hamstrings, calves, lower back muscles and lats.
Hold for 10 breaths (try to relax and breath into your tummy). With each exhale, relax into the stretch. With each inhale, actively pull yourself more into the stretch.
10. Pike Leg Lift
Don’t get up just yet. When you’re done with the forward fold, stay on the ground with your legs straight. Place your hands on the ground, preferably somewhere close to the knees.
Without leaning back with your upper body, lift your legs from the ground. Legs should stay straight, butt is still in contact with the ground.
Hold for 10 seconds. No timer needed, just say “one one thousand, two two thousand, …” in your head.
The good thing is that we stretched the muscles that counteract this move with the forward fold. You can make the leg lift harder by placing the hands nearer to the feet.
How to Use This Workout
Are you new to strength training? Great! Start by spending 10 minutes each day with these movements. It will help you relieve stress and move better.
Do you consider yourself “advanced”? Incorporate these moves in your warm-up or use it as a finisher. Do it as a tonic workout on your off-days. It’ll do wonders to your recovery.
Whatever your level of fitness is, you’ll feel as good as new afterwards.
Photos: Sabine Adler, Sabrina Frank