15 Minutes to Warrior Fit

Dec 12 / Build Muscle

It doesn't matter if you're a mongoose or a Mongol--if you occupy the top of a food chain, your body is designed for a high-protein diet and short bursts of activity. Indeed, the former fuels the latter. "That's why the idea of endurance training is totally misplaced," says certified athletic trainer Mike Boyle, who trains such modern-day warriors as retired Marcellus Wiley, of the Jacksonville Jaguars, and Scott Gomez, of the New York Rangers. "Why would anyone go out and run for 60 minutes knowing that life is, in fact, intermittent?" Our bodies, in other words, aren't designed for stamin...

It doesn't matter if you're a mongoose or a Mongol--if you occupy the top of a food chain, your body is designed for a high-protein diet and short bursts of activity. Indeed, the former fuels the latter. "That's why the idea of endurance training is totally misplaced," says certified athletic trainer Mike Boyle, who trains such modern-day warriors as retired Marcellus Wiley, of the Jacksonville Jaguars, and Scott Gomez, of the New York Rangers. "Why would anyone go out and run for 60 minutes knowing that life is, in fact, intermittent?" Our bodies, in other words, aren't designed for stamina--they're designed for brief displays of power. "We'd all be smart to follow their lead," says Boyle. "If you substitute intensity for duration and train for function rather than form, you'll get better at life itself." You'll also never have to spend more than 15 minutes at the gym. Here's a weeklong plan to get you fighting fit.

DAY 1: THE STRENGTH CIRCUIT

Think of each circuit as one continuous set. Perform eight to 10 reps of each exercise, resting for two minutes only after you've completed the entire circuit. Repeat each circuit three times. "True fitness is measured in workout density, how much you can do in as short a time as possible," says Muscle Morphosis Friedman, a performance specialist at Athlete's Performance, in Arizona. "Single leg exercises are also key. We live life on one leg at a time, and by training on one leg, you'll get stronger faster."

Circuit A:
Push-ups:
Support your body on the balls of your feet and the palms of your hands, positioning your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Straighten your arms without locking your elbows, and then lower your torso until your nose is a fraction of an inch off the floor. Push yourself back to the starting position.

Front planks: Get into a modified push-up position, supporting your weight with your forearms and the balls of your feet. Your body should form a straight line from head to heels. Pull in your abs and hold this position for 20 to 60 seconds.

Single-leg squats: Place your dominant leg about a foot in front of your other leg, and then lift the front leg a few inches off the floor. Squat down with your back leg, while holding your front leg off the floor and extending your arms in front of you. When your front leg is roughly parallel to the floor, pause, and then drive yourself back up by pushing down through the heel. Do eight to 10 reps, then switch legs and repeat.

Circuit B:
Chin-ups:
Grab a chinning bar with an underhand, shoulder-width grip, and hang with your elbows fully extended. Pull your chin above the bar, hold for two seconds, and then lower your body to the starting position. Repeat as many times as you can.

Side planks: Lie on the opposite of your dominant side (i.e., if you're right handed, lie on your left side). Support your weight with that forearm and the outside edge of that foot. Your body should form a straight line from head to ankles. Pull in your abs as far as you can and hold this position for 10 to 30 seconds. Switch sides.

Single-leg Romanian Dead Lifts: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, abs tucked in, shoulders pulled back, and arms at sides. Lift one foot an inch or two off the floor, and then bend at the hips, lowering your torso until it's as close to parallel to the floor as you can get without arching your back. Pause for a second or two, and then return to the starting position.

DAY 2: INTERVALS

Find a football field and, after warming up by jogging the perimeter twice, begin running the length of the field (go for 70 percent of your maximum sprint speed) and jogging the width. Stop after you've circled the field five times. "If you don't have a field nearby, find a road with telephone poles," advises Boyle. "Run the distance between three poles, jog to the fourth, and repeat 10 times." The entire workout shouldn't take longer than 12 minutes, but that's all the cardio you need, says Boyle. In a recent study of cyclists at McMaster University, in Canada, researchers found that those who exercised intensely for just 16 minutes a day (four 30-second bursts of all-out cycling separated by four minutes of rest) experienced the same gains in performance as cyclists who pedaled continuously for two hours a day. "Have you ever seen a fat sprinter? Probably not," says Boyle. "But I bet you've seen a lot of fat joggers. Intensity will always win over duration. Always."

DAY 3: STRENGTH TRAINING

Follow the same strategy as outlined in Day 1. "The idea here is variation without change," explains Boyle. "You're going to perform the same basic movements--pushing, pressing, pulling, and squatting--but by switching up the exercises, you're going to hit different muscle fibers in different patterns." As a result, your muscles won't adapt to a routine, and performance won't plateau. "Body weight is also an important element of any functional exercise plan," says Friedman. "You don't carry around dumbbells in real life," so why overload your workout with them?

Circuit A:
T push-ups:
Get into a normal pushup position, and begin as usual (see above). As you extend your arms, however, raise your right arm in a wide arc and rotate your hips until your arm points toward the ceiling and your body forms a sideways T. Reverse the motion, returning to a pushup position, and repeat to the left. Continue alternating sides for a count of 10 to 15 push-ups.

Bicycle crunches: Lie with your knees bent 90 degrees so that your knees point toward the ceiling. Touch your fingertips behind your ears and begin pumping your legs back and forth, bicycle style, as you simultaneously rotate your torso from side to side by moving an armpit (not an elbow) toward the opposite knee.

Elevated split squats: Stand with one foot two to three feet in front of you, and rest the instep of the back foot on the surface of a chair or bench two feet behind you. Touch your fingers behind your ears, and lower your body toward the floor until your front thigh is roughly parallel with it. Push up to the starting position; do nine more reps. Switch legs and repeat.

Circuit B:
Inverted rows:
Place a barbell on a power rack three to four feet above the floor (or similarly position the bar on a Smith machine). Lie under the bar and grab it with a shoulder-width grip, hanging at arm's length with your body in a straight line from ankles to shoulders. Pull yourself up until your chest touches the bar. Pause, and then lower yourself back to the starting position. Repeat.

Back extensions: Lie facedown with your legs straight, arms stretched in front of you, and palms flat on the floor. Lift your arms, head, chest, and lower legs off the floor simultaneously. Hold this position for one to five seconds, keeping your head and neck at the same height as your shoulders throughout the movement. Return to the starting position and repeat.

One-leg king Dead Lifts: Lift one foot behind you so that your shin is parallel to the floor. Allow your torso to lean slightly forward (but don't bend at the hips like you did in the Romanian version), and lower your body straight down until your hanging leg is almost touching the floor. Pause, and then push back up to the starting position.

DAY 4: HILLS

"Hill training represents a near-perfect combination of aerobic and anaerobic conditioning," says Boyle. "On one hand, you're getting your heart rate up and working your cardiovascular system. On the other, the hill's incline provides resistance for building leg strength." Find a hill with a 20 to 30 percent grade (roughly equivalent to an intermediate ski slope), and then run 50 meters uphill at 80 percent of your sprint speed. Walk down and repeat 10 times. Distance runs on flat ground are the scenic route.

DAY 5: SPORTS

Thus far, you've focused on strengthening various muscles and bodily systems through a series of functional workouts. Today, you're going to put everything together into one compound exercise: basketball. "No other sport gives you as much bang for your fitness buck," says Boyle. "It strengthens and reinforces every conceivable movement pattern--accelerating, decelerating, jumping, sprinting, upper-body coordination, and rapid changes in direction. Everything is rolled into this game." And you only need one opponent to reap the benefits. If basketball isn't your game, try tennis, soccer, or rugby.