Benefits of Minimalist Training: More Gains In Less Time

People assume more exercise volume always equates to better fitness, leading to endless hours of grinding in the gym. Over the years, this mindset became far too common that many echoed the phrase “no pain, no gain,” amplifying the belief that exercising is supposed to be tedious and gruesome.

Although this approach works for many, it takes lots of time and commitment, which can be too challenging, especially for those with busy schedules. However, unbeknownst to many, science says most people can gain serious progress in their fitness with a surprisingly small amount of training— they just have to do it right and put in the right amount of effort.

That being said, what is the least amount of time you have to put in the gym to ensure steady progress in your fitness? Can minimalism be a path to fitness?

In this article, we will discuss the benefits of minimalistic training and how you can use it to improve your chances of succeeding in your fitness journey.

Minimalistic training is a fitness routine that maximizes training efficiency and prioritizes key muscle groups. They are simple and targeted routines designed for people struggling to maintain complex routines.

  • Sessions typically last for 20 to 40 minutes
  • Performed just 2 to 4 days a week
  • Fewer exercises per session
  • Exercises leverage high-effort sets with maximum rest to allow sufficient recovery.

This technique involves the use of minimal equipment or mainly bodyweight exercises. It spotlights the advantages of compound movements and achieving effective results in the shortest time possible.

Less is more.

In fitness, minimalism means eliminating stuff that complicates your road to achieving your fitness goals. It’s about making fitness accessible and manageable, regardless of your schedule or mental state.

It is grounded in the main idea of only doing what is necessary to achieve your goals. Nothing more, nothing less.

Minimalist workouts encourage quality over quantity by concentrating on a few effective movements. This allows you more time for other aspects of your life, creating a more holistic and dynamic approach to health and life balance.

Minimalism is all about simplicity.

For beginners, minimalistic training is an excellent starting point for improving your strength endurance or simply becoming more active. As a general rule to exercise, Less is better than nothing.

Even if you are a seasoned lifter or willing to commit more time in the gym, understanding how to be a minimalist will help your fitness progress. This is particularly helpful when your priorities change, or an event changes your routine, such as an unexpected vacation, spending more time with your family, or simply experiencing a minor lack of motivation.

Minimalist training is about progressing steadily by doing less.

Gives you more time

With focused intensity, minimalist workouts generate similar muscular and cardiovascular gains as more extended training in about half the time commitment. This frees up your schedule rather than having exercise take over your life.

Minimalist workout sessions typically last no more than 40 minutes. It consists of short, focused sessions that concentrate on a few high-impact exercises that allow you to maximize your limited time.

In minimalist workouts, the focus is on performing each exercise with maximum effort and proper form. Since the sessions are shorter, you can be more intentional with your workout.

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According to studies:

  • You just need 1 heavy set done 1 to 3 times per week to improve muscle strength (Example: 1 set of squats x 3-5 reps at least 70-80% 1 Rep Max)
  • 30-60 minutes of weekly exercise is enough to lower the risk of cancer, diabetes, and heart disease
  • You just need 1-4 sets per body part per week to achieve muscle gain. If you are aiming for maximum muscle gain, you need at least 10 sets per body part per week.

Emphasizing quality over quantity also helps prevent mental and physical exhaustion that derails consistency. More importantly, this also prevents plateau or CNS fatigue, which typically occurs when there’s an imbalance in training and recovery.

Varying low, moderate, and high volume phases give your body a built-in periodization effect for continual progress. This ensures steady muscle gains or fat loss over time without disrupting your personal routine.

The reduced training frequency and volume slot smoothly into busy lives, facilitating long-term exercise commitment compared to demanding regimens that can disrupt other priorities. This means minimalistic training has lower mental resistance and will more likely keep you motivated in the long run.

Some argue that a minimalist lifestyle suits our modern world. It prevents unnecessary stress and overwhelm. In fitness, a minimalistic approach makes the habit of exercising easier to stick to.

More rest means more time for muscle repair, allowing you to bounce back stronger.

Overuse issues from physical strain are mitigated by lowering exposure to injuries.

Here are examples of minimalist training routines you can do 2-3 times per week. Each session is designed to be accomplished in 20-40 minutes, excluding warm-up sets.

The key is to choose a weight or resistance that challenges your capabilities properly. Choose heavy loads for each set. You can add more exercises based on your fitness level.

Example of minimalist workout routine A:

Exercise Parameters
Seated Leg Curl 10 reps x 2 sets
RDL 8 reps x 2 sets
Lat Pulldown 10 reps x 2 sets
Cable bicep curl 10 reps x 2 sets

Example of minimalist workout routine B:

Exercise Parameters
Bodyweight Squats 15 reps (or until failure) x 2 sets
Push-Ups 10 reps (or until failure) x 2 sets
Plank 30 seconds x 2 sets
Dumbbell Rows 8 reps x 2 sets

Here’s a complete minimalist workout routine for women:

And for men:

Lift to failure

To ensure you get the most out of your lifts, you should strive to push yourself harder each set. Try to reach failure in each set to enhance stimulus for muscle growth.

Incorporate advanced strength training techniques such as supersets and drop sets to challenge your muscles further and improve muscle size and strength.

If you struggle with the complexities and time requirements of traditional workouts, or if you're seeking a fitness approach that's easy to integrate into a busy lifestyle without sacrificing effectiveness, minimalistic workouts might be the ideal solution.

They offer a practical and sustainable way to maintain consistency in your fitness journey, encouraging motivation and long-term adherence. Minimalistic training is about finding balance and effectiveness in your fitness routine, making it a viable option for many, from beginners to seasoned fitness enthusiasts seeking a more streamlined approach.

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Bert Bauzon is a licensed physiotherapist specializing in spinal care and sports rehabilitation. He writes articles and books about exercise science and health care.

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