The Almost-Perfect Training Program for Busy People (Who Might or Might Not Be Going to Mars)

The Almost-Perfect Training Program for Busy People (Who Might or Might Not Be Going to Mars)

“I’m not the man they think I am at home. Oh no no no, I’m a rocket man”
Photo by Nicolas Lobos on Unsplash

On every brilliant record there’s usually that one “meh” song that you’re willing to skip to get to the next. On Appetite for Destruction it’s “Think About You”. Although a good song, it sounds painfully 80s today. They should’ve put “Perfect Crime” or “Shadow of Your Love” there instead. I assume the Geffen suits had their say to make the album appeal for a wider audience. Sigh.

Then, on one of my all time favorite albums, Exile on Main St, it’s “Casino Boogie”. Again, it’s not a bad song by any means. In fact, it’s sort of good-ish. But it’s tough to stand out between “Shake Your Hips” and “Tumbling Dice”.

But there’s one record that’s perfect from start to finish

Kicking off with “Thunder Road” and finishing with the epic “Jungleland” and that big saxophone by Clarence Clemons, Born to Run comes as close to perfect as I can think of. It’s the one record I would take to keep me moderately sane on a solo space mission to Mars (and, ideally, back). [1]

And if I’d be off to Mars I’d want to keep loose and sane with a minimal, almost perfect training program. In case you’re off to somewhere in space anytime soon feel free to print this out.

Or, I don’t know, use this when you need a program on Earth to have all your bases covered.

The almost-perfect training plan for general fitness

Unless you’re into all kinds of war stuff and dynamite, “general” sounds lame. But that’s what most of us already do and need. Stuff that either: 

a) forms the base to build on with other, more specific programs, or 

b) is fine just like it is when the goal is to stay healthy, look decent, be strong and not to die.

Ramp up / movement prep / warm up

  1. Downward dog to step and rotation x 3
  2. Crawl x 20 frw/rev
  3. Squat to stand x 5
  4. Lateral lunge to overhead drive x 3
  5. Standing cross crawl x 3
  6. Get up x 1-2

The workout

A1) Carry anyhow x 1*
*waiter, offset farmer, suitcase, rack, and the combinations of all

B1) 1-leg squat x 8-12 x 3-4
B2) Push up x AMAP x 3-4
B3) Kettlebell swing x 10-15 x 3-4

Don’t rush between the sets of strength work.

Complete for 3-4 days a week. Three is probably enough for the majority of us. Most of the time try to keep the intensity at around 7-8 out of 10. Some days go easier, occasionally go harder. Never judge progress based on any single workout, or even a single week. Or a month, if you have kids under the age of 3.

What makes this program almost-perfect?

Let’s do a run down of the stuff I value in programs.

It’s minimal equipment

Ideally two kettlebells somewhere between 20kg and 28kg range will do. This gives you heaps of options for carries and enough of a challenge for the swings. 

If you want to go super-minimal, you can get away with a single kettlebell. Again, anywhere between 20-28kg should do for most. If it’s too light for swings, you can always do them with one arm. But let’s face it, 28kg isn’t too light.

Bonus. If you happen to have a 4-12kg kettlebell, you could do a bottom up variation of the get up. Great for building shoulder health, and destroying egos.

It’s full body and covers all the movement patterns 

Push: crawl, push up
Pull: carry, swing
Squat: squat to stand, lateral lunge, get up, 1-leg squat
Hinge: get up, swing
Rotation: crawl, standing cross crawl, get up
Locomotion: carry
And single leg because life is so much nicer with a decent balance: standing cross crawl, 1-leg squat

The movement prep itself serves a purpose beyond just warming up the tissue. It also helps you to keep the upper back and hips mobile. Important stuff in a world that revolves around chairs.

Plus I threw in as many cross body movements as I could without turning this into a circus. It’s good for your brain, apparently. The cross body movement, not the circus.

Simple and quick to complete

With adequate rest periods this shouldn’t take you more than 40 minutes. But really, when in a pinch you could be done in 20 minutes. This is great for all us parents who always have to be somewhere soon.

Joint-friendly

Yep. Because, well, yeah it is. As long as you don’t do anything your body shouldn’t do.

But unlike Born to Run, it’s not perfect 

You still need a kettlebell 

This one’s rather obvious. If you don’t have one I suggest you go buy it, or join a gym. What else is there to say, really?

Not seeing the weights go up from session to session

This can be frustrating or even demoralising for some. You need to have the patience and persistence for constant strength method.

Lack of pure upper body pull

Yes, but we are getting plenty of upper back work from the carry and swings. You could also throw in some inverted rows or pull ups of any variation if you so desire. Great for the arms and whatnot. But definitely not necessary.

And in case you’re thinking this is not challenging enough

I beg to differ. You can do all kinds of evil progression with the exercises. 

Progression IProgression IIProgression IIIProgression IV
Carry (suitcase, farmer, rack, waiter)Slow, high knees with full exhale on each stepSuitcase and rackSuitcase and waiterDouble waiter
1-leg squatSlow the tempoPause at the bottomGo lower1.5 reps
Push upSlow the tempoPause at the bottomHeels pushed to wall1-arm progressions
SwingLess restLonger set1-arm1-arm less rest
Fancy progression table to please your eyeballs.

But honestly, most people get bored and never go beyond the second progression. That’s a fact.

In closing

Good programs don’t have to be complicated or have a ton or variety. But we trainers have a tendency to make them so because of boredom and trying to impress someone. I’ve been as guilty of this as anyone.

Also, what’s your perfect, or almost-perfect record?

Next step

The Safest and Most Sustainable Way to Get Strong


[1] “Which one record/book would you take with you on a solo space mission to Mars?” A question I ask in my new client consultation form. In case you wondered. Now you know.

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