The #1 Ingredient that EVERY Workout Program Needs

Infomercial exercise programs are all over the TV. You’ve probably seen them, maybe on a weekend morning while you are waiting for the football coverage to start. They all promise great results with a minimum time commitment.

Each pitchman has plenty of reasons why his exercise regimen is better than all the others.

The truth is that almost every exercise program that promises quick results with only a short amount of time commitment is based on the exact same approach to fitness.

The “secret” behind almost all of these programs is something that is called interval training (or burst bout training). Once you know the basic principles behind this style of exercise, you can create your own personalized program that will be as effective as anything that you see on TV.


The basic premise is to complete a number of brief-but-intense exercises, each one followed by a short period of rest. The level of intensity helps you burn calories and fat, while the exercises, which usually focus on multiple muscle groups, help to tone your muscles.

If you can do this kind of exercise session with a high enough level of intensity, then you will see good results with a time commitment of less than an hour a day. So, many of the infomercial exercise programs that teach interval training can actually deliver what they promise if you are disciplined enough to follow through with the daily that they recommend.?But, you can get similar results on your own without any $100 DVD sets if you are aware of a few simple principles.

1. Include as many muscle groups as possible in?each exercise.

Traditional weight training focuses on one muscle group at a time. Compound exercises used in interval training work multiple muscle groups, so each group gets worked repeatedly throughout the session. This results in less brute strength, but a more toned appearance. Instead of doing a standard pull-up, for example, pause at the top of the pull-up and bring your legs to your chest to perform a crunch as well. Instead of a standard push-up, push yourself from the ground onto your feet in a squat position, then push upward with your legs. Doing a quick shadowboxing combination at the top of each sit-up is another example of a compound exercise.

2. Short bursts, shorter rests

The exact intervals that you rest can vary depending on your level of fitness, but one idea is important: you have to keep the rest periods shorter than the exercise periods?otherwise you won’t burn the calories that you need to burn. The best policy is to start with bodyweight exercises that you can accomplish easily. You can build the difficulty level from there. You should be totally spent at the end of your session, but you shouldn’t be exhausted at the beginning after only two or three bursts of exercise.

3. The ideal time is 30-45 minutes.

Beginners may have to start at 15 minutes and then work up from there. 45 minutes is the perfect stopping point?for a couple of reasons. First, one of the most important principles of ANY program is consistency. You want to work out, but you also want to avoid a extreme soreness or an injury that is going to make it impossible to work out again in a day or two. Second, one of the main benefits for men is that interval training is ideal for building testosterone levels. This will translate into a feeling of energy and greater well-being. 30-45 minutes is the perfect amount of time to create?maximum testosterone output. Anything more can actually lower testosterone levels by increasing the level of another substance called cortisol.

4. Any variation of basic calisthenics can work…

…pull-ups, push-ups, sit-ups, squats, lunges, leg lifts, kicks, shadow boxing, etc. Exercise bands can also help, but they are not necessary. You simply want to work multiple muscle groups with each exercise. Also, the motion of these exercises must be repeatable, so you can do it again and again for the entire exercise?interval.

5. There is a catch

Technique is important for?many of the exercises that you may want to make a part of your program. This is where having someone showing you the right movements can be helpful. But you still don’t have to buy those expensive exercise DVDs. A little bit of research can help perfect your technique (this is your chance to use YouTube for something useful for once).

It is at least worth trying to create an interval program on your own before you jump in?and buy a video program that someone else created.

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About Josh Lew Josh Lew lives in the Midwestern US when he is not traveling. He is a columnist for Gadling and has contributed to Hackwriters and Skive Magazine.

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