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Minimalist Training

Resident MAXIM fitness guru ALEXA TOWERSEY explains how you can get more gains in less time…

This year has been the year of the minimalist. You probably learnt of Mari Kondo when your better half declared she was throwing out anything that no longer brought the both of you joy. Whilst you most likely still lament the loss of your secret stash of prized possessions, from a more positive standpoint, you’ll be stoked to know that your training is also an area that is able to be “decluttered”.

Minimalist Training is characterised by simplicity. Just like its name implies, it involves minimal equipment, minimal space and minimal time, yet trains the maximum number of muscles. Whatever your excuse, be it too bored or too busy to spend hours in the gym, this style of training will benefit ANYONE. The objective is to train virtually every muscle in one session using only four exercises. These exercises fall into four major categories:


KNEE DOMINANT: Primarily works the knee extensors (quads). Think squats and lunges.

HIP DOMINANT: Primarily works the hip extensors (hamstrings and glutes). Think deadlift variations.

PUSH: Can be horizontal or vertical. Primarily targets the pectorals, deltoids and triceps. Think Bench Press, Military Press, Pushups, Dips.
PULL: Can be horizontal or vertical. Primarily targets the lats, traps, rhomboids, posterior deltoids and biceps. Think Bent Over Rows, Seated Rows, Pull Ups, Chin-Ups.


This could be as simple as alternating Day 1 and Day 2 on non consecutive days…


DAY 1:

3 x 6-10 Knee Dominant. 90 secs – 2 mins rest between.

3 x 8-12 Horizontal Push. 60 secs rest between.

3 x 6-10 Hip Dominant. 90 secs – 2 mins rest between.

3 x 8-12 Horizontal Pull. 60 secs rest between.


DAY 2:

3 x 6-10 Knee Dominant. 90 secs – 2 mins rest between.

3 x 8-12 Vertical Push. 60 secs rest between.

3 x 6-10 Hip Dominant. 90 secs – 2 mins rest between.

3 x 8-12 Vertical Pull. 60 secs rest between.


And to make things even easier for you, here is a table from which you can mix and match your exercises.


Knee Dominant Back Squat, Front Squat, Goblet Squat, Zercher Squat, Split Squat, Lunge, Step Up
Hip Dominant Deadlift, Sumo Deadlift, Trap Bar Deadlift, Glute Bridge, Hip Thrust
Horizontal Push Bench Press, Push up, Floor Press, Incline Bench Press,
Horizontal Pull Bent Over Row, Seated Row, Bench Supported Row, One Arm DB Row
Vertical Push Military Press, Dips
Vertical Pull Pull Ups, Chin Ups, Lat Pulldown



While you’ll get the biggest bang for your buck picking compound exercises that engage multiple muscle groups across multiple joints i.e. squats and deadlifts, if you have any pre-existing injuries then just swap bilateral movement for unilateral. This could mean switching out a Zercher Squat for a Zercher Lunge, a traditional deadlift for a split stance deadlift or merely using dumbbells instead of a barbell when it comes to the upper body.

Using this format, you can be in and out of the gym in less than 30 minutes. If you’re a commitment-phobe, like me (or so I’ve been told), this equates to around 1.5 hours per week. And don’t tell me you’re too busy for this – you’re not Beyonce.



You can change the volume to accommodate your specific goals, with these basic guidelines:

Strength: 3-5 reps. 80-90% 1RM or 8-9/10 RPE (recommended perceived effort) 2-3 mins rest.

Hypertrophy: 8-12 reps. 70-80% 1 RM or 7-8/10 RPE. 60 secs rest.

Strength Endurance/Conditioning: 15-20 reps. 50-60% 1 RM or 5-6/10 RPE. 30-45 secs rest.


And if you’re looking for fat loss, any of the above set/rep schemes will work providing your nutrition supports it.



There’s nothing worse than a time waster, both as a potential date and as a gym buddy. Stick to strict tempos and rest periods. As a general rule of thumb, make the eccentric (lowering) portion slower and more controlled and the concentric (lifting) portion more explosive. I suggest a tempo of 3-0-1-0 as a solid starting point (take 3 seconds to lower, 1 second to pause in the weakest point of the lift, 1 second to lift, and 0 seconds to pause before starting the next rep).



Right from the get-go, you want to try and set yourself up for success.

  • Look at finding a gym closer to you or invest in a couple of staple pieces of equipment that you can use at home – the basics of a home gym include a barbell, a couple of weight plates, a set of dumbbells or kettlebells and a bar across a doorway for pull-ups.
  • Train in non peak hours – traffic will be less, the gym will be less busy which means less distractions (i.e. hot girls in shorty shorts in the squat rack in front of you), and there will be less waiting around for equipment.
  • Make your workout as “enjoyable” as you can given you still need to work hard to make this whole “less is more” scenario work for you. Pick exercises that you “want” to do (ie that you don’t hate) – that way you’ll be less likely to look for excuses to skip out on a session.

Class of Her Own