Workout Less & Achieve More.

Mike Mahler explains that in order to maximize your workouts, you have to focus on exercises that work the most muscle groups in the most effective manner.

Originally published in Industry Magazine

An area in which many people have the wrong plan is with regards to working out. Many people believe that if a program is not complicated it will not work. I have designed hundreds of effective programs for clients and they are always shocked with how basic the programs are.

In order to maximize your workouts, you have to focus on exercises that work the most muscle groups in the most effective manner. Moreover, you have to know how to organize a workout to cut through unnecessary complexity and unnecessary overlapping. In this article I am going to show you what exercises to focus on and provide an example of a workout to get you started.

Getting Started

People often complain that they have no time to workout. If you believe that you need to workout two hours per day and six days a week, I can see how you might not have time to fit training in. However, the average person watches four hours of TV per day so don't expect me to feel too sorry for you. Regardless, you will be happy to know that you do not have to work out six days per week.

Moreover, working out for too long too often does more damage than good. In fact studies show that strength training workouts that take longer than forty-five minutes are not as effective as workouts that are less than forty-five minutes.

The longer your workouts are, the more your reserves become depleted. Continue on this road for too long and you will get weaker in the gym. If you continue to stay on the path you will eventually get sick and run down. Get over the attitude that more is better. Focus on the quality of your workout and not he quantity.

The first thing that you need to do to design an effective training regimen is to pick the right exercises.

Here Are The Exercises That You Should Focus On:

Barbell Squat

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Stiff-Legged Deadlift

Shoulder Press


Bent-Over Row

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Bench Press

What NOT To Do:

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Make sure that you do all of these exercises with free weights. Skip the smith machine and nautilus. They both do more harm then good.

The above exercises are all compound exercises that work multiple muscle groups at the same time. For example, the bench press works the chest, shoulders, and triceps. Isolation exercises such as the triceps pushdown only work the triceps. By focusing on compound exercises you will get more bang for your buck in less time than ever before. Two full body strength workouts per week are all that it takes to get you strong and toned.

Here Is The Program:

Day 1: Day 2:
A-1: Bench Press A-1: Standing Shoulder Press
A-2: Bent-over Row A-2: Pull-up
B-1: Barbell Squat B-1: Stiff Legged Deadlift
B-2: Stiff-legged Deadlift B-2: Barbell Squat

Work each pair (A-1 and A-2, B-1 and B-2) in antagonistic fashion. In other words, do them back to back. Keep the rep range between five and seven and do three sets per exercise. Take one-minute breaks between each set and each exercise. Here is how the workout on Day 1 would breakdown. Do one set of A-1, wait a minute and then do a set of A-2. Rest for one more minute before doing another set of A-1.

Go back and forth until you have done three sets of five on each exercise. Rest for a minute and then proceed to B-1 and B-2. Once you can do three sets of five on each exercise, shoot for three sets of six. Once you can do three sets of six, shoot for three sets of seven.

Finally, when you can complete three sets of seven, increase the weight by five pounds. Now if you have dumbbells at home, feel free to do the above workout with dumbbells. Just follow the same workout guidelines. Take two days off between each workout. For example, do Day 1 on Monday and Day 2 on Thursday. Then do Day 1 again on Sunday.

In case you are wondering the rep range is kept between 5-7 to build strength and to get your body as hard as a rock. The notion that high rep weight training gets you toned faster is a myth. Focus on pushing some heavy weights around and you will get toned much faster. There is not enough volume here to build super big muscles so do not worry about getting too big.

Not that that is something that happens by accident anyway. The above program is great for both men and women. Women will love how tight their legs and butts get with the squats and stiff legged deadlifts. Men will enjoy the defined shoulders and arms that this program will deliver. Regarding the abs, you will get enough in direct work from all of the exercises in this program. However, feel free to throw in two to three sets of weighted sit-ups or hanging leg raises to round off the program.

That covers strength training, but what about cardio? For cardio, get that funny device called "The Gazelle" that you see on late night TV and have fun! Just kidding.

Recently, a Japanese researcher named Tabata discovered that high intensity aerobic training done for four minutes burns just as much fat as moderate aerobic workouts done for forty five minutes! So forget about sitting on an exercise bike for an hour watching the Jerry Springer Show. Put some intensity into your cardio and get more done in less time.

Lets use the example of an exercise bike to illustrate how the "Tabata Protocol" works. After you have warmed up for five minutes by riding at a moderate pace, increase the intensity and pedal as hard as you can for twenty seconds.

Once the twenty seconds are up, switch to a moderate pace for ten seconds. After the ten seconds is complete, ramp the intensity back up for twenty seconds. After you have completed eight rotations you have completed the four-minute cardio workout. There is no reason, why you cannot apply the 'Tabata Protocol" for ten to fifteen minutes to increase the benefits. Just realize that this protocol is much harder than it looks. You will be surprised how hard that initial four minutes is.

If your main goal is to burn fat, then I recommend that you add four minutes of the "Tabata Protocol" at the end of your strength training workouts in addition to two 15-20 minute "Tabata Protocol" workouts per week. To avoid boredom, try switching up the forms of cardio. On one day, use an exercise bike and on the next try the cross trainer. You could even apply the "Tabata Protocol" to running or roller blading outside. Be creative and have fun with it.


There you have it an honest training program that will give you the most back for the effort that you put in. Make sure to use proper exercise form on all of the exercises. You will be amazed how effective this program.

In addition, you will be amazed at how much free time you have to enjoy your new levels of strength and conditioning. Feel free to email me at if you have any questions.

About The Author

Mike Mahler is a strength coach and a certified kettlebell instructor based in Santa Monica, California. For more information on Mike's new DVD, go to