Rob MacDonald's 5 Favourite Simple but Tough Workouts
Over the years I have been asked many questions about my workouts:
- “What is your go-to workout?”
- “If you could only do one workout what would it be?”
- “What is the best workout to build muscle?”
- “What is the best workout you know?”
I wish I could answer with just one workout. I wish it were that simple that there could be one workout session that could achieve any goal or accomplish any purpose.
My favourite workouts suit different training purposes while utilising different forms of equipment.
But there are many workouts for different purposes and different goals. So, my answer to these questions could also be dependent on factors like time limit and equipment. Or the answer could be influenced by how I feel that day. The reality is there just isn’t one workout I could recommend. There are many.
"The reality is there just isn’t one workout I could recommend. There are many."
With that in mind, here are a few of my favourite workouts for different circumstances. There is a whole-body workout, a no-gear workout, a cardiovascular workout, a mass-gain workout, and a workout for occasions where you are running short on time.
Enjoy and choose your workout wisely.
No Gear Workout
- 20-1 burpee ladder
My favourite no-gear workout is something called “Prison Burpees.” It is a 20-1 burpee ladder:
- Complete 20 burpees and walk 5 meters across a room.
- Then do 19 burpees and walk 5 meters back across the room.
- Then complete 18 burpees.
- Keep following this pattern until you are finished the entire 20-1 ladder.
You will do a total of 210 burpees.
This workout can take anywhere between fifteen and 25 minutes, depending on how hard you are willing to go. Remember to use proper form for the burpee. It is one of the most cheated movements. Make sure your chest touches the ground and make sure you jump a minimum of six inches off of the ground with your hips fully extended at the top of the jump.
I’d rather see you take 25 minutes and do every burpee with perfect form than cheat and finish in fifteen minutes. Hold yourself accountable. Form is everything.
Three blocks of:
- 6 x :30 work/:30 rest row or ski
- Rest 4 minutes between blocks
Two of my favourite cardiovascular tools are the rower and the SkiErg. They are relatively inexpensive to buy, durable, can be found at almost any gym, and have a great computer with preset workouts. I have done countless workouts on the rower and SkiErg, but my favourite breathing workout is a simple interval structure involving thirty seconds of work and thirty seconds of rest.
Do a ten-minute warm up on the rower or the SkiErg. Get a good sweat going to tell your body it is time to work hard. When you are done the warm up, set the rower or SkiErg for :30/:30 intervals.
Complete six total intervals. That is one block. You will complete three total blocks resting four minutes between each one. That makes eighteen total intervals.
Suggested goals per thirty-second interval:
- Beginner -150m
- Intermediate - 160m
- Advanced -170m
Mass Gain Workout
- 10x bench press
- 10x pull up
- Rest 2 minutes between sets
When it comes to mass gain there is no better workout than ten sets of ten. It is a workout format I have used again and again with great results every time. It is simple to execute: complete ten reps of bench press and then immediately complete ten pull ups.
The bench press must be full range of motion. Touch the bar to your chest and fully extend your elbows at the top. The negative should take four seconds, then press up as quickly as possible. For the pull ups, pull your chest all the way up to the bar and then lower yourself down slowly to full extension. All pull ups should be done without a kip and with strict form.
- Beginner - 135lbs
- Intermediate - 185lbs
- Advanced - 225lbs
Time Restricted Workout
- 20 minutes max reps
Sometimes you just don’t have a lot of time to train. Work, family, relationships, and life in general can all get in the way. If you find yourself short on time then do a quick twenty-minute test:
- Choose a movement: squats, bench press, lunges, burpees, push ups, and push press are some of the movements you could pick.
- Choose a weight if the movement requires one.
- Get as many reps done as humanly possible in 20 minutes.
The workout is simple - but certainly not easy. If you are willing to really go for it, then twenty minutes will be more than enough time. The next time you do the workout try to beat your last score. If all you did was one of these twenty minute workouts every day you’d be well on your way to getting fitter than you can imagine.
Whole Body Workout
10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 reps of:
- Bench Press
- Back Squat
This is one of my favourite workouts of all time. All you need are a few barbells, a squat cage, and a few 20kg plates. Do a few bench press reps, deadlift reps, squats, and push ups to warm up and then get down to business and start the circuit.
The goal is to get this done as quickly as possible while using perfect form. Do ten reps of each movement, then nine reps of each, eight of each, and keep going until you have completed one rep of each movement. This is a workout that will work your entire body from head to toe.
- Beginner - 60kg for bench press, deadlift, and back squats
- Intermediate - 85kg
- Advanced - 102kg
Check out these related articles:
- Eat to Perform: 6 Simple Strategies for the Busy Athlete
- Pushing Through Pain: Success Through Suffering
- Overcoming Self-Imposed Limitations: Mind Training Strategies From Gym Jones
- What's New On Breaking Muscle UK Today
Photos courtesy of Gym Jones.