One of the biggest mistakes trainers and coaches can make is overtraining. Many, including myself, have learned that more is not always better. Unfortunately, that seems to be the mindset of many people; if a little bit works, more will produce even better results. Often, this causes us to take things to extremes.

In my early days of bodybuilding I had the privilege to work out with some high-profile partners. My main training partner was John Burkholder. John went on to become Mr. USA and Mr. North America. Some of my other partners included Jeff Magruder, the World Record Holder in the bench press, 242lb class, and another guy named Schwarzenegger. We just called him Arnold.

It was a whole different world for me training with these guys. I had always felt my best using shorter intense workouts. But these guys wanted to train 4 hours-a-day, 7-day-a-week. They worked out for 2 hours in the morning and 2 hours in the evening. It definitely wiped me out; and the funny thing was, I made no progress working out that way. In fact, I was losing ground.

Although I loved training with John, after two years he moved on to open his own health club. After this, I migrated back to my short intense workouts, and my strength started to skyrocket. Within no time, I was lifting amounts I only dreamed of. So what changed? How can less actually mean more?

When researching weight lifting, it has long been known that you want to stimulate the fastest twitching fibers (called fast glycolytic). Once these muscle fibers are fatigued, they need to rest. However, most workout programs never take a person deep enough to stimulate these fibers. It takes hard work, and a willingness to push oneself. It is not easy to train to fatigue. Most would rather do 3 sets of 10 repetitions or some kind of pyramid scheme rather than doing 1 set to muscular failure.

Once the fast glycolytic fibers are fatigued, any exercise beyond that will cut into recovery time and risk injury in the connective tissue. This is why I use the 15-minute routine and teach it to others. It is time effective, produces great results, and creates less stress on the joints. Here’s how the 15-minute routine works:

As is the case with most weight training routines, you will work multiple parts of the body, one after another. However, you will only aim to do one long set for each body part. The set should have around 15-20 repetitions at a heavy enough weight to totally exhaust your muscles. It will take a lot of energy and focus to push yourself, but we’ll talk more about that below.

Here’s an example of a workout I’d recommend: Bench press, pull down, upright row, curls, press downs, leg extension, leg curl, abs, and low back. This list contains 9 exercises, which means in the 15-minute routine, you should only be spending about a minute and a half on each exercise. Push yourself at each set and move on. It may not seem like a long time, but I guarantee you’ll be exhausted. I personally have been using this routine for 20-years, and as I mentioned earlier, I have tried some pretty extreme workouts and everything in between.

Workouts like this work for people of all ages. People in their 70’s and 80’s find themselves turning back the clock when training this way. Of course the trainer has to be careful not to overdo the person. As with other exercise routines, cardiac arrest is always a concern at that age. Older clients will need to take it slow. But, as they become accustomed to pushing themselves, they will be less likely to have a cardiac event.

The other thing people have to learn intensity. Pushing yourself to exhaustion takes energy and concentration. In fact, this intensity is as much mental as it is physical. In other words, someone may start working out at only 70% of their potential. But as they gain confidence, they will be able to move up to 90%. This will give them more muscular development and as well as a sense of well being.

That is the beauty of the program; it can be used for everyone! Even if weights can’t be used, a person can start with range-of-motion, then work up to light weights. It’s never to late for someone to start exercising. In fact, I just saw a story about a man who started running marathons at 89 years of age. But more than reading stories about these things, I’ve seen the results personally. For 12 years, I have run an exercise program on a worldwide Christian broadcasting station. It uses no equipment at all, yet it has changed lives. People who thought they could never exercise have found a renewed vigor that they thought would be gone forever. All they needed was a willing heart.