How To Train Like A Minimalist (More Results In Less Time)

by Dan Go at The High Performance Journal: Back in 2020, my family sold our house and moved to Costa Rica for eight months. During our time in Costa Rica, I rediscovered my passion for surfing. I was out on the waves twice a day, every day.

This routine left me little time to hit the gym yet I still wanted to keep my muscle.

So, I turned to a workout called Minimalist Training.

Minimalist training is about condensing down your workouts to the most critical components. It’s about getting the most bang for the buck while removing the fluff.

There are going to be times when training in the gym is not your top priority. Maybe work gets in the way, or your kids have started going to a new dance camp.

Whatever it is, you want something to fall back on in situations where you don’t have time on your side.

Minimalist training is for:

  1. The time-strapped individual who doesn’t have a lot of time to spend in the gym.
  2. The person playing a ton of sports who wants to maintain their muscle.
  3. The person who doesn’t like doing resistance training but still wants the benefits.

The great thing about it is that you can still get results while spending up to 50% less time in the gym.

Here’s how…

There are 2 types of Minimalist Training:

  1. Make gains in less time
  2. Maintain what you have

#1 – More Gains in Less Time

These are for people who have 2-3 days per week to train. They still want to make gains but don’t want to spend too long in a gym.

These workouts take around 30 minutes.

You can do this using Antagonistic Supersets or the Myo-rep method.

1a. Antagonistic Supersets

When you perform one set immediately followed by another with minimal rest this is called a superset.

An antagonistic superset is when you do an upper-body exercise followed by a lower-body exercise.

Example: 8 reps of squats followed by 8 reps of bench presses

Sample Workout:

Set 1: 8 reps of Squats and Back Rows
Set 2: 8 reps of Romanian Deadlifts and Bench Presses
Set 3: 8 reps of lunges and Overhead presses

This is the workout we use in The Lean Body 90.

You would use it to do the most exercises in a 30-minute timeframe while getting a slight cardiovascular benefit.

1b. The Myo-rep Method

Myo-reps are a lifting technique created by Norwegian strength coach ​Borge Fagerli​ that was popularized in the mid-2000s.

It’s a form of rest pause training designed to stimulate muscle growth in a short amount of time.

Here’s how to do Myo-reps

  1. Pick a load you can perform 5-12 reps with. This works best with machines and low-risk exercises.
  2. Go to 1-2 reps before failure. You can judge this by how slow the tempo becomes at the latter reps.
  3. After you’re done with your set stop lifting. Take 3 to 10 deep breaths and then keep going for 2-5 short mini sets of 2-4 reps. Make sure to stop 1-2 reps before failure.

Pushup Example:

Step 1: I’d do a set of pushups in good form until I’m about 1-2 reps away from failure.
Step 2: I’d stop and do 5-10 breaths.
Step 3: I’d repeat this process for 3 to 5 more sets.

This type of training has you doing fewer exercises but may elicit more muscle growth due to the intensity you’re placing on the muscle.

If you want to go deeper, here is a ​​comprehensive article​​ by the creator Borge Fagerli on how to do myo-reps.

#2 – Maintain what you have

Let’s say you only have the space to hit the gym once a week or play a sport that prevents you from hitting the gym due to recovery or lack of time.

Do this workout once a week:

  1. Push exercise x 3 sets
  2. Pull exercise x 3 sets
  3. Legs exercise x 3 sets


  1. Incline bench press x 3 sets
  2. Single arm back row x 3 sets
  3. Bulgarian split squat x 3 sets each leg

This is the exact workout I used in Costa Rica to maintain my strength and muscle.

Training once a week wasn’t optimal, and due to the amount of cardio I was doing, I did lose some muscle.

But I would have lost a lot more and set myself back farther if I had not done this workout.

Rules for Minimalist Training

  • Use Compound Movements: These exercises work for multiple muscle groups at once, giving you more value for each rep. Think squats, deadlifts, bench presses, pull-ups, and rows. They build strength, muscle, and overall functionality.
  • Frequency and Consistency: It’s about showing up regularly and doing the work. You don’t need to work out every day; 2-3 times a week is a great frequency to make gains, and 1x a week is the bare minimum to maintain them. The key is consistency over time.
  • Intensity and Progression: Focus on increasing the weight, reps, or intensity of your workouts over time. This progressive overload drives muscle growth and strength gains. You don’t need a million different exercises; you need to keep pushing your limits with the basics.

More Gains. Less Time.

Let’s be real for a second here:

Not everyone wants to look like a bodybuilder or has dreams of becoming a high-level athlete.

We want fitness to be part of our lives, which means dedicating the right amount of time to it while we balance all other areas of our lives.

Also, there may come a time in our lives when we can’t (or want) to dedicate much time to the gym.

That’s the beauty of learning to train like a minimalist.

You focus on the essentials and forget the rest. This frees up time to focus on other areas of your life.

Hope this article brought value to your life.

Onwards and upwards 🚀

– Dan

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