When you’re getting ready in the morning do you ask yourself, “Am I doing enough? Should I be working harder in the bathroom before I leave for work?” Probably not.
In fact, you probably know the exact bare minimum you need to do to get yourself out the door looking the way you want to look.
But when it comes to training, a lot of people have trouble figuring out how much they need to do to get the results they want. Especially since most coaches and fitness companies preach about always pushing harder and never being satisfied.
In this episode we talk about how to build a Minimum Viable Routine that works for your goals. We’ll share our own favorite strategies and help you figure out how to choose the few things you need to focus on to make the progress you want.
Transcript of Minimum Viable Routine Episode
Andy: All right, all right, all right. Welcome to the Growing My Beard podcast.
Ryan: I’m going to ZZ Top this, man. I’m just going to let it grow forever, and then braid it. I’m talking about my chest hair, though, not my beard.
Andy: I don’t think we can be friends anymore.
Ryan: What are we talking about today, man?
Andy: Today, this is a request from some people in our community of listeners to the podcast. What is a minimum viable routine that you can follow? What’s the least number of exercises that I can do that will cover the most bases, that will have me lacking the least things when I’m busy, tired, whatever, traveling, any of these things? What is the least I can do and still be getting the most important stuff? The 20% that nets the 80% results, so to speak.
Ryan: Biggest bang, baby.
Andy: That’s right.
Ryan: For your bucks.
Andy: Yes. But, you’re welcome, this is all free. And a lot of this comes down to the question Ryan and I ask pretty often, how much training do you really need?
Ryan: That’s right. Because that’s what we’re about.
Andy: Training, for us, a lot of times, is no-
Ryan: Pretty minimal. Yeah, because the goal in GMB is to do more exercise.
Andy: Always. Always.
Ryan: It’s not.
Andy: Also, an important thing, not to make light of it, but if you talk about minimum, well in perspective, a lot of people do none. And-
Ryan: Right, right.
Andy: … if you are generally in good shape, in good health, and you are doing things normally and if you have a short period of time of duration, like we mentioned on a different episode earlier about travel or something-
Andy: The minimum might just be none.
Andy: Or it might just be walking around and getting through the day. That might be enough for a short duration, and that’s fine too. But we’re kind of assuming that you do want to be doing something, but not very much, and that’s where we’re going to be going with this today.
Ryan: Yeah. All right.
Andy: We do have a few things that our clients use pretty often on this. One is our Alpha Posse members. We have a routine in there called the Daily Battery that-
Ryan: Which you created.
Andy: … I made up a few years ago because we had moved to Honolulu and I was trying to arrange my schedule and just figure out what is, again, actually the minimum I could do every morning to feel good for the rest of the day. And that’s a seven-minute routine, including one minute of lying down breathing.
Ryan: Panting heavily-
Ryan: … because it’s a HIIT workout before you do that, right?
Andy: It is, it is. We also have a lot of people that have gone through our Vitamin course and like to repeat that, continue to cycle through it, because it just gives them something they can spend like five minutes on practicing every day. Also, people that have done Elements, they can take those basic exercises and use them as a warm up or work them into whenever they have time. You can spend one, three, five minutes on something like that once you’ve done it, and it’s pretty easy to repeat. So we have a lot of our clients that use Vitamin or Elements as their kind of minimum viable routine too.
Ryan: As a matter of fact, I used Elements yesterday as my warm up, so there you go.
Andy: Yeah, every martial arts class I teach, at least once a week all of us are doing basically-
Ryan: Doing that, yeah.
Andy:So, let’s get into this. We are going to start from where we usually start with how much training do you
really need? And the answer to that is based on what is your goal? What are you trying to do?
Ryan: Absolutely. We typically in GMB suggest a minimum of six hours a day to start with. If you’re not doing six hours, then you should just quit, and you’re a horrible person. So stop with that. Of course I’m kidding.
Andy: How bad do you want it?
Ryan: Yes. How bad do you want it, man? How bad do you want it? It all comes down to your goal, and the thing is we all have different goals, so it’s not our place to say that you must train a certain amount of hours or you must do a particular thing. Really, it comes down to your goal and what is that particular thing that you want to get better at. It can be an individual skill, it could be a particular sport that you’re doing or whatnot. But the thing is, it’s all about that skill and not trying to add a bunch of stuff on top of that.
Ryan: And that’s the big thing, right? Because you want to get better at that skill, so do more of that skill. Great example could be my wife right now. She’s into hip hop dancing, and so she goes to hip hop dancing. The thing is, the way that she’s going to be getting better at hip hop dancing is practicing more hip hop dancing specifically.
Andy: I don’t know. I mean, she might spend like 20 minutes a day on ankle exercises. She should also be doing some extra rhythm training on the side, I believe.
Ryan: Yes, and these are the things I prescribed for her and that she’s completely ignoring because she’s my wife.
Andy: Because she’s smarter than you.
Ryan: Yeah, she’s smart. Yeah. No, but that’s the thing, though, is she actually asked me about that and she’s doing the hip hop dance and she’s enjoying it. She’s doing the routine, and I say routine because they have a…
Andy: A performance.
Ryan: Performance. Thank you. Jeez. Performance coming up. And so she’s going through her dance routine and she’s thinking, “Okay, what else do I need to be doing?” And I was like, “Nothing, really. It’s good enough what you’re doing right now.” That’s really what it comes down to, is doing the thing that’ll help you be better at doing that thing. Now, that, of course, is just when we’re looking at the minimum sort of thing. Once you get better at whatever you’re doing, things will come up and you’ll find that, yeah, wow. You know what, in order for me to get better at this particular point in my hip hop routine, I really need to focus a little bit more on my flexibility. That’s what my wife has found. So it’s not her doing a whole lot of extra supplemental stuff. It’s simply her being able to do the move, and that is why she’s just adding one single stretch twice a week, just to help her, and that’s good enough.
Andy: Cool. Let’s also just take this out of activities, because I know we have a lot of people that don’t do dance or sport or climbing, or any of the things. So you’re training just for general fitness. So then, what is it that you’re trying to get better at? And then your answer is just fitness, and that’s not really very helpful. So how do you do a little bit of that? That could be, well, like you were just saying, find the thing that is limiting you. Find the thing that you need a little bit more of. Is your fitness the thing that is the highest priority, the biggest limit to you? Is it endurance, is it flexibility, is it strength building? Well, whatever that thing is is where you can dig in and prioritize that one thing as your minimum viable focus.
Ryan: Exactly. And let’s go a little deeper, making sure that that is one thing. You mentioned strength, you mentioned flexibility, you mentioned control. But the thing is, it’s not a matter of trying to do all those together.
Andy: Right. If we’re talking minimums-
Ryan: Yeah. Yeah, minimums.
Andy: … let’s cut down to the minimum.
Ryan: It’s one thing, just that one thing. And hey, do that and get better at it. It’s going to help whatever you’re doing. That’s the big thing. The thing is, though, sometimes it’s difficult to figure out what that one thing is. That also comes back to being aware of what’s going on and focusing on your goals and not trying to do everything. So when we’re talking about the minimum routine, it’s just that. Pick one thing. If you don’t really know, just pick one thing. That’s cool, and just focus on that.
Andy: Yeah. A few ways that you can pick, if you’re just paralyzed by indecision here, you’re like, “I don’t
know what to do,” well, that’s fine. Here’s a few ways you can pick. Where are you when you have a chance to do this? Are you home? Are you at the office? Are you walking home? Are you somewhere else? What is your environment going to be? Is it somewhere that you can do a few pull ups, like in a park on the way home or something? If that’s not an option for you, well, then that’s not something is going to work for this, right? If it’s something where you really just have like five minutes before bed or something, then sit down on the floor and do a few [crosstalk 00:09:07].
Ryan: Yeah, yeah.
Andy: But still, if you’re trying to find the best thing to do and you don’t know where to start, just look at where you’re going to be and when this is going to happen, and think of what you can do in that situation, and let that be the thing. That’s good enough.
Ryan: Dude, that’s great. That sums up a lot of my training throughout the years because of traveling and time and my energy levels and whatnot. So it wasn’t like, well, I have to do this work out. No, no, no, what can I do right now?. That’s it.
Andy: It’s possible.
Ryan: Exactly. Exactly. So yeah, and try not to add a bunch of crap to it. Supplementation is simply what it means. You supplement for what you’re possibly missing. And the thing is, a lot of people think that they should be doing a lot of supplementation when, in fact, what they really need to be doing is more of that one thing. And I mentioned this before, I used the example of my wife, of doing more of that dance. Adding a bunch of other stuff is not going to help her dance in the long run, to be honest. It’s getting in more practice of the particular skill, and that’s what it comes down to. If you want to get better at something, do more of it. That’s it. That’s really it.
Andy: If you’re learning an instrument and you want to be really good at it, then you do need to work on your pitch. You do need to work on your rhythm. You do need to work on your listening skills and your sight reading and all of these things. But if you’re just playing guitar in your bedroom and maybe jamming with a friend once a month or something, you don’t need any of that shit. You don’t.
Ryan: That’s it. No, that’s right.
Andy: Bang out those cords to Smells Like Teen Spirit, because we all know you’re trying to re-live the high school years. It’s fine. It’s fun. Bang it out. Take in the distortion. Wail, man, it’s good enough. Do that. Do more of that and you will get better at the thing that matters to you. You don’t have to add on more stuff because you’re supposed to be doing it. And this, again, is just like, it goes on to what we say so much is like playing your own game versus doing the thing that everyone tries to tell you you’re supposed to want to do.
Ryan: Exactly. Exactly. Moving forward with that as well, is playing your own game, but then also focusing on the things that you want to focus on. Which can lead into the next thing is our question. The question that we got is, I’d like some advice on the least number of exercises, drills, et cetera, that will cover most bases. Example, to do chin-ups on the bar, rings, and rope would I have to practice on all three, or would working on just the rope help me for chin-ups on the bar in rings? Okay, so basically, should I be doing all this stuff or is there one single thing that I can do that’s going to help me to cover all of that? Now, the answer is yes, and that’s a tough answer, but the thing is-
Andy: As is often the case.
Ryan: As often the case. It depends. Don’t you hate that answer?
Andy: Hate it.
Ryan: Here’s what I think about that. My thing is to focus on having a good foundation. Having a good foundation, and with that, it’s going to allow you to be able to do all of those tricks eventually. The thing is, focus on the basic movement pattern more and getting really, really good at that. It’s not that I’m saying you need to do chin-ups on the bar first, or you need to do rope first, or anything like that. It’s looking at the movement pattern. Get that down. Get really, really good at it. And then it’s just a matter of using variations of that. By doing that, you’re going to be able to have a lot of different tricks.
Ryan: And the foundation, too, I’m speaking in terms of right now just of these pulling exercises, but a good foundation across the board. I’m looking at pushing, pulling, twisting, pressing in upper body and lower body. If you have a good foundation for that, then you’re going to be able to do whatever the hell you want to anyway. It’s going to take time to build up to get to that point, but once you have that, then it’s really of looking at these variations that you’re going to be doing. Again, it’s that basic pattern. With that in mind, of being able to get that foundation and then just look at different variations of that, I want to talk a little bit about the difference between progressions and variations, because a lot of people can get pretty hung up on thinking that in order to achieve a skill, it needs to be done A, B, C, D, E sort of thing.
Andy: A linear path to success.
Ryan: The linear path. It’s got to be that way, right? Now, an example of this is one of our lead trainers. His name is Junior. I call him Mr. Planche, and the way that he got really, really good at the planche was simply first building up the base, getting his wrists strong enough, getting his arms strong enough, learning that pattern, or maybe I should just say the form of what his body needed to be in in order to start practicing that movement.
Ryan: This is really where that foundation comes into play. Foundation can be building the strength, it can be building the flexibility, it can be building the control. But, really, again, what we’re after is looking at what is that form, the end form that you need in order to perform that particular movement that you want to be doing. Now, in his case, and for those of you who don’t know what a planche is, basically, think of a pushup but your feet are floating free off of the floor so you’re only supporting yourself with your arms. But this is a pretty, pretty tough move and 99% of people out there are not going to be able to do it. They could, but taking the time to be able to build up to it takes a lot of time.
Ryan: Coming back to this, though, what Junior did was he built up his straight arm strength and got to the point where he was able to stay in a tucked position with his legs underneath him floating off the ground. Some people call that floating crane, you can call it a tucked planche, whatever the heck you want to call it.
Andy: And then he immediately went to the next progression.
Ryan: Immediately went to the next progression, which is-
Ryan: Exactly. Right. Thing is, once you have that particular progression towards the foundation, once you’ve done the things necessary in order to get you to the foundation, you can then use variations of movements to get you to the ultimate skill that you’re after. In other words, there is no set progression because we’re all different and we’re all going to find ways to be able to do it.
Ryan: So what did Junior do whenever he had a chance? He just tried to do a planche, a different variation of a planche, anywhere. So we would be walking down the street. I remember being in Australia with him and we were walking down the street and there was a pillar, and he just went over and he tried to planche. And the thing is, it wasn’t that he was focused on doing a straddle planche. He wasn’t focused on doing a whatever planche. No, he just simply tried to practice the planche position as much as possible.
Andy: In as many different-
Ryan: In as many different ways-
Andy: … variations as possible.
Ryan: … and variations as possible.
Ryan: Another example of this could be if you’re working on the front lever, work on getting the proper form. What’s going on with the shoulders? What’s going on with the hands in relation to the hips? And then getting into that tuck lever position and being able to comfortably hold that. From there, there’s many different ways you can train it, many different variations. You can do a single leg front lever, you can do a straddle, you can do a can opener, you can do where you’re lowering from a full lever down to the floor. There’s so many different ways. What I’m trying to get at is that it all comes down to having that foundation and that particular form needed in the very beginning, because that’s it.
Andy: Yeah. We talk about foundation and building a base and stuff, and you’ll hear people say this, but then it seems like they want to build this foundation, and then they want to build on top of that, and then they want to keep going, then build higher, then build higher, then build higher. And it seems like the idea is to make this very tall, very skinny, structure, as tall as they can go. And if you just keep going and if it’s exactly vertical, if you get the right progressions, if you get the right magical moves, then you can always keep stacking it precisely and you touch the highest point possible.
Andy: But that’s not the way you really want to build things in real life. It gives lip service to the idea of a foundation, but only the smallest possible foundation that you can build on. What we’re talking about, what Junior did is he would build one step of the foundation, then he would build the next level, and then he would go and widen that base by adding more variations around that, and broaden that base every time. And then he would go up a level and he would broaden the base again. So he’s building more of a pyramid structure.
Ryan: Exactly. Exactly.
Andy: He has not taken his planche as high as some people, perhaps, maybe, I don’t know. But he can do a planche on just about anything anywhere.
Ryan: And he can do a back of the hand planche and all this different stuff. So another way to look at it is on each level, rather than trying to go up to the next level, hey, add some curtains to that level.
Andy: Need two bathrooms on every floor, man, if you’re going to have guests over, I’m telling you.
Ryan: That’s right. Tell you what. But the thing is, really, there is also a difference between thinking that you have to get something and then just understanding that, hey, this is good enough. It’s going to allow me to continue to train this. So now we’re starting to look at what is the ultimate program versus just doing the minimum versus maintenance. And so if you have that base, if you truly, truly have that foundation, the cool thing about that is when you do take a break, when you do come back, when you’re working on stuff, it’ll always be there. And that’s really, really good to know.
Ryan: A lot of people try to jump so quickly up to the next level and then they actually don’t have that foundation just yet. And when they come back to it, they actually have to start at the beginning again to rebuild that foundation, and that’s an unfortunate thing. So the thing is, once a week can be good enough, but as long as you’ve already built that foundation and as long as you have the time. A great example for right now could be me. And that is-
Andy: You are a great example, Ryan.
Ryan: I’m a great example. It’s the beard. I’ve put in the time over the years to be able to build this base. I don’t really work out that much anymore, but I’m doing okay. It’s good enough, is what I mean. My current routine, I only do one movement a week. And a lot of people will think, “Oh, well, wait a minute. What about gains? Aren’t you making gains?” I’ve got to say, I’m making some pretty damn good gains. And the thing is, when I’m doing particular movement once a week, I hit it pretty hard. But the thing is, I already got that base so all I’m doing now is, again, it’s not a matter of jumping up into levels and building the pyramid higher. For me, it’s, like I mentioned earlier, putting curtains in that thing. I’m just trying to make it prettier.
Andy: That’s really where the pharaohs went wrong, I think, is the lack of curtains.
Ryan: Exactly. It’s all about curtains and shag carpet.
Ryan: Right? Yeah. That’s good shit, right? So looking at finding a balance point is really the other thing to think about. So to come back to that question, what’s better? Rope, rings, bar for chin-ups, it can be any of those. It’s going to be dependent upon how you’re building your base and are you allowing yourself enough time to actually be able to do all of them? And so that time constraint we talked about earlier, and also just what do you want out of it?
Ryan: So if you just want to focus on rope only, great. The thing is you also have to take into consideration that you might screw up your elbows and get tennis elbow by overdoing it or in thinking that, by only doing that and doing a lot of it, that it’s going to solve world problems. It’s not. So you also have to think about over the long run of variation. So that’s what we’re after, is if you’re just trying to stack blocks, eventually something’s going to happen. Those blocks are going to come down.
Andy: We’re talking about minimum viable, then.
Andy: So we’re talking about minimum viable. I guess what you’re saying, then, is that minimum viable for what? Are you trying a minimum viable routine to make gains?
Ryan: Right, exactly.
Andy: Minimum viable routine to maintain? Minimum viable just to like not die?
Ryan: Exactly, right. Yeah.
Andy: So if you have a goal for something, then a minimal viable minimum viable routine to do that is going to be to work pretty specifically on that thing.
Ryan: Yes, yes.
Andy: If you’re just trying to maintain, well, then you don’t necessarily need to do as much assistance on that, but you might just do … You could do almost anything, really. You just need to do the minimum of that thing.
Ryan: Exactly. And I get the question that was asked is like, is there just one exercise I can do that’s going to allow me to do everything? And, I mean, yeah, but again, it comes down to just build that form. Get really good at the pattern that you need, and I think that’s really the main thing that we’re after, and then finally in the balance
in order to be able to continue working on it.
Andy: I think otherwise, we’d just run the risk of the magic exercises fallacy because-
Ryan: Yes, right.
Andy: … if your goal is to do pull ups on rings, bar, rope, okay, well, that sounds like it’s a very specific goal. But it’s actually not. Is your goal to be equally good on all three of those things? Is your goal to be able to do the one of those that’s weakest as well as the ones that are strongest? Is your goal to be able to do pull ups and then also on all of these things? Each of those is going to require a little different approach.
Ryan: Absolutely, and that’s a very, very valid point and one that needs to be taken into consideration because you’re not going to be equal on all of those things. And so there’s certain tweaks that are going to be happening. A chin-up is not the same on the bar than it is on the rings. It’s similar, but the thing is, you’re going to have a weakness somewhere because you haven’t been training for that particular apparatus.
Andy: And unfortunately, none of these things is best. So we can’t tell you, if you only practice working on chins with the rope, you will never ever have to do any other pulling exercises and pulling is just handled for you. So we can’t give you a routine that’s like rope chins, barbell squats, and sprints and say that’s all you’ll ever need. No such thing as this.
Ryan: Dude, that’s the perfect routine right there.
Andy: I know. I just made that up. I’ve never read that on 40,000 fitness blogs.
Ryan: Ever. I’ve never seen that either. Wow. That’s amazing, and it just came out of … We should market that.
Andy: That’s why I make the big bucks, dude.
Ryan: That’s right. Someday hopefully I can too. We’ll see. Still trying. Well, let’s bring this back. Let’s bring this back.
Andy: It’s not magic, is what we’re saying. Right?
Ryan: Yeah, right. Exactly.
Andy: So you have to know, then, what your goal is. And it’s not just to do more stuff, which is, that’s implicit in the question. I don’t just want to do more stuff. I want to do the right things. And this is really hard, is how do I choose what those right things are? That’s where you really have to investigate what is important and are you trying to make gains or not? Or are you trying to maintain?
Andy: Then it’s a matter of looking at where you have weaknesses, because your minimum routines are usually going to be focused on shoring up a weakness. Is it your strength? Is it your flexibility? Is it your control? Can you already do pull ups on all three apparatus and you just want to focus on being able to do the one that’s weakest more? Well then, just focus on that thing. But focus on the thing that’s weakest in that, usually.
Ryan: Yeah, and our goal here in GMB is not to worry about more. We just want to focus on the minimum amount of things that’s going to help us to be able to do the stuff that we want. That’s why Elements is actually a pretty good example, because it wasn’t about throwing every single animal movement into a program. It was me going, “Okay, these are the movements that I feel will give us the biggest bang for the buck. You’re looking at strength, flexibility, and control for a person who is coming into this at this level.”
Ryan: So helping them to build a base for being able to move better with this specific goal and that terms, and then also looking at using the AAA framework where we can assess what’s going on in the body, being aware of what we need, whether that be strength, flexibility, or control by limiting the amount of movements that we’re actually doing so that we can focus on getting better at those. So again, balance. Balance really is looking at not just in the life, not just week in a day, but also looking at that particular routine or program that you’re doing. Is it a balanced routine? In the sense, are you throwing tons of stuff in there, or are you actually looking at what you need?
Andy: Are you allowing for cycles and seasons and doing more of something sometime and doing less of it another time? Because that’s the way life works.
Ryan: That’s it. Right now my thing is strength. This is my cycle of where I am right now, just focusing on strength, really not doing anything else. I’m fully aware that I’m not doing anything else, and I’m happy with it because I know it would change later and I’m focused on-
Andy: You will never again be able to do any of your high level skills. Ever.
Ryan: So I can’t do a handstand anymore at all, man, because I stopped. I haven’t done it for about a month. So I’ll have to start at the very beginning.
Andy: You’re going to have to start from zero.
Ryan: From zero, man.
Andy: It’s going to be so humiliating.
Ryan: I know. I’ll post a video about it on Instagram, though, once I get it. Throw that arm out to the side. Yeah, figure out what you need. Figure out what you need and what you want to be doing. Just because some internet guru tells you you have to be doing something, well, in fact, if some internet guru says you have to be doing something, I wouldn’t listen to that person. But that’s just me.
Andy: Unless it’s us, in which case, you can also definitely not listen to us.
Ryan: Yeah. All right, let’s wrap this thing up. We were talking about this before, but it’s all about that balance, and then figure out what’s necessary for you but then also some of the things that’d be nice to have. That’s another way of looking at it. Yeah, it’d be nice to have this. It’d be great, but is it really going to help you? It’s tough to let go of stuff, believe you me, but sometimes it actually makes life a lot easier when you understand that, you know what? That’s nice, but I don’t need it. It’s totally cool.
Ryan: And then the other thing, to think about what’s important for right now, but also look at how that’s going to help you down the road. That’s another good way on making these decisions. It’s cool right now, but does this actually help me down the road for what I really want to be doing? And then just focus on using some of the programs that you enjoy.
Andy: Yeah, yeah. If you’ve worked on a program before and you don’t have time for it now, well, take the part that you liked the most from it or take the part that you just found the most valuable from it and just do that. That’s completely, completely viable too.
Ryan: Absolutely. Makes things a lot easier.
Andy: It does.
Ryan: All right, let’s finish up. Bonus tip is actually a pretty simple one in theory, difficult to actually apply. That is I want you to just look at your current exercise routine, whatever that might be. I want you to look at if there’s one exercise in there that you added in there, and think about is it really beneficial or not to me? Is it actually helping me, or not? Chances are, if there is one exercise where you’re thinking, “Okay, is this helping me or not?” chances are you don’t need it. I’m not saying throw everything out of your workout, but the more you can simplify and focus on less and doing more of that, the better you’re probably going to be.
Ryan: And you can always take that movement and put it into something later, and that can be your priority move. But really take a look at what you’re doing right now and look at that one extra exercise that you’re like, “Hey, I want to do this too,” and think about is that beneficial or not. I personally think that if you have an extra exercise and you have to think about whether it’s beneficial or not, then it probably shouldn’t be in there. That’s just me. But that’s your bonus tip for today. Think about that. If you have any questions, let us know and Andy will answer them all. That’s why he gets paid so much money.
Andy: That’s true.
Ryan: Yes. All right, everybody.
Be sure to catch the next episode by subscribing to the GMB Show: