Fitness Resources


Fitness can be complicated, but there is a way to simplify your workouts. Taking a minimalist approach to fitness allows you to focus on the basics for maintaining fitness and wellness. With this mindset, you can rest easy that you do not need to invest in a special workout or product; gimmicks are just clutter. The basics are enough to get you fit and keep you healthy.

This simplistic approach can be helpful during those seasons of life when time is particularly limited. Rather than abandoning your routine during stressful times, it’s better to do just do what you can—a minimal 20-minute workout—and appreciate how much better you feel after a few key exercises. When tasks are complicated, it is easy to procrastinate or put it off all together. Making things simple means you are more likely to stick with the routine on a consistent basis. As the convenience of the minimalist approach sinks in, you may find yourself abandoning complicated or long workouts. With basic guidelines, you too, can be a fitness minimalist.

The Three Essential Components

Here are three essential components to include in your minimalist workouts: mobility, strength and cardio. Cardio and strength training is often mixed together in high-intensity interval training (HIIT), circuit training, supersets or other interval-type workouts. As a minimalist, focus on exercises that utilize big muscle groups to increase metabolic demand and functional fitness. Exercises such as squats, push-ups and lunges are a mainstay, while small-muscle exercises such as biceps curls and calf raises are less crucial. Lifting, pushing and pulling things as you would in daily life are the movements highlighted in these workouts, so no special equipment required. Performing these movements in training will help you perform these activities with more vigor and confidence in everyday life.

In general, industry standards recommend performing 75-150 minutes of cardiovascular exercise, dependent on intensity. The more intense the exercise, the less time needed. Healthy adults are also encouraged to complete two to three days of strength training to increase and maintain lean muscle tissue. The minimalist approach can fit within these guidelines, with a focus on the most demanding or impactful exercises. Simply put, if you work harder and smarter, you can decrease the time you spend in the gym and still achieve results.

Your minimalist workout should include a few minutes of preparatory or warm-up movements. To start, perform soft-tissue work such as foam rolling for the large muscle groups including the hips, back and shoulders. After soft-tissue work, perform dynamic stretching that mimics the movements in your planned workout. This portion of your workout need not be extensive, but can make a big difference in the quality of your workout as a whole. It also allows for mental preparation and focus.

When it comes to strength training, perform large muscle, functional-type exercises. Focus primarily on the five major movements. For example, include pushing exercises like push-ups and overhead presses; pulling exercises such as bent-over rows and pull-ups; bend-and-lift exercises such as dead lifts; rotation exercises such as wood chops; and single-leg movements like squats. You can perform all of these major movements in one workout or you could split them between days. You can also alter the set/rep scheme to achieve your desired training result or you can take a more intuitive training approach by listening to listen to how your body feels and adapt your workout accordingly each day.

You can accumulate cardiovascular activity in a variety of ways. Activities of daily living such as physical chores, walking or outdoor recreation activities are great ways to accumulate heart-healthy cardio movement. Another approach is to perform HIIT-style training within or at the end of a workout. Instead of spending large chunks of low-intensity time on a treadmill, a few sets of challenging high-intensity exercises such as burpees, high knees or sprints should only take five to 10 minutes, and can provide results comparable to twice the amount of low- to moderate-intensity cardio.


You can become a fitness minimalist by making the most of your workouts and performing the most impactful exercises. Keep your workouts simple and attainable, yet physically challenging. When you feel confident in our workout, you are more likely to be consistent, which is key to creating and maintaining optimal health and fitness.

Amber Long
AMBER LONG ContributorAmber Long, M.Ed. currently resides in Denver, Colorado where she is the Executive Director of the Student Wellness Center at the University of Colorado, Denver. Amber is a certified trainer, instructor and health coach as well as a continuing education provider and fitness business consultant. She holds two degrees from Iowa State University, a bachelor’s degree in Community Health Education and a master’s degree in Higher Education, Leadership Policy Studies.  She believes exercise is medicine and works to engage clients from all walks of life in physical activity and smart nutrition in order to live their best life.

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