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  • Writer's pictureWinston Endall

13 Fitness Game Changers To Turbo-Charge Your Progress

Updated: Oct 30, 2022

When it comes to fitness training, we all want to make the most progress in the least amount of time. Our time is an investment, so we want it to pay off. The title of this article might be a bit clickbaity, but what I've included have been game-changers for my clients and me.

If you are trying to attain a goal, whether it is looking better naked or winning a race, knowing how to structure your training to get results will save you a lot of time and headache. Nothing is worse than putting in the effort and having little to show for it.

I've been coaching athletes for 25 years and, along the way, have learned a lot. Whether from other coaches or through experimentation, I've always looked for ways to make training more effective. We keep what works and discard the rest.

Nothing will replace being consistent over time and progressively overloading, but these game changers can help get a little more out of your training.

Game changers are things that make a more significant difference in real life than you would expect on paper.

FYI - You won't incorporate all of these ideas at the same time. A number of them will work together but don't try to add too much at once.

EMOM (Every Minute On the Minute)

We start with this one as it has a power that has to be experienced.

The idea is simple. Set a timer to beep every minute. I use an interval timer on my phone to program the time and how many intervals I want. You do a set of exercises, and then whatever time is left in the minute is your rest period.

You can do all the sets of a specific exercise in a row or rotate each minute circuit training style.

This way of training is very time efficient because you get a lot of work done per workout. A 30-minute workout will have you doing 30 sets. As a by-product, you tend to increase strength, work capacity and burn fat simultaneously.

Most conventional workouts will take two or three times as long to do the same amount of work. Initially, you might have to start with slightly lighter weights or fewer reps per set, but quickly your body adapts, and you will surpass your previous benchmark.

If you are training for strength, keep the reps low (1-3) and add a set or rep weekly to build volume. If I'm working with a load that will allow me to do a maximum of 5 reps, I will start with ten sets of 1 rep done twice per week. Week two will have the first two sets being sets of two.

I will keep adding until I'm at ten sets of two, then start over with sets of 3. Before long, I'm doing ten sets of 5 reps with a weight that I could only do one set. You can keep increasing the number of reps or move up in weight.

If you want to burn fat and improve conditioning, then pick a load that will allow you to work for 30 seconds and have 30 seconds rest. Depending on the exercise, the time per rep varies. For instance, with kettlebell swings, it takes around 30 seconds to do 20 reps, but goblet squats will be around 10-12 reps.

The structure guarantees time-efficient workouts that see gains in multiple fitness qualities at the same time.

Volume & Density Cycles

When thinking about progressing in strength training, most people only think of adding weight or reps. Instead, you can systematically increase volume and workout density. We do this with kettlebells because the size jumps don't allow you to go up by a small amount, so you have to master a weight before moving up.

Volume cycles are adding more sets.

For example, if you can do a maximum of 10 reps with a specific weight, you would start with five sets of 5 reps with that weight on week one. During Week 2, you would move up to 6 sets, and week three increases to 7. Keep building until 10-15 sets.

This will get you stronger while building work capacity.

Density cycles are increasing the amount of work you do in a given amount of time. Once you get to a specific number of sets, then you can start increasing the number of reps you do in each set.

When combined with an EMOM protocol, volume, and density cycles are a powerful way to train.

A great example is a cycle I've recently finished with double kettlebell clean and press. When I started this, I could only press it five times. This plan was three times per week.

There were other things in my program, but I'm illustrating this one exercise to keep it simple.

With this protocol, the maximum time is 10 minutes, three times per week. The effort level is pretty easy while building volume and density. After this cycle, I tested how many reps I could do. I was able to do 14 reps with a weight I could only do for 5 to start.

Volume & Density Cycle Structure

Week 1 6 sets 2 reps

Week 2 7 sets 2 reps

Week 3 8 sets 2 reps

Week 4 9 sets 2 reps

Week 5 10 sets 2 reps

Week 6 10 sets 3 reps for 2 sets, 2 reps for 8 sets

Week 7 10 sets 3 reps for 4 sets, 2 reps for 6 sets

Week 8 10 sets 3 reps for 6 sets, 2 reps for 4 sets

Week 9 10 sets 3 reps for 8 sets, 2 reps for 2 sets

Week 10 10 sets 3 reps

At the end of this, you can either move up in weight or, if you don't have heavier weights, then keep building density. If you get to 10 sets of 10 reps in 10 minutes with a weight that you could only do five reps with, you will be a beast in strength and conditioning.

Volume and density are great ways to vary your loads to keep the body adapting.

PROMO ALERT! Save 5% on your fitness equipment by using Coupon Code "LIVEWILD" at Great Lakes Girya. CDN website: US website: Save some money meanwhile also supporting us.


Complexes are doing a series of different exercises with the same weight. All reps are done back to back before you put the weight down. You can do this with kettlebells, dumbbells, or barbells.

When doing complexes, the movements will tend to be ones that you can do standing to transition from one to the other without letting go of the weight.

Here is an example of a complex done with one kettlebell:

  • 5 Goblet Squats

  • 5 One Arm Press per side

  • 5 One Arm Rows per side

  • 10 Swings

Set a timer for 20 minutes and get as many good quality rounds in as possible. Rest a little as possible but as much as you need. As you get fitter, the rest periods will tend to get shorter.

Another great approach is to use a barbell. With this, you are limited by the weight you can press overhead. Pick a weight you can press overhead for 10 repetitions. Here are a couple of my favorites with a barbell.

I've done both of these complexes with barbells and kettlebells.

The Mixer

6 Cleans

6 Front Squats

6 Overhead Press

6 Bent Rows

6 Romanian Deadlifts

Your shoulders will hate you

5 Cleans

5 Front Squats

5 Overhead Presses

5 Push Presses

5 Jerks

5 Front Squats

5 Clean

This complex is hard on the shoulders and cardio. You do presses then engage the legs with push press and finish by dropping under the bar with jerks. The final front squats and cleans are there to make your life suck.

Because in a complex you are switching movements, no individual muscles are overly taxed, but the whole system gets a lot of work. This is a great way to train if you want to build muscle and burn fat simultaneously due to the high energy demands.

Another complex that is highly effective at building strength is Dan John's Armor Building Complex. This is done with two kettlebells.

Pick a weight you can only do 3-5 presses. It also has a significant conditioning effect as the work to rest ratio is close to 1:1.

It is done as an EMOM anywhere from 10-30 minutes. Each minute you will do the following.

  • 2 Double kettlebell cleans

  • 1 Double kettlebell press

  • 3 Double kettlebell front squats

Check out LiveWild Radio's Favorite Exercises for more ideas of complexes.

High-Frequency Training

Training more frequently can be an effective way to build strength and conditioning. You have to program appropriately, but you will find your skill to improve.

A perfect example of this is the Easy Strength program from coach Dan John. It has you training your whole body five days a week for eight weeks.

Conventional wisdom would say you can't recover from that, but thousands of people have followed the program and gotten stronger. I've done it several times, and each time I'm amazed how much stronger I get and how easy it is to do.

The key is overall weekly volume. When training more frequently, start with the total volume you are doing now and spread it over more days. Then you can slowly increase the work each day to build work capacity.

You can also mix modalities. We often do strength three sessions, mobility three sessions, conditioning three sessions, and skill work sessions. This might be doing 5 minutes of mobility in the morning, a 10-minute kettlebell conditioning circuit at lunch, and a strength workout in the evening.

Fitness challenges can fall into this category. Things like the 10,000 Kettlebell Swing Challenge or doing any short-term, high-frequency challenge can be an effective way to kick-start your fitness. These will generally be 30-day challenges that overload the system. After the challenge, it is best to return to a more balanced program.

As with any training, you need to monitor your fatigue level to guard against overtraining. I recommend a deload week every 5-8 weeks. To deload, just cut your workload by 30-50% for the week. You will find the as the fatigue goes away, you feel like a superhero.

Kettlebell Swings

As a cycling coach, I was excited to discover kettlebell swings 20 years ago. Swings gave me a tool to train explosiveness without the learning curve of Olympic weight lifting or the impact of plyometrics.

The number one job of a coach is to keep an athlete from getting injured, and the second is to improve performance. Kettlebell swings allowed me to do both with very little time spent on instruction.

It also turned out that there were some WTF effects from swings. Depending on how you program them, you can burn a lot of fat, strengthen your grip, build bigger glutes and hamstrings, add explosive power and increase your conditioning. Swings also seem to help people with low back pain, myself included.

One of my favorite ways to program swings is as an EMOM (Every Minute On the Minute) with either increasing volume or density.

Do a set of swings every minute. Start with five sets of 10 rep. Add a set each week until you are at ten sets. Then start adding two reps to each set each week until you are up to 20 reps. On week one, you did 50 reps in five minutes, and by week 10, you are doing 200 reps in 10 minutes with the same weight.

That approach will build strength and work capacity without having to train for hours per session. Once you get to that point, then move up in weight and start all over again.

Loaded Carries

Pick up a weight and walk. You can carry dumbbells, kettlebells, sandbags, or even rocks.

Loaded carries such as farmer's walks have a benefit that is bigger than you would expect. It is just walking with weights, after all.

I think it is the fact that loaded carries strengthen grip, core, traps, biceps, and hip structure while also increasing work capacity. Like swings, they improve many things at once, so the payoff seems more significant than the effort.

Rotate through what loaded carries you do regularly as the body adapts to them quickly. By varying the exercise, load, duration, and volume, you can keep progressing longer.

My favorite carry variations

  • Overhead Carries

  • Suit Case Carries

  • Rack Carries

  • Farmer's Carries

  • Turkish Get-up

Ruck Marching

Ruck marching is simply going on walks or hikes with a weighted pack or vest. It has the cardiovascular demand of jogging without the impact, plus it conditions your body to support a load.

Ruck marching is a low-intensity steady-state (LISS) version of loaded carries.

If you want to up the training benefit and don't mind looking a little silly, add hand weights to your ruck marches. Doing this adds an upper-body component which creates a higher cardiovascular demand. Plus, the exaggerated alternating arm and leg movements help improve your gait pattern.

Catharine and Winston practicing what they preach.

If hiking is on your list of hobbies, get out for 2-3 ruck marches per week. Start with 30 minutes and build up to an hour.

This is also a great form of cardio for heavier people as the impact is low. Ruck marching burns many calories, but you recover from it quickly, so it can safely be done fairly often.

With the load, start light and build. I don't recommend going over 50 lbs for most people, as it can increase the risk of injury.

Habit Scheduling

Habits take time to form, so use technology to speed up the process. We all carry a computer in our pocket in the form of a smartphone. Put your phone to use in scheduling your movement practice, just like you would a business meeting.

Treat your health and fitness as a job. Just like your boss or clients won't tolerate you not doing your work, don't let your fitness fall through the cracks either.

Whether full workouts, greasing the groove, or movement snacks, program in all of your movement. Once you have completed it, log it into an online fitness app like MyFitnessPal.

Improving fitness and body composition is a slow process that most people abandon before making it part of their lifestyle. This approach can help hold yourself accountable.

Eventually, you will find it becomes a habit but don't discount the power of setting a reminder.

Train Movements, Not Muscles

The worst thing that happened to strength training in North America in the last 50 years was Arnold Schwarzenneger. He made bodybuilding the default when people thought about lifting weights. Instead of focusing on getting stronger by training the basic movements, everyone was doing bro splits. The body was broken up into parts rather than being trained as a whole.

I fell into this because my early weight training days as a teenager were in a bodybuilding gym. It wasn't until I examined how Olympic athletes trained that I found my way to the basics and scientifically backed training methods.

The only media we had were the bodybuilding magazines. As a kid, I took the programs shown as what I should be doing. I didn't understand that there were several problems with that thinking:

  1. The bodybuilders in the magazines were on steroids. If you aren't, you can't train like them and recover.

  2. Training to get big muscles isn't the best way to get strong. They are related but not the same.

  3. It turns out that most of those programs were just made up by the writer.

If your goal is athletic performance, then focus on training movement patterns rather than specific muscles. You will end up looking better as a by-product, just like an athlete rather than a bodybuilder.

Primary Movement Patterns

  • Squat

  • Hip Hinge

  • Lunge

  • Push

  • Pull

  • Loaded Carry

Get strong at these movement patterns, and you will perform better in your sport. Keep your diet in check while doing it, and you will look better in your underwear.

80/20 Rule

The concept of the 80/20 Rule is that 80 percent of your progress comes from 20 percent of your actions. It isn't a hard and fast percentage, but we all know that some things pay off more than the effort required to do them.

  • Focus on mastering the basics.

  • Figure out what is giving you the benefit and what is just fluff.

  • Don't get distracted by shiny object syndrome. Create a plan, stick to it and modify as needed.

  • Focus on what gives you the most bang for your buck.

  • Bring up your weaknesses.

The 80/20 rule also applies to the application of your program. You don't have to be perfect. If you get 80 percent of your workouts and 80 percent of your diet consistently, you will be miles ahead of where you would be if you take an all-or-nothing approach.

Another place I use the 80/20 rule is the intensity of both resistance and conditioning training. 80 percent of your lifting should be sub-maximal in both weight and effort. Lifting above 80 percent of your maximum or pushing sets to failure too often leads to fatigue and beaten-up joints. By doing more work in a more moderate range you will find you can progress quicker.

The same goes for conditioning or cardio training. Most of your cardio should be aerobic with only a small percentage in the red zone. I find it is effective for most people to use the talk test where your heart rate is elevated but you can still talk in complete sentences.

If you are using a heart rate monitor then use the Maffetone formula of 180-age for the upper limit and 20 beats below this for your lower limit. Accumulating time in this zone regularly will find you getting faster without getting gassed out. This is the formula we will use for both cycling and ruck marching.

Once a week we go hard usually in the form of a mountain bike ride that becomes intervals by nature of the terrain. Simple but effective.

Grease The Groove

If you want to improve at something, you need to practice. Greasing the groove is a training technique you can apply to exercises like push-up or pull-ups.

Throughout the day, you do a few reps. It should be easy.

If you can do ten push-ups, then do 5-8 sets of 4-5 reps. Give at least 30 minutes between sets. You want to be fresh. Do this at least five days a week. After four weeks, retest how many reps you can do. It isn't unusual for people to triple the number of repetitions they can do.

If you are going to continue, then use half of your new rep max for your target.

With so many people working from home, this is an easy way to get practice in. If you have a pull-up bar and some kettlebells, you can get a lot of your training in this way.

Every half hour, get up and do a set of an exercise. The first would be push-ups. Do a set of five reps. A half-hour later, do a couple of pull-ups, and 30 minutes after that, do a set of 10-15 kettlebell swings.

If you cycled that through the workday, you would end up with six sets of each exercise. Each bout of movement would take less than 30 seconds.

For the week, you would have 30 sets of each exercise without breaking a sweat.

Original Strength

Modern life has messed with our ability to move well. Too much sitting and staring at screens has led to our nervous system not connecting to our bodies as well as it should.

Original Strength is a movement restoration program from Tim Anderson and Geoff Neupert. By looking at the developmental process that infants go through to learn to move, they found that it help adults restore proper motor patterns.

By incorporating breathing, rocking, head nods, rolling, and crawling, I find that my body feels better and move so much more freely.

I do 10 minutes a day when I first get up, plus I use these techniques when I'm warming up for training.

Movement Snacks

If you work in any job that has you sitting all day, it shouldn't shock you that more movement will be good for you. Not having enough time to work out is one of the biggest reasons I hear from people for not being in the shape they would like.

Movement snacks are the answer to both of these issues.

These are little bite-sized workouts that you can do in 5-10 minutes. On their own, they aren't going to take you to the Olympics, but they can start to turn the ship in the direction of better health and fitness.

One of the simplest ways to approach these is to program them into the calendar on your phone. This approach is Scheduling Habits I've talked about above.

Add one Movement Snack each day. It can even be as simple as a 10-minute walk after meals. This doesn't seem like much but it has been shown to help with nutrient partitioning and dampening the insulin response. That is a complicated way of saying it will help you not be excessively fat.

Another way I incorporate movement snacks is on days I'm short on time for a full workout. Doing a 10-minute EMOM alternating sets of push-ups and pullups or just doing 10 sets of kettlebell swings will give a pretty good workout when factored into the overall volume of the week.

Rule one of my training principles is " Doing something is better than nothing."

Consistency over the long haul is the most important thing you can have when it comes to your fitness.

My favorite movement snacks

Here are 7 workouts that are each 10 minutes long or shorter.

Do one a day 5 days a week and everything gets hit pretty well.

I have a pull-up bar and kettlebells so I don't have to go anywhere to train. The bright side of the pandemic has been the full switch over to home training. With all of our gear ready to go all the time, we can sneak in little bits of movement on top of our regular workouts.

I'll do a few minutes of Original Strength movements to get my body ready.

10 Minute EMOM

5 Double Kettlebell Clean and Press

10 Minute EMOM

5 Double Kettlebell Front Squats

10 Minute EMOM

1 Turkish Get-up (alternate sides each minute)

10 Minute EMOM

( alternate each exercise on the odd and even minutes)

5 Ab Rollouts

30 Second Farmer's Carry

10 Minute EMOM

3-6 Pull-ups

Tabata Kettlebell Swings

This is a 4-minute workout that will get your heart rate up and make your glutes and hamstrings sing. Do 2 minutes of rocking, head nods, and goblet squats to warm-up

8 rounds of 20 seconds On / 10 seconds Off

Increasing Density EMOM

I do this workout with kettlebell swings.

Do this twice a week for the cycle listed below.

If you do them one-handed alternate hands each minute.

The idea is you start with relatively low reps which will then give you a longer recovery period each minute.

Each week you will increase the reps which will then lead to decreasing rest periods.

You can also set an interval timer and do it based on time rather than reps. Kettlebell swings take 1.5 seconds per rep so 10 reps take 15 seconds.

Start with 10 seconds of work and 50 seconds rest.

The goal is to build until you are working for 45 seconds and rest for 15 seconds each round.

In three months you will triple the amount of work you are doing in the same amount of time. It does amazing things for increasing fitness and decreasing body fat.

10 Minute EMOM

(30 reps will be approximately 45 seconds)

Week 1 7 reps

Week 2 9 reps

Week 3 10 reps

Week 4 12 reps

Week 5 15 reps

Week 6 18 reps

Week 7 20 reps

Week 8 22 reps

Week 9 24 reps

Week 10 26 reps

Week 11 28 reps

Week 12 30 reps

This plan is simple but it yields results. All you need is one kettlebell and 10 minutes twice a week. As of the writing of this article, I'm doing this as part of my program with a 28 kg kettlebell. When I can do 300 swings in 10 minutes with this weight I guarantee I will have lost some body fat and have much better conditioning.

Humane Burpee

This is another complex that was created by Dan John. Credit where credit is due, the guy has come up with a lot of great stuff in his career.

This takes me about 4 minutes to do. Transition from movement to movement with no rest.

15 Swings 5 Goblet Squats 5 Push-ups

15 Swings 4 Goblet Squats 4 Push-ups

15 Swings 3 Goblet Squats 3 Push-ups

15 Swings 2 Goblet Squats 2 Push-ups

15 Swings 1 Goblet Squats 1 Push-ups

In 4 minutes you end up doing 75 swings, 15 goblet squats, and 15 push-ups.

The Wrap Up

The concepts I talk about in this article are simple but effective. To see real change, we need to be consistent over time, but we can speed up the progress by incorporating some of these ideas.

If you learn to embrace the process rather than focus on the outcome, you will stick with it. The ironic thing is that you will then have better performance, health, and appearance without even realizing it.

Let us know in the comments what fitness tricks have been game-changers for you.

More Resources:

Training / Fitness Blogs:

Training / Fitness Podcasts:

PROMO ALERT! Save 5% on your fitness equipment by using Coupon Code "LIVEWILD" at Great Lakes Girya. CDN website: US website: Save some money meanwhile also supporting us.

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