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Staying Fit With No Gym in Sight

My Brother Wax Mannequin and I poached multiple playground, hotel, and basement gyms during an extended road trip together – August 2016

If you look around on the street these days, you might get the impression that it is really, really difficult to stay in shape beyond the age of about 30.

Sure, there are a few competitive athletes, movie stars and Navy SEALs around that still manage to keep in strong form, but if you are not willing to devote your entire life to training, you might as well just head straight for the stretch pants, right? Older age strikes and there is nothing you can do about it.

Oddly enough, if you could peer at the financial statements of your fellow citizens, the story might be similar: consumer debt is normal, the bills keep piling up, and only the movie stars and athletes (and corrupt CEOs of big banks, of course) make enough money to actually get ahead.

These opinions are widespread, and often fiercely defended as Truth. This is why I have been happily surprised over the years as I discovered that the prevailing wisdom is completely wrong: it’s not only possible to become wealthy on an average salary, it is just a natural byproduct of living a healthy life. Similarly, you don’t need a crushing workout schedule, a $250 per month gym or a team of professional trainers to be in very good shape. You just need to focus on the basics and avoid the worst pitfalls.

But as the years go on and I talk to more and more people, I realize that very few people even know these basics, and they think some of the pitfalls (for example drinking a big glass of orange juice with breakfast) are actually healthy life choices. So with New Year’s Resolution time approaching, I thought we could dish out some of this old school knowledge right now.

Fig.1: MMM enjoys a brief zero dollar workout on the patio.

Fig.1: MMM enjoys a brief zero dollar workout on the patio.

Let’s use plain old Mr. Money Mustache as an example. I’m an average 42-year-old white nerd who has never played a competitive sport in his life. I made my career in office work and enjoy beer a bit more than I should. And yet I feel great – despite the fact that I keep getting older and live a deprived life without the personal trainer or private chef that every wealthy person really deserves.

Even worse, I don’t even have a gym membership, and the months I spend away from home every year have been compromising my access to even the basic backyard barbell set that comprises my only fitness equipment. I have spent about 2 of the past 5 months away from home, which means a lot of time with no gym in sight.

All of these factors, yet all systems seem to be better than ever. Returning from the latest travel binge, I found roughly the same level of strength and bodyfat while keeping the same overall weight on the scale. How can this be?

Fitness as a Part of Life
 (rather than something you do at the gym)

Far too often in modern life, we cut an artificial line between the ideas of getting in shape and everything else we do. People train for Ironman events, but then drive a car for local errands. They use the stair machine in the gym, but then take the elevator up to the 12th floor in the office building. They claim that getting in shape is important, but then drive their kids to school in the morning in one of the world’s most ridiculous spectacles of Car Clown behavior.

We sit still at work, sit in automobiles, and stand still with rolling luggage on the airport escalator to avoid the strain of the staircase, and hire contractors to take care of our lawns and shovel our driveways. And then we wonder why we get fat, or injure our knees and backs, or get any other less-than-satisfactory performance from our bodies. Only the most dedicated workout junkies (rebranded as CrossFitters these days) seem to get anywhere, and even they often fall off the wagon and become mortals eventually.

I feel that there’s a better way to get good health results, but with much more efficiency than what most people achieve right now. You could boil it down to the philosophy of “use it or lose it”.

Principles of Efficient Physical Fitness

Not everybody likes the act of exercising itself, but everybody likes being in shape. The key to getting the latter without having to commit your life to flawless execution of the former is to understand the concept of exercise efficiency – getting the best results with minimum time and minimum risk of failing due to bad habits.

Principle Zero: Moving is Normal, Sitting Still is Hazardous
Before we even begin, we need to make a change to the most basic paradigm of modern life. Most of us sit or lie down almost constantly: to sleep, eat, work, drive, and even (shudder) to watch TV. Instead, I like to think of sitting as something you do as a short break from your real life. And you should feel just a bit uncomfortable when sitting down, because it really is a hazardous activity.

Whenever you get a chance to move, take it: get up and pace around while you read books. Attend your conference calls with a mobile phone headset while out walking along the river. Cut your own lawn. Walk the 5 miles across town that you would normally drive. Always, always take the stairs. Never, ever use a drive-through. You can even try taping your laptop to the drink platform of a treadmill and working as you pace slowly along at 1 MPH (I have tried this and it is amazing).

If you’re thinking of taking on a job that requires more than a few minutes of car driving per day, consider this equivalent to accepting a job in an Asbestos mine or an old Russian nuclear power plant. You might still do it, but only if the benefits greatly outweigh the obvious costs. Similarly, if you’re considering spending an afternoon on the couch watching football, pretend that you have to wear an inhaler that dispenses just a tiny dose of Cyanide into each breath. With this comparison in mind, you can decide if you still weight the passive entertainment more highly than, say, taking your kids out to play in the park.

On really good days, I might spend 4-10 hours walking or biking  around for various reasons like errands, carpentry, and just plain old strolls, and these really good days result in incredible happiness. On days when I fail to obey this Principle of Constant Movement, I instantly devolve into a more average and grumpy person.

wintersquats-bw

I don’t have room for an indoor home gym at the moment. So instead I keep this squat rack just outside my back door, to eliminate psychological barriers to the most important exercise. Mud, snow, hot, cold – it’s all good for you – just do some damned squats, at least a couple times per week.

Principle #1: Building Muscle is Far More Effective than Cardiovascular Training
I think the most common beginner fitness mistake in the world might be when people decide to start jogging or other aerobic exercises as a method of weight loss. Double Fail Points if you go for a treadmill or a stationary bike while watching TV inside a smelly commercial gym.

So many people slave away at these cardio-related things like aerobics classes and treadmills and still look almost the same several months later. Most of them end up quitting as they lose motivation in the face of the poor results. And then the weight loss industry is right there waiting, saying they must have just bought the wrong diet shakes. Or the “accept yourself as you are” movement tells them that body composition change is impossible, so you should give up.

The real reason for the failure is that cardio training activities (while great for your heart) are very poor at triggering the growth of muscle tissue. You pump the heart and breathe vigorously and burn a few calories during that brief session, but then the session ends and you’re back to your regular self.

On the other hand, people who lift or move heavy things get triple benefits:

  • The same heart and lung bonus up front as they lift weights and break down existing muscle tissue
  • The massive calorie implosion required to rebuild those muscles to a new, stronger size
  • Then a permanent ongoing burn required to maintain that fine new stronger form

As Tim Ferriss demonstrates in the Four Hour Body, it is possible for a relative beginner to trigger over a pound of muscle growth (3500 calories of body composition change) with just one brief session of barbell squats.

Let me repeat that in different terms: you exceed the calorie burn you’d get from 4-8 hours of riding a stationary bike in the gym, in about 4-8 minutes, by warming up your legs and then performing a few sets of 5 squats, working up to a weight that is fairly difficult for you.

To clarify this after many angry and skeptical comments below: YES, the squats themselves burn only a few dozen calories. But by breaking down the tissues of your largest compound muscle group including quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteus, and a plenty of assisting muscles, you force your body to rebuild the entire set bigger and stronger. This is an incredibly calorically-intense process which can take almost a full week to complete. Thus, the total net energy cost ends up being several thousand calories.

Calorie testing on myself over the years confirms these figures are roughly correct – hell hath no appetite like that of a person who has done his or her squats properly. As long as you refuel from this hunger in a strategic manner, you’ll find your fat reserves getting vacuumed away at high speed.

How do we take advantage of this? Start thinking about feats of peak strength rather than the conventional 30-minute periods of sweaty endurance training on a stationary bike.

Principle #2: Every Bodypart, Whenever Possible

These are your muscles. Understand the big groups, then work them regularly.

These are your muscles. Understand the big groups, then work them regularly.

Most people think of exercise as all one big interchangeable thing: “I get plenty of exercise walking my dogs and gardening”, or, “I was able to drop my gym membership because I bike to work now.”

This is the wrong way to think about it.

Sure, mild exercise is still far better than sitting still. But you get much better results if you think about each muscle group and make sure you have overloaded it recently, thus sending it the message to become stronger.

As a start, you could think of your body as having five groups:

  • Legs
  • Back
  • Chest and triceps (your “pushing muscles”)
  • Upper Back and biceps (any time you find yourself “pulling”)
  • Core (all the complex muscles that hold you together at the middle)

Now, how will you overload each group at least a little bit, every day or two?

If you like to go to a gym, and you use the free weight room instead of the inefficient cardio stuff, great. Through my teens and 20s, I was on this plan and it went well. But after getting married, then becoming a father, I found that long stretches of time would pass as I became complacent and made excuses. This is not great – to improve from wherever you are now, you need every muscle group to be blasted down with reasonable exertion (enough to cause at least a tiny bit of soreness) – every week.

To translate the vague concept of muscle groups into practical exercises you can do in many places, here’s a guide of my favorite exercises. You can look these up anywhere to get the basics of how to do each movement safely. For example, Google “How to Do Squats”.

Legs:

  • Squats (with just your own weight when getting started. Then with barbells, or one-legged if no barbells available)
  • Deadlifts
  • Jumping on or off of anything (including boxes like this one)
  • Running up and down stairs
  • Sprinting around anywhere
  • Urban Parkour-style hooliganism with friends when visiting any city
  • Note that my daily cycling doesn’t count as a real leg exercise, since it’s a heart-building rather than muscle-building exercise.

Back:

  • Pullups from any bar or overhanging surface. You can assist yourself with your legs if you’re not yet strong enough to do real pull-ups.
  • Barbell or dumbell rows
  • Pulling any heavy item from the ground to your chest while you’re bent over.
  • Snow shoveling, digging trenches, chopping wood, moving bags of concrete
  • And anything else that feels like hard work is probably good for your back.
  • The Deadlift, mentioned under “Legs”, is also great for your lower back.
    But build this strength up slowly if you’re untrained – we’ve all heard stories about unfit people who “throw out their backs” when lifting something after years of deadly inactivity. The goal here is to make your back unbreakable – for life.

Chest and Triceps:

  • the Clean and Press (lift a barbell from the ground to over your head – my second favorite exercise in the world after squats).
  • bench press
  • dumbbell press
    (these first three are generally only if I’m lucky enough to be at home)
  • dips
  • pushups
  • On the road, the barbells are unavailable so I try to increase to 100 pushups per day, and using any available parallel surface, inside corner of a kitchen countertop, or pair of posts for dips.
  • To increase resistance, you can get a friend or loved one to sit on your back during pushups: 8 insanely hard pushups are better for you than 50 easy ones.

Core: 

The benefit of doing real-world exercise (especially sprinting) instead of lame treadmills at the gym, is that it forces you to flex and stabilize all your abdomen and oblique muscles and make them stronger. But you can still target the core directly with a few of my favorites:

  • Planks (hover your body flat and still with only forearms and toes touching the ground for 60-300 seconds)
  • Leg-raises while hanging from a bar, tree branch, or anything else
  • Twisting or jumping motions of any sort
  • Situps and abdominal crunches

Important note: core and abdominal muscles do not help you lose abdominal fat any faster than any other exercise. The fastest way to lose fat (after fixing your diet) is to accelerate calorie burn, which means triggering muscle growth. So if you want better abs, do squats.

Principle #3: Resisting Heavy Motion Delivers The Results


Consider the following counter-intuitive trick: walking down a flight of stairs delivers much better strength and muscle-building results than walking up that same flight of stairs, even though going down is much easier. I learned this amazing shortcut just a few years ago, but it has allowed me to get better results in less time ever since.

To put it into practice, you can bend your legs more deeply when going down stairs or hills, lower your body more slowly during pushups and pullups and weight exercises, and in general think about fighting loads as the chief source of strength.

For example: riding a bike won’t build much leg strength because it’s all concentric (pushing) with no eccentric (resisting). Adding in a few lunges as part of every day (or deep jumps, or squats of any form) will massively increase the benefits.

Principle #4: Turn The World Into Your Gym

Pull-ups in a public park in Portland this spring.

Pull-ups in a public park in Portland this spring.

With these basics covered, we can move to the real world to find ways to apply them. You will never miss a workout again, because from now on the entirety of every day you live will be a workout. With your eye on potential ways to overload your muscles, opportunities will come out of the woodwork. So let’s make all this work in Real Life:

Walk and Run for Transportation-  and Borrow Bikes when you Travel
Sidewalks and roads. Curbs and airport and hotel staircases. These are all amazing fitness machines, disguised as boring urban infrastructure. By seeking them out during travel, opportunities to stay fit magically materialize.

For example, when visiting people I make a point of borrowing one of their spare bikes if available. You can also install the Spinlister* app on your phone, and rent bikes from locals – instead of cars from bland international rental car chains – whenever you’re on a trip.

As a result, I have enjoyed bike tours of dozens of US cities and even a good number of international spots that were often the highlight of the entire trip. If you seek to maximize your effort, the benefits come quickly.

Lunge Whenever Nobody’s Looking
You can transform the mild benefits of walking into a shockingly fast muscle builder you can do anywhere, just by learning how to lunge. The effectiveness comes from the fact that you’re causing peak muscle overload in a mostly-eccentric (downward) motion. I recently did one lap of deep lunges around a soccer field (which took all of about 90 seconds), and it was enough to give me pleasantly sore legs for two days.

Even better, you can explain that paragraph above to your friends, and challenge them to lunge a block together on as part of an evening outing – for example on your way out to happy hour. You’ll love the fun of doing this ridiculous thing together in public, and the reactions you’ll get from the strangers, almost as much as you love your new <arnold voice> sculpted and bulging quadriceps and buttocks muscles </arnold>. Pain equals gain!

Sprint Whenever you Can
Performing just a single 10-second sprint across a park or a parking lot can change your body for the better.  But you can also apply this principle on the bike, or during a set of pushups, or even when shoveling a driveway of snow. Any time you want to become better, challenge yourself to max out for the next ten seconds!

Whenever you go to peak exertion, you are telling your body it is time to grow. If you stay within your comfort zone, the body decides it is fine as it is. Sprinting will send your body this change signal, in almost every situation.

100 Pushups per Day
Or even 10 pushups if you’re new to the pastime. I love this exercise because it is so efficient: If I move as quickly as possible, I find it takes only 15 seconds to do 25 pushups. Since it is such a small commitment, it’s easy to keep to it four times throughout the day, resulting in a reasonable strengthening of the chest and associated muscles with a total time investment of one minute.

Pro Tip: I make myself drop for 25 or 50 pushups every time I am going to indulge in something questionable like a beer or a high-carb snack, to help compensate for the negative effects before they happen.

Playgrounds and Gym Poaching

Saving the best for last: although your own fancy gym may be far off in another country when you’re traveling, there is almost always a public park with a play structure that can provide many of the basics for free. You can sprint and do pullups, dips, jump off of high things and land dramatically in the sand, do situps, chase kids around, and generally get a surprisingly good workout.

Bonus Principle: Sugar is the Devil, Fat is your Friend

The tips above will make a huge difference in any life that is currently too sedentary. But your body will fight to keep its fat reserves, and it will win this fight, if you obey its requests for constant sugar and carbohydrates.

For details I will refer you to Mark Sissson’s primal blueprint, or Tim’s Slow Carb Diet. But for me the basics are really simple: I avoid bread, pasta, and any desserts or sugary drinks including fruit juice. And the idea of buying soda for home consumption or even ordering one at a restaurant is as horrifying to me as drinking drain cleaner. If your goal is fat loss, Do Not Drink Calories!

Instead I eat mostly vegetables, nuts, eggs,  oils (mostly olive but with no rules against butter and coconut oil!) and an average amount of minimally processed meats and dairy. It’s your basic low-carb diet, and I’ve found a 100% correlation between bending the rules of this diet (occasional pizza and beer), and the rapid softening of my waistline. If you haven’t tried this way of eating yet, you might be pleasantly surprised with how easy it is.

Related Article: The Amazing Waist-Slimming, Wallet-Fattening Nutrient

That’s it. Sure, there is much more to fitness than these five principles, but they are big ones, and enough go get started. This is infinitely better than not getting started, so let’s go.

Further Reading:

The New York Times, on why exercise should be a rewarding part of your daily life, not just a chore you treat like a health prescription. 

Gary Taubes writes and rants about how our high-sugar, high-carbohydrate diet is the source of most of our problems. I saw some of his articles in the NYTimes, then moved on to read his book “Why We Get Fat.” I’m torn on this, because there is still scientific debate on the ideal diet and some reputable doctor friends disagree with me. But my own results and a recent rigorous blood test are good enough to keep me very enthusiastically on the high fat, high-vegetable, low-carb diet.

Klaus Obermeyer, now 96, inspires you by refusing to age, citing benefits of keeping active as the decades pass.

*Spinlister is a pretty cool invention and I want them to succeed. If you’re visiting Longmont (for example to do a DIY bike-powered version of the brewery tour), you can rent bikes from the impressive fleet of one of my friends – his are all the bikes you see on the East Side. You can use my referral code for a $5 credit if desired.

 

  • Andy December 13, 2016, 1:23 pm

    Great stuff, MMM. I think the concepts of financial health and physical health really do go hand in hand, like you said. With both, a consistent and intelligent approach applied over months and years means you end up so much better off than the majority of the population. It’s not difficult, it’s just a matter of consistency and applied knowledge.

    If you don’t mind, your article made me want to plug https://www.reddit.com/r/bodyweightfitness The bodyweight fitness community on Reddit. They’ve got a great recommended routine in their sidebar for working out with minimal equipment (pullup bar, gymnastics rings) and a great community of support, all for free. I think it goes well with the other things you’re recommending.

    Cheers!

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache December 13, 2016, 1:44 pm

      Excellent, thanks for the tip Andy – I checked out that Reddit stuff and it does indeed look perfect for on-the-go fitness.

      Reply
      • Dustin December 13, 2016, 5:36 pm

        Hasfit.com is a great place for exercise and nutritional information. The site owner has also created an app. There are hundreds of different workouts (high intensity, weight training, body part specific etc.) and the site also provides workouts for beginners or seniors. Does not matter the fitness level, anyone can find a workout plan to follow.

        Reply
      • Jim Wang December 15, 2016, 12:55 pm

        I think r/bodyweightfitness is great also because you remove all of the potential impediments to lifting – gyms cost money, I have to get to the gym, it doesn’t fit my schedule, oh it’s raining/snowing/windy outside, I don’t have enough time, … all gone. You just start doing the work. No hurdles.

        Reply
      • Big-Al December 20, 2016, 8:19 am

        I’d highly recommend bodyrecomposition.org as well. I dropped 70 pounds after I quit my high school football lineman lifestyle (of being strong as an ox but too fat to get pushed around lol)

        Reply
    • Derek Hopper December 13, 2016, 8:33 pm

      Andy,

      I saw that you recommended /r/bodyweightfitness and had to respond. That subreddit is great.

      I’m a big believer in body weight workouts. That subreddit has an app too – I have it on my home screen. The app shows you exactly what to do and includes a timer for exercises like planks.

      Reply
      • Melissa January 14, 2017, 12:26 pm

        This site / app was recommended in the MMM forum and pulls info from this sub-reddit. For those who are newbies to this kind of thing (or have been slaving away on the treadmill instead of doing strength training) it’s a nice way to get everything into one place and it’ll put together workouts that progress as your fitness improves. Even better – it’s free! https://www.fitloop.co

        Reply
    • Richard Meadows December 14, 2016, 2:28 am

      Plus one for the reddit recommendation! Bodyweight fitness/callisthenics is an absolutely perfect fit with the MMM/frugal/minimalist lifestyle.

      There’s one big misconception that I think is worth pointing out to the uninitiated. Most people assume it’s all about doing circuits of high repetitions, or racking up 100 pushups in a day sorta-thing. That puts you in the realm of muscular endurance or even cardio, rather than strength or muscle-building, which as MMM has noted is far more efficient.

      The way to go is to progress through harder variations of each exercise. This allows you to up the intensity rather than the repetitions, and stay in the strength and hypertrophy zone. For example, rather than doing endless sets/reps of regular pushups, you work your way toward one-arm pushups, or if you’re a giant badass, planche pushups.

      As Andy mentioned, the BWF subreddit has a decent routine for beginners, and heaps of helpful people who are happy to recommend the next logical progression for any move. I have no equipment whatsoever apart from a $20 chinup bar, and I’m making really great progress.

      Reply
    • Tim December 14, 2016, 12:23 pm

      Consistency has been important to maintaining a minimum fitness level, for me. My fitness level is a result of already doing what’s mentioned in the article, but I do think a gym membership can offer benefits. Two benefits I get are the opportunity to go outside and socialize and to swim in a 25 meter pool. The weights at the gym are heavier than what I have, but this is only so unless I move some place where I can store 300 lbs of weights. To me, $50 a month is my only recurring discretionary spending and every time I question it I decide I like spending it. I tried to negotiate it down and looking for other gyms nearby, but since I am at the gym 4 – 7 times a week, and it takes me 10 minutes to walk there, it’s something I don’t feel too much grief about.

      If people don’t do anything else, I recommend to people to stand while working at a computer and go for frequent outdoor walks. It’s low cost, and the marginal difference of improvement to mental and physical health is high.

      Reply
      • The MAD Consultant December 15, 2016, 7:58 pm

        Love this article as fitness fanatic myself.

        I personally enjoy going to the gym. Although that’s been waning as I get older for a variety of reasons. It’s great to go there and meet old friends, and make new ones. So to me it’s an expense that can be worth it if you utilize it at least 3+ times week. However to many people pay it monthly while barely using it, and making all the mistakes you mentioned above. Consistency in just getting there to start is a big battle alone for plenty of people.

        Just went through the airport with the luggage up the stairs instead of the escalator . Meanwhile my only thought was the plethora of people using the escalator that badly needed some exercise. I often utilize parks for workouts, and squats are my favorite exercise. Mastering the squat is probably the best thing you can do. The skill gained and benefits transfer over to so many other parts of the body. Master the squat and you’ll for sure get plenty of comments from others on how much weight you put up. Every male should strive to put 315+ up, and for ladies I think 225 is a respectable goal(of course depending on your age too).

        I used to personal train part time when I was younger because I love helping people and as I said I love fitness. Always kept workouts simple, taught compound moves, and moving around. I used to love teaching boot-camps too, they are a lot of fun. It all usually came with good results unless of course their diet was a disaster(more than half the battle in my opinion). Eventually I got tired of people wanting the “quick fix”, and battling over false nutritional/workout info. It makes you respect those that have figured it out and appreciate a healthy lifestyle more. They are in the minority.

        Reply
        • Allie January 1, 2017, 3:20 pm

          The other aspect of the gym that you are not accounting for is babysitting. My local YMCA has a $93/month membership that includes 2 free hours of babysitting daily. We have five kids under six years old and go four to five times a week. We live in a 3 bed 1.5 bath apartment without a yard. I treat the gym mentally as part of my rent. babysitting even at $10 per hour x8 hrs x 4 weeks would be 320.

          Reply
          • Curran Bishop January 2, 2017, 8:57 am

            Wow! Way to go! We have four between two and six in a small 3 bed, 2 bath house, so I have some idea what that’s like and my hat is off to you. Good thinking on use of the gym for yard /space too!

            Reply
    • Camron December 16, 2016, 12:00 pm

      The static holds in the Recommended Routine are great core exercises. Specifically the hollow hold.

      Reply
    • SarahA December 19, 2016, 4:22 pm

      Stoked for this reddit! Reading the FAQ now.

      Reply
  • Darell December 13, 2016, 1:25 pm

    “People train for Ironman events, but then drive a car for local errands.”
    Yup! This concept sums it all up. My favorite: neighbors who drive a mile to the gym and then walk on the treadmill or sit on the stationary bike for an hour… all the while the hired help blows leaves off the lawn at home.

    Then I buy a nice bike and am told that I’m wasting my money and time.

    Reply
    • Phil Hinkle December 13, 2016, 1:59 pm

      I’ll bet your bike costs about what 1 year of their gym membership or less and they have to pay that year after year. Who’s wasting money??

      Reply
      • The Vigilante December 14, 2016, 5:40 am

        I actually purchased a bench, a squat rack, a bar, and a bit over 300 pounds in weights to accompany the adjustable dumbbells I already owned, enabling me to do every lift known to man in my own house…all for under the price of one year gym membership at the cheapest local gym!

        Reply
    • Edward December 13, 2016, 2:30 pm

      I live in an apartment overlooking a gym and people regularly get into verbal yelling matches over the parking spots closest to the door. …I wish I was joking.

      Reply
      • lurker December 13, 2016, 4:00 pm

        you may not be joking but this sure made me LAUGH!!!!!!! Thanks

        Reply
        • LG December 14, 2016, 1:54 pm

          Same here! I watch the ebb and flow of gym attendance too – it is very telling how little value people are getting out of their memberships.

          Reply
      • Mike December 15, 2016, 3:56 am

        Oh yeah, people idling close to the entrance are a thing everywhere it seems. They’ll even cause traffic jams where there shouldn’t be any.

        Reply
    • Alain December 14, 2016, 1:52 pm

      The car clown video is scary. Seeing people waiting long minutes when their kid could just get down the car and walk 100 yards to the school makes zero sense to me. I’m glad to be a Mustachian :-)

      Reply
      • wacthandlearn December 19, 2016, 1:05 pm

        Too funny!
        I am shocked by ALL of my neighbors who drive their primary-school kids to school and their middle-school kids to the bus stop. The bus stop is 2 blocks away and the primary school is 4 blocks away. I only wish I was kidding.

        What message are they teaching their children?

        One of my neighbors is even a “Beachbody coach”. I see her driving her daughter 2 blocks to the bus and I cringe at the message she is teaching her (slightly overweight) beautiful daughter. To push shakes on others, but don’t adjust her lifestyle or convenience even a little.

        Reply
      • Melissa January 14, 2017, 12:28 pm

        And the video description is even more laughable – lots of complain-y pants excuses for why everyone just HAS to drop their kiddos off in that ridiculous spectacle. SMH

        Reply
    • Unconventional Sustainability December 14, 2016, 4:23 pm

      I agree! I used to go to the gym several times a week but when I moved 5 years ago I couldn’t stomach the additional monthly expense when we have some free weights at home. However, after getting rid of my car I’ve noticed that I get enough exercise between my morning workout at our house, my daily bike commute, walking the 6 flights of stairs up to my office, etc.

      Just over a year ago I wrote an article about this idea of “functional exercise” after seeing the crazy disconnect between my own friends and coworkers who will happily do a 100 mile brutal mountain bike race and then drive the 0.8 miles to grab a loaf of bread from the nearby grocery store!

      Reply
    • Stephane January 5, 2017, 11:55 am

      I have one better: A local company owned gym user (gym membership is extremely cheap) said he would not be going to the gym because he would have to pay for the parking (which was free when he worked). I pointed out there was a free parking lot not more than 10 minutes away, and the walk/run would just be a warmup. He still ended up leaving the gym and buying an expensive Goodlife membership. People are amazing.

      While I was in Lima, Peru I noticed most Peruvians are quite slim. They also walk a lot because the transit sucks, and traffic during rush hour is totally snarled. Coincidence? I highly doubt it.

      Reply
  • Gwen December 13, 2016, 1:28 pm

    Timely advice, as always. I’ve been doing P90X3 the last few months. It’s a 30 minute body weight exercise, but still puts me through the ringer. I also got a new job that is FAR more active than the last two jobs combined. I’m constantly moving and going up and down the stairs. I feel better now than I have in ages.

    Let’s do another pushup challenge at Camp Mustache! I’m ready!

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache December 13, 2016, 1:47 pm

      Cool Gwen – P90X is extremely effective, but I think it has a high dropout rate because it is INTENSE.

      I mean, sure, anyone can get great results if they can work out really hard, consistently. But what about great results while just going about your daily life?

      The thing I like about my current weight training routine is that I probably spend an average of 5-10 minutes a day on formal barbell stuff. The rest is just taking opportunities to move around as they come.

      Then again, if I wanted to be much bigger and stronger (for example with a body weight in the 200s – which I do kinda want, just not enough to do the work for it at the moment), I would have to put in more time.

      There is a bit of a “free lunch” in my casual method in that it lets you stay fairly fit and strong enough to have a way more useful, injury-free body than average. But it’s not a giant 7-course free lunch where you get to just be Vin Diesel automatically :-).

      Reply
      • Barrett December 13, 2016, 11:03 pm

        “Then again, if I wanted to be much bigger and stronger (for example with a body weight in the 200s – which I do kinda want, just not enough to do the work for it at the moment), I would have to put in more time.”

        It is so cool that you are a meathead (and I mean that in the BEST possible way).

        Reply
      • Moslwy December 14, 2016, 5:51 am

        May I ask what “more than I should” beer intake looks like in the Mustache house? I am struggling to find moderation between enjoying the myriad amazing craft brewery’s in DFW and my wallet/waistline.

        Reply
        • Mr. Money Mustache December 14, 2016, 6:49 am

          Long ago I suggested that 6 drinks per week is a reasonable upper limit, but then I decided it really should be more like 2-3 for me. I usually still end up between the two numbers, but on certain trips that can go way up.

          Reply
        • Jeff December 14, 2016, 1:19 pm

          Had a similar challenge before learning the joys of celiac. Now the challenge is re: hard cider. Since I also have the joys of diabetes, the cost is almost always higher than I want to pay. Just like eating gluten…are Cheezits tasty? Yes! Is 1 worth spending the day on the throne. Let me get back on that, right?

          Bottom line for me: when I *do* indulge in a craft cider, I make sure it’s with one of a couple friends who also indulge *occasionally* and we compare notes as we train to become cider snobs. I do the same with coffee. It’s about focusing on the experience as I enjoy it…so good friends, good music, a good brew=great memories without the great price tag. Because it takes more effort to coordinate schedules w/ said friends, I also get to enjoy the anticipation and make the whole experience a fantastic reward.

          “Experiences over things” is an essential part of my minimalist mindset.

          Reply
      • William Bloomfield December 14, 2016, 11:16 am

        The great thing about P90X is that it teaches you how to do the exercises and can get you started with strength training. Lots of people know nothing about where to begin, and so never do.

        P90X lays a nice foundation for the workouts you rightly recommend in your post.

        Reply
        • MrFrugalChicago December 14, 2016, 4:28 pm

          Better to just reading starting strength or similar. P90x is an expensive fad, I have never met anyone in my life who has done p90x every week for X years.. but I know tons of people who have done basic squats/etc for many years.

          Reply
          • Stefan December 14, 2016, 8:32 pm

            I’ve done P90X for 3 years and still love it. Tony is amazing. Not sure what you mean with ‘expensive’ – no gym membership required, just play the same tapes over and over.

            Reply
          • Roger January 3, 2017, 4:59 pm

            P90X3 is so much more than strength training, it only takes a little more than 30 minutes and requires no barbell (the pull-up bar is the hardest for most people to obtain). There are two yoga and a Pilates session. The cardio routines mix in balance and strength (including squats). Only 5 of the 16 sessions are what I consider upper body workouts.

            The problem with a barbell is that it is a two trick pony and takes up a bunch of room. A barbell set easily be replaced with dumbbells which can allow you to do many more range of motions with your legs and arms.

            Balance and flexibility become more important than strength as we age. A fall in your 80s or 90s you can easily end up dead six months later or in a nursing home for a decade or two.

            I’ve been doing the original P90x and P90X3 for about 8 years. I probably average 3 workouts a week, but do up to 7 during the winter months and about 1 per week during the summer. I haven’t done the original since I got the X3 about 3 years ago.

            Reply
            • Grant January 31, 2017, 8:00 am

              Respectfully disagree. Strength is the most important factor in regards to fitness. Basic barbell training is the most bang for your buck. Being able to do 300lbs back squat will do more for balance than P90X. Squats and deadlifts are what will keep old folks out of nursing homes.

              Dumbells are more expensive, are not as easily loadable incrementally. They have no place in training until one is at an advanced stage and depending on goals. For an untrained novice, dumbells are unnecessary.

              Reply
      • Matt December 16, 2016, 12:06 pm

        I agree with the dropout issues of difficult workout DVDs. If something is “too hard” then people don’t want to do it. T-25 is also a workout (25 min with “Shawn T”). I think it is geared toward “the rest of us” (normal people that are just starting to change their ways).

        The benefit of this DVD series (I’m sure there are others like it) is that it hits all of the principles of habit forming goodness (the more you can use, the more you will stick to something):

        (1) No excuses: Since it is in your home, no equipment, and only 25 min. ZERO transition time from wake up, to workout (I don’t even put shoes on), to shower and yada yada.
        (2) It’s portable: You can take it with you anywhere (I ripped it to MP4 to play it on my phone or ipad). I’ve done it in hotel rooms and on a cruise on the deck (while all the other were running treadmills inside).
        (3) You don’t have to think: It is prescribed. Just do the plan for the day. Lots of people don’t want to make up a routine, they just want to “follow a recipe.”
        (4) You have a coach: True, he’s not really there, but I think it gives you 90% of the benefit of having someone to train you. I can almost guarantee that you will work harder than if you are working out alone. Great performers and athletes have coaches. It doesn’t mean you are weak.
        (5) There is variety/novelty. There are 3 phases (alpha, beta, gama) each with 5 workouts, so you don’t get bored, and it keeps your muscles always guessing.
        (6) You have some social pressure to work HARD. The guys and gals on the video can keep up, so it makes you want to “kick it up a notch” to keep up too (works at your manly pride). I can’t make myself work this hard without the inventive to keep up. This is a very real effect which compounds your benefits (more gains in less time).
        (7) You can create social reinforcement. If you are lucky and have a spouse that also wants to take back control of their life, money, and body (that’s a bit of a theme of MMM, right?), then you can do it together. This series is great for both men and women. My wife likes it and has done it with me for going on 18 months. She is looking and feeling great and NEVER would have done something like this without a partner.

        So, I get that MMM likes the feeling of the snow in his face while doing perfect squats, the DVD home method is another great option for the Mustachians out there. I challenge MMM to get the Insanity Max 30 and tell us what he thinks of that.

        Reply
        • Stephane January 5, 2017, 12:04 pm

          Different people, different things work for them. I would find this incredibly boring, but I am sure a lot of people will find it very convenient. Thanks for suggesting.

          Reply
    • METHODMATT December 14, 2016, 8:13 am

      Another vote for p90x3 being awesome here. I’m on my eighth round. I think I’ve gotten my ‘Money Mustache’ worth on the dvds and power block dumbells. I’m all about having a healthier happier life once I reach retirement.

      Reply
  • Mustard Seed Money December 13, 2016, 1:34 pm

    Great article Mr. MMM!!! I’m pretty sure that my wife is a distant cousin of yours. Between her random squats while making dinner, doing lunges while she’s talking to a friend on the phone or even running up and down the stairs to get tired before bed she is fits in perfectly with your mindset.

    On top of that my wife is the Queen of walking and walks to complete most of her errands. One of our neighbors recently stopped her while she was walking with some heavy groceries and asked her if her car had broke down. My wife said no, that she just wanted to get some exercise. The woman couldn’t fathom someone walking to the grocery store from our neighborhood. Keep in mind that we live less than a mile and a half from the grocery store.

    Thanks for the awesome overview!!!

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache December 13, 2016, 1:54 pm

      That is exactly the right way to approach life – kudos to your wife!

      Bonus points if she tells the neighbor to turn off her car next time and leave it in neutral, so she can push it home for more exercise.

      Reply
      • daniel son February 2, 2017, 1:53 pm

        We (Friends and I) actually use to push a car around town as a workout to get ready for football in high school. I gets yours legs huge if you do it all summer and the strength benefits are more functional for sports (running, etc.)

        Reply
    • Sarah December 15, 2016, 5:55 am

      This happens to me and my husband all the time. We use a stroller to hold the groceries, carry the baby in a pack, and the 6 year old walks along beside for the 1.5 miles each way. Everyone seems to want to stop and offer to give us a lift. They have good intentions, but we always have to say, “no thanks, we’re walking on purpose.”

      Reply
    • Primal Prosperity December 15, 2016, 12:11 pm

      Hey MSM! That is funny about your wife. When I did still have a car and was living in Texas, I used to walk every where to run my errands, with my backpack, and neighbors and strangers were constantly pulling over to ask if I needed a ride. Now, I’m car-free, but living in an urban area, so no one thinks much of it.

      Reply
    • Juls January 11, 2017, 3:34 pm

      Yeah, along those lines, whenever I visit my sister’s gated enclave I often get stopped by neighbors asking if I need a ride or why I walk I so much. The sad part was we were coming back from the grocery store with my niece and nephew and they asked why the people on the side of the road were walking home with groceries. After that I made a point to walk their butts places- park, bus stop etc so the kids could understand they’re options and experience the joys of walking everyday.

      Reply
  • Mrs. Picky Pincher December 13, 2016, 1:38 pm

    I actually really needed this. I’ve been a bit of a blubber butt since we finished our house renovations and didn’t have exercise built into our daily routine. It’s all about ditching the excuses, right? This month I’ve been trying out a Groupon for a local dance fitness studio to keep things fun and different. Starting in January I’m starting up with my morning exercise regimen again. I typically do 20 minutes on the elliptical to warm up and 15-20 minutes of strength-building exercises.

    Reply
    • Joseph December 14, 2016, 12:40 pm

      Why wait until Jan when you can start right now?

      Reply
      • Jordan December 14, 2016, 1:39 pm

        Yeah, there’s no point to setting a date in the future when you can start now! Like you said, no excuses.

        Reply
      • DLM December 14, 2016, 9:55 pm

        Because this month she’s been “trying out a Groupon for a local dance fitness studio to keep things fun and different.”

        Reply
    • Mike December 14, 2016, 1:34 pm

      Why wait till January? Do 10 minutes tomorrow morning to get ready for the 15-20 in January!

      Reply
  • stacheWannabe December 13, 2016, 1:43 pm

    What metals are your weights/barbell/rack made of? I got some free dumbbells from a friend, but squat rack would be nice. However, I like you don’t have the housing space for it. I would mostly be worried about Missouri’s brutal humidity in the summer and occasional snow in the winter destroying it.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache December 13, 2016, 2:23 pm

      Most of my stuff is just plain old black-painted metal. It gets rained and snowed on, but the rust is minimal.

      If it starts to get too rusty, you can give it a quick scrub with some fine sandpaper and spraypaint it fresh black again, but after 10 years of ownership (4-5 years of it outdoors) I am still not at this point.

      Reply
      • SARAH December 13, 2016, 3:29 pm

        Can I suggest kettlebells for those who are space limited. You can do a hell of a strength workout with those things in a very limited space and they are relatively inexpensive too!

        Reply
        • Mr. Money Mustache December 13, 2016, 4:10 pm

          Gah! I forgot to mention kettlebells! I’m a huge fan of those things too.

          Reply
          • Dan December 15, 2016, 4:32 pm

            Respect the kettlebell and preserve your joints. Backs knees and digits are forever, especially on the shady side of forty.

            I turned my perfectly functional pointing finger into a trigger finger by doing 300 kettlebell swings with decreasing weights in sets of fifty. That was six months ago.

            Today I won’t do a kettlebell swing without straps to keep the stress on those joints to a minimum. Straps eliminate many of the dynamic exercises requiring hand changes, but I wonder if that finger will EVER heal…

            Reply
        • dll December 14, 2016, 1:08 pm

          Kettlebells are excellent. The grip ankle is less strain on my 58 year old wrist joints. With limited space I use a old center leaf from a table supported by two stools as a bench. Camfering the edges made it more comfortable. The leaf goes back into a closet and stools go back to the kitchen island. Wrap on ankle weights are also effective, store well and are inexpensive.

          Reply
          • dll December 14, 2016, 1:28 pm

            the grip “angle”

            Reply
  • Carl December 13, 2016, 1:44 pm

    Helping friends with concrete work is another great way to get in shape!

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache December 13, 2016, 2:21 pm

      Excellent point Carl! If you like, I can invite you for the next concrete workout opportunity at my house later this winter.

      Here’s a timelapse of the very event to which Carl (aka Mr. 1500) is referring:
      https://youtu.be/Beia9yYQnBw

      Reply
    • Brent December 14, 2016, 11:31 am

      Or, walking the two miles to get Hotdogs instead of taking Uber!

      Reply
  • The Green Swan December 13, 2016, 1:45 pm

    Great post ahead of the rush to make New Year resolutions, MMM! Very motivational in a time where I know I’ve been slacking lately. I do all right with some of the tips you make like playing around in the park with my kid and mowing my own lawn…yet there is plenty of improvement as I sit most the day in front of a computer and take the elevator up (and down) to the 13th floor!

    My preferred exercise has always been running and biking (mixing in Insanity DVD training videos too) and have never been big on weight lifting. Although I have always known that more muscle means more calorie burn. Your points make me want to pick it up again though (literally!). No better time than now!

    I will be walking down the stairs from my office tonight…thanks for the motivation!

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache December 13, 2016, 1:57 pm

      13 Floors, Green Swan!? You need to promise me, right now, that you will NEVER take that elevator again! Taking an elevator less than about 40 floors is ridiculous, unless you’re carrying something too awkward for the staircase.

      Do yourself a favor and start a stopwatch timer (there’s one on your phone) when you make the descent tonight, and then the climb tomorrow. You will be SHOCKED at how little time it takes to walk 13 levels of stairs.

      Reply
      • vj December 13, 2016, 5:50 pm

        “Taking an elevator less than about 40 floors is ridiculous”

        Really?? I always thought my 18th floor is too much to even consider. Am going to do it from today. :)

        Reply
        • The Wealthy Accountant December 14, 2016, 8:45 am

          When at a hotel I race the kids up the stairs. Mom follows at a more comfortable pace. For the record, the old man can still blows the kids out of the stairwell. It has a lot to do with pride and too much laughing.

          Reply
          • Gwen December 14, 2016, 9:17 am

            To be fair, you like to run and do it often. Those of us less running inclined struggle to keep up with you – no matter the age difference between us. *flashes back to climb up Mt. Si*

            Reply
      • Tyler December 14, 2016, 10:49 am

        I often see people take the elevator in the building I work in. They are empty handed. It has 2 floors. It is an office building. I do not see crutches, wheel chairs, or other signs of injury. I don’t understand it. It is much faster to walk up or down the stairs, even at a leisurely pace, than ride the elevator.

        Reply
      • Kirstin December 14, 2016, 2:05 pm

        One of the MOST annoying things is that my office building locks all the stairwell doors. You can exit and go down the stairs to the bottom, but you can’t come up. Security.

        Reply
        • Reid December 14, 2016, 7:40 pm

          As MMM mentioned in his article, your legs get more exercise going down than up the stairs. My office is on the 23rd floor and our building does the same thing and I was just thinking about this as i was reading down the comments. We have had to walk down a couple of times (once after an earthquake and the other when the fire alarm went off) and my legs got quite sore the next day. And I run quite a bit so it was not for lack of exercise.

          Reply
        • Chris December 15, 2016, 5:11 am

          Take the elevator to the 2nd floor. Get out and take the stairs the rest of the way up.

          Reply
        • Eldred December 15, 2016, 11:46 am

          Ours does the same thing. At my last job(also 3 floors), I never used the elevator for the whole 2 years I worked there. Here, I *have* to use the elevator if I’m going to the 2nd or 3rd floor. :-(

          Reply
      • Primal Prosperity December 15, 2016, 12:15 pm

        I used to work on the 12th floor of a building, and walked up and down almost every day. Now, I only live on the 5th floor, so not as intense, but at least never an excuse not to do it. I have a rental condo located on the 30th floor that I might move back into one day. I’ve been thinking about the possibility of walking up there most days.

        Reply
      • The Green Swan December 16, 2016, 11:30 am

        That’s a tough promise, but I’m not one to back down from a challenge! I will incorporate it in my 2017 goals post to be coming out in a couple weeks and track my progress. You’re on!

        Reply
      • leo January 17, 2017, 3:25 pm

        So true MMM! I walk up and down the 12 floors everyday at my office. It takes about 5 to 7 minutes at most. I recommend everyone to try it ;)

        Reply
    • Michal December 15, 2016, 10:56 pm

      When I worked on the 12th floor of a building me and a co-worker used to walk down and up before lunch. This one time the lift was closing just as we started the journey up. I took the opportunity of calling the lift on the first floor, and then the second, etc… We caused the lift to stop on every floor. A bit childish but hey, it proved that you can beat the lift if you make it stop on every floor.

      Reply
  • EMML December 13, 2016, 1:47 pm

    I’ve recently embraced the idea that shoveling snow can count as exercise after noticing how similar it is to some of the moves in my kettlebell workout.

    I am surprised, though, how you break down the muscle groups without including the stomach/core. I think this one might be the most important of all. I realize working some of the other areas also strengthens this area, but if your core is weak, you’re more prone to injury, so I think it’s important to mention.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache December 13, 2016, 1:58 pm

      Oh yeah! You are totally right, I meant to add a “core” section to that. I’ll go type one in right now – thanks.

      Reply
      • EMML December 13, 2016, 7:37 pm

        No problem. It stuck out to me because I had just finished a Pilates workout I found on an old dvd. That shit’s all about strengthening the core (Powerhouse)!

        Reply
      • Julia December 13, 2016, 11:48 pm

        You might want to note there are five groups not, no longer four. . .

        Reply
    • Jwheeland December 14, 2016, 10:05 am

      Don’t the squats, deadlifts, benching, push-ups, dips, etc. create a strong core? (Stronger than just isolating your core, like with planks and sit-ups).

      Reply
      • RobbyJ December 14, 2016, 11:06 am

        Absolutely – especially after something like weighted pullups or deadlifts. They’re such an important muscle group though, that it makes sense to do some extra work. They also recover quickly from exercise so you can work them almost every day without worry.

        Reply
      • EMML December 16, 2016, 10:43 am

        I was thinking of the exercises in Pilates– V sit, and a variety of exercises that target the pelvic floor muscles/lower abs.

        Reply
    • Patrick December 20, 2016, 9:32 am

      Shoveling snow wrecks my back. I have yet to figure out the right position, posture, or shovel to save my back from crippling distress that lasts for at least 2-3 days plus about a week of being unable to lift weights. I don’t have a problem with doing a full strength training workout loading the back the entire time (squats, deadlifts, good mornings, bent over rows), but activities like shoveling snow where I am bent over the entire time just incapacitates me.

      Reply
      • EMML December 20, 2016, 12:03 pm

        I’m a woman, so probably shorter than you–meaning less bending over anyway, but I kind of use a squat like I do with the kettle bell swings. Plus, I don’t shovel for more than 20 minutes at a time.

        (Oh, and I’ve read that back problems stem from weak abs, not necessarily weak back muscles–not that I think that is your particular problem. Just putting it out there.)

        Reply
      • brian February 2, 2017, 12:00 am

        Try doing some kettlebell swings.

        One arm swings in particular.

        Reply
      • Tracey February 14, 2017, 10:22 pm

        Ensure you hinge from the hip when bending – that way you are using your glutes to do all the work and saving your back. Google ‘primal posture’ or check out the Gokhale Method for more info.

        Reply
  • philo December 13, 2016, 1:48 pm

    Great article. I always enjoyed doing squats….I may start looking for a used squat rack on CL. Meanwhile, I can still do lunges wherever I am (I was lunging yesterday while walking the dog.)

    Question: don’t your weights get rusty from sitting outside all year?

    Reply
  • John Dough December 13, 2016, 1:52 pm

    The greatest info I’ve found has been in a book called Starting Strength by Mark Rippetoe, which I believe is on your reading list.

    http://www.startingstrength.com is a great resource.

    They have a new book out by Dr. Jonathon Sullivan and Andy Baker called The Barbell Prescription: Strength Training for Life After 40 that came out this month, and is a fantastic resource.

    We need to invest in our health as diligently as our Vanguard accounts.

    Reply
    • Dave R December 14, 2016, 8:09 pm

      YES! Starting strength is the absolute best resource for anyone interested in free weight whole body training. The “Starting strength” book clearly outlines how to perform the basic barbell movements safely and has a basic plan for beginners. Coach Rip, the founder of starting strength, is a character in the best way possible. His no nonsense attitude, I think, it would be welcomed by most on this site. I actually learned about Mr. Money mustache and mark rippetoe on the same podcast (art of manliness). These two have been hugely influential on the trajectory of my life ( and I am a stubborn skeptic that is not easily convinced).

      Reply
  • Mr Crazy Kicks December 13, 2016, 1:52 pm

    Best fitness advice there is! After years of trying different approaches, I’ve found lifting weights and building muscles is the easiest way to keep weight off. When I was still working, I tried to take a lot of breaks from the desk to go up and down the stairs doing laps around our building. Now that I no longer have to work, I keep moving by gardening, brewing beer, renovating our home, and jogging to the gym. Back when I was lifting in college I probably didn’t concentrate on my legs enough. Big mistake, now I try and do squats everyday and weighted squats every other day.

    My only problem now, is I get too excited to go and play with different projects and forget to eat enough. But I at least start the day with some eggs from our chickens, beans, bacon, avocado… Lots of fat and protein. But beer and some homemade pizza pies still get in the mix :)

    Nice squat in the snow, dude!

    Reply
  • Catherine Holloway December 13, 2016, 1:53 pm

    Do you have a citation for the claim that 4-8 minutes of squats burns more calories than 4-8 hours of jogging? It sounds too good to be true.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache December 13, 2016, 2:13 pm

      Sort of – the four hour body goes into the details of those numbers.

      In fact, the example Tim gives is even more extreme – using his considerable background knowledge and existing fitness base, he triggers roughly a 30 pound muscle composition change (fat loss and muscle gain) using a series of short, intense weight workouts totaling only about 4 hours.

      If you do the math, he is changing over 108,000 kCal of body tissue, with only 14,400 seconds of actual training time. It’s about 450 calories per minute of weightlifting.

      However, the huge disclaimer is that you only get the big results at the beginning. Then it rapidly plateaus and you end up at a stable level unless you work harder.

      Reply
      • JBMD December 14, 2016, 9:49 am

        Yes, I was with you until you included this unproven claim. I am sorry, but there is no way that you will convince me – as a physician and scientist – without hard data or a real citation, that by running 26-52 miles, or 1 to 2 marathons (4-8 hrs at my usual 9 min/mile pace – not even that terribly fast), that I could even come close to replicating that calorie burn with 5 sets of squats over 4-8 minutes. Sure muscle building ends up with a slightly longer calorie burn vs straight cardio, but c’mon. It is not as if cardio gives no post workout benefits, especially when pushing limits. Tim Ferris has some good ideas, but he is trying to sell books and ads and get speaking engagements as well.

        Anyway, other wise nice post with respect to getting off our collective butts and not looking at exercise as a chore, or something that needs a Google calendar entry…

        Reply
      • Chris December 14, 2016, 1:11 pm

        I think it’s great to be advocating exercise, but I think this is claiming too much. It is true that cardio will burn calories primarily during the exercise and less afterwards, while strength training will burn less during the exercise and more afterwards.

        However, in a 4 hour run you are going to burn upwards of 3,000 calories just in the primary phase (nevermind muscle recovery burn for a 4 hour run… which is substantial). I don’t think it’s fair to state a 4 minute workout of any sort will come close to that without a scientific citation, especially since many people in the medical/coaching industry consider Tim’s book not scientifically accurate.

        Reply
      • Dan December 14, 2016, 2:34 pm

        I am sorry but, as a physiologist with a PhD in muscle physiology, I have to tell you that your numbers are way off. You can NOT increase muscle mass by a pound with a single session, and a 4-8 minute resistance exercise session does NOT burn more calories than a 4-8 hour run. I am not sure how the Four Hour Body breaks down the numbers, but the way you have described it is completely inaccurate. Even if you only jogged at 4 mph, a 4-8 hour run would burn 1600-3200 calories. A single bout of resistance exercise where a 200lb human squatted 300lbs 25 times (moving the mass of the barbell and their body mass up and down 3 feet with each rep) would burn 55 calories (its simple physics to calculate the work done: work=force x distance, assuming 25% muscle efficiency). Add the energy expenditure of the warm up, residual “EPOC”, and increased basal metabolic rate you’d see in the 3-4 hours after the exercise, and the total net energy expenditure tops out around 100 calories. Even if you did manage to increase muscle mass by a pound with this single bout of resistance exercise (which is impossible), that single pound of muscle could potentially increase the basal metabolic rate by 61 calories a day. Meaning it would take around 23 days of being alive with that increased metabolic rate (in addition to the 100 calories burned the day of the exercise bout) to get a net energy expenditure of 1600 calories – the number of calories you’d burn jogging 4 mph for 4 hours. However, doing 25 squats one time does NOT have the ability to increase muscle mass by a pound, and even if it did, that single bout would not be enough of a stimulus to maintain that extra pound of muscle for the minimum time (23 days) to be close to being equal in the caloric expenditure of a 4 hour jog. You may know how to save money, but you should check your facts when dealing with fitness. The biggest problem out there is the propagation of fitness myths by innocent people. Thanks for great money advice.

        Reply
        • Armyguy December 16, 2016, 10:51 am

          I find the growing divide between athletes and the institutional medical community (I’ll even add–dare I say it–strength and conditioning entities) to be quite amusing. My one gripe with Tim’s book was his persistent effort to appease the scientific medical community with numbers, stats, and figures. I like numbers as much as the next guy, but I far prefer learning from actual training results from wide populations outside of an experimental group.

          Having been in the Army more than a day, I have personally witnessed the results of traditional cardio contrasted with the results of strength training that focuses on compound lifts. Running, although a necessity, yielded little visible adaptation (fat loss or otherwise) and led to most of our unit’s injuries. Strength training led to dramatic visible adaptations, muscle growth AND fat loss. Yes, there were a few injuries, but so few that I cannot recall the name of a single soldier in our unit injured by doing deadlifts and squats. On the flip side, I can tick off name after name of soldiers that went down for plantar fasciitis, shin splints, knee strains, and even a couple of guys who had lower back issues after all of the traditional conditioning.

          The soldiers I trained with were about as mixed a bunch as you could ever hope to muster. We had former collegiate athletes and bookish types who never played an organized sport or stepped foot in a gym. We had our share of novices, intermediate, and advanced lifters. In the end, progressive weight training in compound lifts coupled with some (not too much) running led us to our best shape prior to combat.

          I appreciate previous replies herein citing their medical credentials before touting their opinions; still, readers should take their advice with a grain salt. Personal experience, and the experience of countless athletes, soldiers, and fitness enthusiasts confirm that strength training—and some decent eating—will have the biggest impact on making you look good, feel strong, and put you in the best shape of your life.

          Preach on MMM. Finance, fitness, lifestyle, you’re leading a large crowd on the right path.

          Reply
          • Surani January 3, 2017, 11:13 pm

            I find the growing pride in tossing aside carefully tested scientific knowledge for anecdotal evidence to be deeply disturbing.

            If you look at the post from “Dan” you will see that he carefully explained why MMM’s single claim was wrong, and asked him not to pass on fitness myths. Your response of “LOL science, smart people ignore studies, I seen it, strength training works!” has nothing to do with what he said. No one is denying that strength training is highly beneficial – and probably more beneficial minute-for-minute than cardio workouts.

            By ignoring his detailed point and “arguing” with facts that everyone already agrees with, you’re a perfect example of why we need controlled experiments and scientists/medical professionals. Much like you read his comment and saw what you wanted to see (a blanket dismissal of strength training that you could easily disprove), human beings have an incredible tendency to see what they want to see. Your personal experiences don’t prove strength training is better, anymore than the fitness instructor down the street whose personal experiences tell HER that step classes are better. Both of you have personal experiences with small groups, and unconsciously ignore all the people who tried their preferred style and quietly dropped out. What DOES prove strength training’s increased benefits are controlled studies where drop-outs are counted and control groups are compared. “This worked for me and a lot of people I know!” is something we can all say. “This is objectively better than that for all/almost all people” is a claim best left to carefully run studies. No need to go down the “I’m too cool for the scientific revolution” path.

            Reply
      • Stealthy Wealth December 19, 2016, 5:23 am

        Maybe you are only considering the cardio calories from running and not taking into account the muscle breakdown and subsequent calories required for muscle repair? My legs are pretty sore after a training run and my wife will attest that the resulting calorie burn is massive – in her words “you need to stop the running, you eat so much but people keep saying I don’t feed you”
        :)

        Reply
    • Doug December 15, 2016, 8:09 am

      It’s important to note that it’s not all about calories. Intense resistance training creates a different hormonal response, which tends to build muscle and burn fat. You may stay the same scale weight (maintain caloric balance for you misguided calorie counters) while dropping fat and replacing it with muscle (I.e., look better, get stronger, but weight might not change much).

      Reply
  • Euro-Mike December 13, 2016, 1:53 pm

    Perfect advice! I would only recommend using a power rack so that you can’t hurt yourself when squatting or pressing (especially when alone). I also dare using a somewhat higher weight when I know that in case I fail the barbell will be safely caught by the spotter bars.

    Reply
  • Mike December 13, 2016, 1:54 pm

    Thanks for reminding us about this and putting all the info in one spot! When I read your other articles a few years ago, I promptly lost 20lbs and was in the best shape of my life by cutting sugar and lifting heavy weights. Since then I’ve lost focus and I feel it. Time to get moving!

    Reply
  • Beard N Bones December 13, 2016, 1:55 pm

    I suggest correcting the following paragraph:

    For example: riding a bike won’t build much leg strength because it’s all eccentric (pushing) with no concentric (resisting).

    Concentric exercise is the “pushing” portion of an exercise (like pushing a sled, or riding a bike); and occurs when a muscle goes from a lengthened to a shortened state. The Eccentric portion of an exercise is when a muscle goes from a shortened to a lengthened state, while under load, in a controlled manner – the “resistance” portion.

    I fully support the idea of strength training and its benefits by the way. Thank you for spreading the word to the masses. For some reason it is seen as more sexy for someone to bounce along on a treadmill than do some heavy squats.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache December 13, 2016, 2:07 pm

      Thanks B&B – I did have those words swapped so I have fixed ’em.

      As for the squats – I am DEFINITELY more attracted to a woman who chooses the weight room over the cardio playground, and I know I’m not the only one.

      Reply
  • Phil Hinkle December 13, 2016, 2:06 pm

    someone commented on squatting in the snow.. I would be worried about slipping with a couple hundred pounds on my shoulders. I suppose after doing it while, you stability improves. I think Id clear the snow first then lift. But I’m older and more cautious. lol

    At least you are doing it regardless of weather.. Way to go

    Reply
  • Collin December 13, 2016, 2:07 pm

    Any tips on weatherproofing an outdoor squat rack? My main concern is rust. Yours seems to do fine in four seasons.

    Reply
    • Spooky105 December 14, 2016, 5:50 pm

      I’d recommend one of two approaches:

      1) get cheap used gear on CL and then let it weather (or if portable, store under cover and pull out for use)
      2) go with a company that makes gear suitable for outdoor installation (ex: Rogue Fitness)

      A little rust will be mostly cosmetic as long as your rack isn’t trapping water inside. Regardless of setup, bars and weights are best stored under cover.

      Reply
  • Anthony December 13, 2016, 2:12 pm

    I’ve been using Stronglifts 5×5 for the past month (https://stronglifts.com/5×5/) and it’s been great. It includes squats, barbell row, OH press, bench, and deadlifts. It starts out very light and you increase the weight each workout so you’re always getting stronger.

    For those who don’t have space for a squat rack there are a number of good discount gyms sprouting up for $10/month, which is much more reasonable that the ripoff of bigger national chains. I use Aspire Fitness and it’s nice.

    Reply
    • Jwheeland December 14, 2016, 10:07 am

      Stronglifts, FTW!

      Reply
  • Buried December 13, 2016, 2:16 pm

    An oil I never see you mention is avocado oil.
    I only mention it because it’s smoke point is 200 degrees higher than olive oil, in fact you can use it anywhere you’d use olive oil.
    It’s great for a quick stir fry & it has a subtle taste too. You can get bottles of it at Costco.

    Reply
  • Linda December 13, 2016, 2:26 pm

    I am starting to suspect that lunges may be the most efficient exercise. I took a kickboxing class this weekend and out of a full hour of non-stop sweating, I spent about a 40 seconds doing lunges. And I felt nothing but lunge pain for days. Aside from the obvious conclusion that I have weak leg and butt muscles, this feels like an important revelation.

    Reply
    • Dan December 14, 2016, 2:39 pm

      It has everything to do with the type of muscle contractions. The kickboxing would not have had any kind of eccentric contractions, whereas the lunges were half eccentric (the way down) and half concentric (the way back up). Eccentric contractions are what make you sore. Google “DOMS” and “eccentric muscle contractions” for more info.

      Reply
  • RH December 13, 2016, 2:36 pm

    Great post, thank you! I cycle 30 miles each week to work, but the pounds are slowly packing on me in my mid 30’s. Looks like a need to get into more free weights. The worst part is that I have a gym membership…but the thought of walking 20 minutes to go to a crowded gym is keeping me away. I need face punch to get me motivated!

    Reply
    • Alex December 14, 2016, 4:44 pm

      Look into your diet. Restricting calorie intake is a whole lot more efficient than working them off.

      Reply
    • Active Anton December 14, 2016, 8:28 pm

      Nice job biking to work! Now for the face punch. You wanna get more into free weights? The only thing stopping your is your negative thought and your actions that follow. You’ve already done the hard part; you’ve identified your barrier to achieving your goal. Now you need to change your behavior. Charles Duhigg has a great book called the Power of Habit (4.5 star on Amazon). You might be able to find it for free through your library/Overdrive. Anyway, the jist is that whenever you get that thought about walking 20 minutes to a crowded gym You Drop Yo Ass To The Floor and do some pushups. Even just one on-your-knees pushup is sufficient to begin breaking your negative cycle.
      Personally, I’m trying to get my workouts done without the gym. But if you’re trying to get the workout habit in place with the help of an establishment: more power to you. One of things I happen to like about the gym is the “crowdedness” of it. It’s inspiring to me to see girls that are fit and sexy. It’s inspiring to me to see guys that stronger and leaner than me. And it’s inspiring to see people who are fat but motivated and fighting to turn their lives around.

      Reply
    • geopter December 27, 2016, 4:13 pm

      I’m also not excited about going to a crowded gym, and I’ve slowly come around to the idea that I only enjoy it if I go before work, a relatively low-traffic time. I’ve stopped worrying about trying to go other times and focused on getting myself there at the “best time” — i.e., waking up early. YMMV.

      Reply
  • Mikey December 13, 2016, 2:40 pm

    I used to be really big on cardio. (Cross-country varsity – Pb for 8km was 29min 50sec. I was trying to get it down to around 26min eventually…) Then I blew my knee out a couple summers ago while planting trees (which is even more cardio-demanding), before proceeding to continue to work for a couple months without taking a proper break to recover… I had to completely stop running, cold turkey, or risk putting myself in a wheelchair at age 22. I’m thinking I probably made myself prone to injury by not focusing on leg-strengthening enough. Probably would have been good to do more squats… Oh well, I can still do the sprinting up stairs thing, strangely. I guess it’s lower impact than running.

    Reply
  • Fervent December 13, 2016, 3:00 pm

    I wanted to get in shape 3 years ago and researched the best way about doing this. I stumbled upon powerlifting and have been doing it ever since. All the research I read about the benefits of lifting vs. cardio for fat loss and overall athleticism and strength sold me. Squat, bench, deadlift are my core exercises with some accessories as I feel needed. I don’t monitor my nutrition as much as I used to, but lifting 3 or 4x a week allows me to basically eat whatever I want and not gain any wait.

    It’s tough telling people to squat to lose weight. Conventional wisdom is they should go jog. I guess it’s a lot like explaining FIRE to people. :)

    Reply
  • Allison December 13, 2016, 3:00 pm

    I love these articles. They are the perfect matter-of-fact rebuttal to the usual complicated and vague advice I usually hear. I appreciate your clarity and that we can’t help but understand just how simple it all is!

    I hear your voice in my head quite frequently these days – it helps me always choose the stairs, do calf raises at my standing desk, go on walks at lunch… And this one is going to help me get my butt in gear for moving heavy stuff.

    Thanks!

    Reply
  • Tim R December 13, 2016, 3:01 pm

    Great article, consistent with insights from Mark Sisson (primal fitness guy), Tim Ferris, and so on. Anytime I go for a walk, I notice that most people are very unfit, or very muscular and fit. Like, no one is in between – you’re a couch potato or a gym rat. There are few models of aging gracefully. It’s too bad, because as MMM says, there are many good ways to stay injury-free, strong, and lean, for very reasonable investments of time and money.

    In addition to barbell weights, sprinting, etc., another minimalist training method is kettlebells. I started training kettlebells in my little room in a shared apartment in New York, and never bothered my roommates next door – it can be done anywhere.

    Check out this guy’s account of how many different strength benefits he gets from just doing 100 swings and 10 get-ups every day: http://www.strongfirst.com/solid-simple-sinister/. Turkish getups continue to rehab my shoulders.

    I have several kettlebells now, but if you wanted you could buy and sell them as you work up, never owning more than one. You’d be out like $80 max at any time, and kettlebells last generations.

    I look forward to being in excellent shape in 30 years’ time, training with kettlebells. Maybe one day I’ll augment with other weight training, like 5×5, or add in Gymnastic Strength Training (which has a great focus on mobility).

    Reply
  • Derek Morrison December 13, 2016, 3:01 pm

    Thanks for the post! Just a note about a tiny typo: “As a start, you could think of your body as having four groups…”, but then you have 5 bullets.

    Reply
  • Tawcan December 13, 2016, 3:22 pm

    I have been doing 20 push ups every night before going to bed. I guess it’s time to increase that number to 50 or more.

    A good weight training practice to do – lifting exercise 2o seconds on 10 seconds off for 8 sets.

    Reply
  • stacheWannabe December 13, 2016, 3:24 pm

    I do a very anti-mustachian workout of ice hockey once a week (my expensive vice). It is all sprinting in short bursts followed by recovery. I used to run intervals outside to build up anaerobic for my games, but with young kids I find it tougher to disappear from the house for an hour. I think I am going to try and work in more dumbbell and barbell work, mmm style, which I should be able to squeeze in with the kids around.

    I just need to find a good squat rack and barbell on craigslist. Cheapest I’ve seen of late is $400. Dumbbells and running until I can talk someone down.

    I’m also looking forward to squatting outside in the winter so my neighbors think I’m even crazier than now.

    Reply
    • stoaX December 13, 2016, 3:54 pm

      I thought the whole point of the mustachian lifestyle was to afford to play hockey!

      Reply
      • Matt December 14, 2016, 2:09 am

        Yeah, I’m easily on the FIRE track with an entry level income and still can afford ski racing, which is probably the most expensive sport there is that is still a real sport.

        Reply
        • Jwheeland December 14, 2016, 10:11 am

          I love playing hockey, but it is a certifiable face punch. $100 sticks that break, ugh.. (thankfully I’ve had good luck with sticks, just saying though).

          Reply
          • stacheWannabe December 14, 2016, 7:16 pm

            I like all black hockey sticks now. They 90 dollars, super light and incredible durability. I play center and have chips all over my stick and have had it 1.5 years and counting.

            Reply
  • Anny December 13, 2016, 3:32 pm

    Interesting post MMM. I always want a simple list of exercises to target muscle group and here you provide it. Thanks alot. I like to add stretches as well. I think besides feeling strong but stay flexible is also a health benefit for everyone in a long term.

    Reply
  • Amanda December 13, 2016, 3:41 pm

    I would love to see a post about what your family eats in a typical week. I am trying to make my family’s diet both more healthy and less expensive.

    Walking down the stairs is also a good safety practice. While I was pregnant I continued to walk down the stairs (7 floors) each day and when it came time for our fire drill I was prepared. The firemen saw a huge pregnant lady and said I could wait at my desk, but I knew I could walk down the stairs anytime easily so I did. Just think if it was not a drill and I was not able to do the stairs, yikes!

    Reply
    • Kristina December 15, 2016, 2:25 pm

      When I was 8 months pregnant I was told by the fire warden on our floor that I was to wait and be taken out by the firemen via elevator or escorted down the stairs after everyone else in the event of a fire or drill… apparently they considered me a safety risk in the crowded staircase. I balked! I did the stairs several times a day… I was no safety risk. If and when I consider myself unable to safely go down a crowded staircase I will wait… until then let me decide what I can and cannot do.

      Reply
      • Tim December 21, 2016, 10:08 am

        I know a lot of 90 year old people who think they should be allowed to drive who clearly should not be. If we waited for them to decide it was time, that time would likely be after they killed an innocent person or three. I know a lot of teenagers for that matter who think that they should be given way more responsibility than they are ready for. Your feelings are not usually qualification, but I can understand them.

        Don’t take it personally, these things are done for good reason usually. God forbid you should get knocked down the stairs in the crush and then sue the city for negligence or some damn thing when your child was born. In our litigious society, that is not out of the question.

        Reply
  • ThriftyChemist December 13, 2016, 3:57 pm

    I just started lifting weights 6 months ago, and my ability to lift has increased dramatically! I have always loved taking the stairs, but I think I may actually be going too fast, since I usually cruise down several steps per second, despite my short legs. Maybe I’ll try slowing down so I work harder at it.

    I do love riding my bike (and motorcycle) in the winter. The fresh air and (admittedly tiny) caloric burn of keeping myself warm leave me feeling refreshed and happy by the time I get to work instead of the too-content feeling of driving a couch. Honestly, driving a car is like watching TV: you control what you see, how you sit, the temperature, the volume, what you hear… It’s just so much better to be a part of the world rather than observing it through a window.

    Reply
    • ThriftyChemist December 13, 2016, 4:04 pm

      Oh, and I was going to ask you: do you use clip (or clipless, depending on who you ask) pedals on your bikes? I have found that I get a much higher efficiency out of my bikes when I have either toe cages or pedals I clip into. I like adding the pulling motion as well as the pushing motion to pedaling.

      Reply
    • lurker December 13, 2016, 4:06 pm

      just getting wintry in Brooklyn and I was rewarded with the up close sighting of a big Goshawk swooping and hunting in Prospect Park on my bike ride this afternoon…getting outside is always worth it IMHO.

      Reply
      • ThriftyChemist December 14, 2016, 9:42 am

        That’s awesome! I often see pelicans and an occasional crane, but I ride most when it’s dark out, so I don’t see too many bird out and about. A goshawk on the hunt would be awesome!

        Reply
        • lurker December 15, 2016, 5:20 pm

          whatever species it is I saw a pair of them on my ride today!!!!! and to add to the pleasure, the temp has really dropped here and I was the only person on a bike in the whole park! talk about feeling like a badass!!!!! it was ridiculously frigid and fun!

          Reply
  • Mixed Money Arts December 13, 2016, 4:11 pm

    Well this post just makes me feel bad (which was probably your point!). I manage 40 push-ups everyday and a bike commute but have not yet gotten around to climbing 13 floors to my office. That will be my New Year’s resolution.

    Reply
  • BCK December 13, 2016, 4:15 pm

    No other workout post perfectly highlighted the conclusions that I have come to about fitness, which started with reading Bruce Lee’s book (which contains his daily bodyweight exercise routine). He also talks about not ignoring daily activity. I have a friend who is exactly described in one of the early paragraphs. She trains for an Ironman but then drives her car to the corner store.

    For me, using my energy to get done the things I need to do – use a shovel and a rake, bike myself to errands, etc – comes first. I know people who drive their cars to ride their bikes. That’s counter to my entire philosophy.

    I’m also a reformed cardio junky. At some point I figured out weights make a tremendous impact on my body. I think everyone’s body is different, but I’ve found weights (on my home gym) and yoga (trying to hit the $5 community classes when I go, or to a podcast at home) combined with eating exactly the low-carb, high fat/protein diet MMM describes, keeps me lean, mean and also feeling great.

    Thanks for posting this MMM. I hope more people follow this tremendous advice. This stuff is actually pretty simple, but it isn’t easy. But like anything, once it becomes a habit, it becomes one you won’t want to miss.

    Reply
  • rjack December 13, 2016, 4:25 pm

    Your article is spot on! However, I can no longer do deadlifts or proper squats so I do weighted walking lunges. Feel the burn!

    Also, Mark Sisson just came out with a brand new edition of Primal Blueprint which he calls his Mangum Opus:

    https://www.amazon.com/New-Primal-Blueprint-Reprogram-Effortless/dp/1939563305/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1481671380&sr=8-1&keywords=primal+blueprint

    I’m reading it now.

    Reply
  • Travis December 13, 2016, 4:32 pm

    I’ve gotten into a pretty good routine for some simple daily activity. I walk 20 minutes each way to/from the office. I run up/down five flights of stairs at least four times a day. Each time I go for my run I also do a set of pushups (up to 26 pushups again — tweaked my shoulder a couple months ago and am rebuilding) and 24 lunges (6 lunges gets me from one wall to the other in the stairwell, so I do that four times). I doubt it is enough to offset the ridiculous amount of time I spend sitting in front of a computer screen, but at least it’s something.

    I also have a home gym (weight bench/set + dumb bells from 15-40lbs.) for weightlifting, but all the little stuff above helps keep me moving around at least every couple hours.

    Reply
  • Tim December 13, 2016, 4:33 pm

    This is sort of on and off topic and may be anathema to a true Mustachian. Please bear in mind with this query that I would never condone this purchase until completely debt free:
    What does anyone think of the Rhodes Car – the 4 wheel bicycle. They are horribly expensive I know. But I was wondering about their quality. I was thinking it might be a fun activity for my wife and me. Neither one of us care much for traditional bicycles. They are ok and we ride on occasion, but I thought the Rhodes Car looked fun. But I can’t find much on it as far a reviews – just one or two that aren’t extremely positive. Thanks

    Reply
    • kruidigmeisje December 30, 2016, 11:43 am

      I ride a velomobile. The are 3 wheeled covered bicycles. I love them, they make me go bicycle to work in any weather (24 km one way), 4 days a week. I need to also include some weight training, but at least this gets me out of je jello phase.
      Made in Holland, but there are some US options. Checkout velomobiel.nl or use Google. But the are a purchase for the people who are out of debt, possbily FIRE, not quite cheap. There are second hand options, though.

      Reply
  • Ian December 13, 2016, 4:38 pm

    I would also recommend the frugal and effective body weight fitness program from Reddit: https://www.reddit.com/r/bodyweightfitness/wiki/kb/recommended_routine

    Buying back yard barbells can be an expensive endeavor, but gymnastic moves without the need for any equipment other than a pair of rings or pull up bar is a good deal.

    Reply
  • Frugali December 13, 2016, 4:52 pm

    Great job MMM, though you missed a trick with the title… This fits perfectly with your mantra, ‘HEALTH advice that should be obvious’ :D

    I visit this site (very!) often, but these days I find it’s more to reaffirm what I already know financially and keep myself on track (which admittedly was largely learnt here!), rather than to discover something entirely new. As the bottom m line is the concepts are extremely simple, and exactly the same applies here; for all the advertising and misguided marketing around health and fitness, a few simple principles will get you much further than the latest diet plan ever could.

    And I say that as someone relatively new to all this myself; for me, getting a things in order financially has naturally resulted in a desire to increase my health and fitness. In the last few months I’ve been loosely following the StrongLifts 5*5 programme; I say ‘programme’, though I’ve never paid a penny for anything, I just came across the concept online and have found it really set me on the right path with my workouts. Likewise it focuses on simplicity; a handful of compound exercises (most of them mentioned here), 5 sets of 5 three times a week, with the key being to start light, but increase the weight slightly each session. Highly recommended, particularly for beginners!

    Reply
  • Scott December 13, 2016, 4:57 pm

    I can confirm MMM’s strategy of eating a lot of healthy fats, avoiding sugar, and lifting will change your body from a lumpy soft weak person into something at least approaching what he looks like in that deadlift pic.

    One thing missing for me was that I had become very stiff and inflexible from my years of working at a desk. My back was rounded over, my chest was tight, and my neck was showing “forward head posture.” (google it and it will look familiar to any office worker). I ended up turning to yoga to increase flexibility and improve posture, and it has been a high return on the investment. Building muscle and losing fat will make you look better, but you are never going to look good without good posture.

    MMM: do you any tips for leaving the weights outdoors? I would love to move my weights outdoors, but I assumed the weather would ruin them. And squatting what looks like > 200 lbs in the snow without a power rack–have you ever slipped and hurt yourself?

    Reply
  • Arthur Guerrero December 13, 2016, 5:04 pm

    Cool article MMM, I’ve already been on the eating plan that Tim Ferriss recommends and it really does work.

    I’ve leaned up significantly and plan to continue it as a permanent way of eating (I used to eat a lot of break aka sandwiches).

    Thanks for the reminder, I need to increase my weight lifting! It’s been on the back of mind for months now.

    Reply
  • Andrew December 13, 2016, 6:01 pm

    This is spot on, Pete. I love the deadlift picture. You are killing it!

    As someone who has been lifting weights for 10+ years I can not recommend the benefits enough. One of the most motivating aspects for me is watching my strength increase in regards to weights. I Just deadlifted 600+ lbs! That’s what keeps me going.

    As for the cardio it is so true that it only has 1/3 of the benefits of weight training, although I still do it. I just finished a 17 mile Ragnar trail race this weekend. I highly recommend any mustachian try it out! You camp out for 24 hours with an assembled team then run through beautiful trails in the woods. Just be prepared for some sore legs. It burns so good! They have races all over, I hear the Colorado race is amazing.

    You have now inspired me to get out and do some snow squats!

    Cheers!

    Reply
  • John Wright December 13, 2016, 6:03 pm

    Great post. You should reconsider your views on cardio. The benefits for the brain are extraordinary and is a very well researched topic in health and fitness. Here is just one study: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/health/news/12148466/Running-gives-your-brain-a-work-out-say-scientists.html. If we are made to move, then walking, running, biking, dance, street workouts, weight training, all of movement is great.

    Reply
    • David Rudge December 15, 2016, 8:47 am

      Isn’t MMM’s point that he gets plenty of cardio over the course of the day doing all of his biking?

      Reply
  • Jerry Gordon December 13, 2016, 6:05 pm

    Aerobic equipment isn’t inherently bad, it’s what you do with it..We we able to pick up an elliptical for free off CL. So I will pedal for 2 min do a set of push-ups, 2 min body weight squats, 2 minutes..well you get the idea

    Reply
  • Nice joy December 13, 2016, 6:26 pm

    So motivating , I finished 25 pushups 75 more

    Reply
  • mike December 13, 2016, 6:41 pm

    I’m a runner but realize I need to do more muscle work. Thanks so much for this.

    For those over 65 in US, Medicare will pay for gym membership.

    In regards to low carb diet, all successful populations did so on a high-carb diet—All of them. It was carbohydrates that made civilization possible. Carbohydrates are nothing more then carbon, oxygen and hydrogen atoms, very easy for body to process. If we went back to the diet of Asians just a few decades ago, rural tribes in Africa, or the Tarahumara tribe in Mexico today, we’d have no obesity, heart disease or any of the other chronic diseases western man accepts as being normal. Gary Taubes was wrong. Many believe his word is gospel because he deftly uses slight of hand when he discusses studies. Read “Low-Carb Fraud” and try to think through what the author is saying.

    Reply
    • Nice joy December 13, 2016, 8:27 pm

      I Have tried primal blue print diet with low carbs, but feel like I have better mental clarity when I cat more crab, also I am less irritable. But I cut down my carb intake to aproximately 50% and and use more non grain carbs like fruits.

      Reply
      • Carrie Willard December 14, 2016, 4:18 am

        Low-carb diets crash my thyroid, and this is pretty common. I find that I feel much better when I eat small amounts of “slow” carbs – brown rice (a half cup or less), beans, half a sweet potato, and small amounts of fruit, but always anchored with protein. This diet cured my life-long struggle with hypoglycemia, made me lose puffiness (even my feet shrank), and for the first time in my life, I poop like a teenage boy.

        Reply
        • Allison December 14, 2016, 11:13 am

          This is actually more in line with the Tim Ferris diet he references. It’s more a slow-carb diet. No grains/potatoes/fruit 6 days a week, but focuses on beans and lentils for quality carbs. I feel and look my best on this diet, have plenty of energy, and get my fruits and cheats once a week.

          Reply
    • Aimee December 14, 2016, 11:15 am

      Mike – Are you sure that Medicare covers gym memberships? I know that they used to have the Silver Sneakers program, but as far as I know you need to pay for a supplemental plan and there are very few plans that offer this program. They are also very expensive.

      Reply
      • PawPrint December 16, 2016, 3:02 pm

        Our Medicare Advantage plan is $66 a month ($132 for two of us) and includes membership at the Y plus drug coverage. Compared to our other choices, I thought $132 for Medigap insurance with drug coverage and two gym memberships, was pretty good.

        Reply
    • american in canada December 15, 2016, 7:51 pm

      Couldn’t let this go. I know that there is more than one version of healthy eating and that different bodies respond to foods in different ways. Gary Taubes was part of my realization that the foods I was eating were not working (despite being thin and appearing healthy). My blood sugar was a mess and daily carb intake was causing swings that triggered chronic migraines. I tried low carb, but that wasn’t enough. I now eat a ketogenic (high fat, low everything else and fewer than 50 grams of net carbs/day) plan. I have never felt better. Plus I get to take my coffee with an equal amount of heavy cream. Super yum.

      Reply
    • PawPrint December 16, 2016, 2:55 pm

      A Medicare Advantage plan includes Silver Sneakers, which will cover a gym membership at participating gyms, but Medicare doesn’t pay for gym memberships.

      Reply
    • Stephane January 5, 2017, 12:15 pm

      I have to disagree partially. Too many carbs will easily allow you to gain weight. There has to be a balance, and especially, longer carbs or better yet, fibers, will definitely work better. Add some vegetables to add more weight in the belly and make it think it is full as well. Protein to some degree helps, but there’s many types including vegetable protein.
      I do agree that if I don’t have enough carbs, I feel like I have no energy. Carbs are what allow us to do work. But too many, especially short ones like sugar, will definitely make you gain weight.

      Reply
    • Stephane January 5, 2017, 12:15 pm

      I have to disagree partially. Too many carbs will easily allow you to gain weight. There has to be a balance, and especially, longer carbs or better yet, fibre, will definitely work better. Add some vegetables to add more weight in the belly and make it think it is full as well. Protein to some degree helps, but there’s many types including vegetable protein.
      I do agree that if I don’t have enough carbs, I feel like I have no energy. Carbs are what allow us to do work. But too many, especially short ones like sugar, will definitely make you gain weight.

      Reply
  • Jason December 13, 2016, 6:43 pm

    Check out this website for homemade squat/bench stands. http://homemadestrength.blogspot.com/p/project-index.html?m=1 . I built a set and they work great. I wouldn’t go loading them up with 100’s of lbs., but in my experience, 185 to 200 lbs seems pretty safe. For extra stability, you can easily brace them to a garage wall as well.

    Reply
  • Technojunkie December 13, 2016, 6:48 pm

    Speaking of snow shoveling as exercise, replace your snowblower with a https://wovel.com/ Snow Wovel. For really deep snow I’ll break out the snowblower but most of the time the Wovel gets the job done. It turns an otherwise backbreaking job into a GREAT upper body workout.

    Reply
  • Jeffrey W December 13, 2016, 7:11 pm

    A handy HIIT workout for people who prefer running with extreme gains with minimal time investment. It is called the 30-20-10 workout and generally takes 15-25 minutes and has had exponentially beneficial results for my speed, strength and form. Do 5+ reps with 30 seconds at a 2 mile pace, followed immediately by 20 seconds at a 1 mile pace and then 10 seconds as hard as you can. Take 2 minutes of walking, jogging, or running to recover and then do the 30,20,10 all over again and continue this cycle until you are done with the workout.

    This is one of my favorite workouts because I am able to continuously scale up how challenging the paces are and I guarantee that your form will start to deteriorate after the 3rd or 4th one if you are pushing yourself. This is similar to sprinting from location to location but has the added benefit of some cardio work and forces your body to work at changing gears throughout a workout.

    Reply
  • Lara December 13, 2016, 9:06 pm

    Cool article! I just recently joined up at NerdFitness. They have a fun community of people there with a similar mentality. They are paleo friendly, nerd friendly, and focus on strength training. Check them out sometime!

    One small note that I wanted to add is just that it’s important to give the muscles some rest in between to heal. That’s why people recommend skipping a day. Probably once you are fully trained up and ready to go it will be fine, but overtraining can be an issue for some folks especially in the beginning.

    Also, never forget the importance of warming up and cooling down afterwards. Stretching after you work out is a great way to build flexibility.

    Thanks for your article!

    Reply
    • Meg December 14, 2016, 12:24 pm

      Second the Nerd Fitness!! :) I love their bodyweight workouts.

      Reply
    • financialfreedomsloth December 15, 2016, 1:28 am

      hello Lara,
      is nerdfitness worth it? I am drawn too it but not sure. Does your initial fee cover enough programs (I need the body weight exercises, the one for people who travel often and the paleo part)? Because i do have the impression that once you pay for the lifetime membership they try to sell additional programs to you and one of the appealing aspects is off course: pay one time and done!
      Do you get a lot of support/discipline from the community?

      Reply
      • Lara December 18, 2016, 8:43 am

        Sorry, just saw your post!

        Personally, I think it was worth the investment. Other MMM readers might not, but I’ve been happy so far. The community is extremely supportive and welcoming. Lots of very friendly people and accepting of whatever background you come from. Within the Academy side of things, it is broken up into three main sections- Mindset, Nutrition, and Workouts. All three sections are pretty hefty and should keep a person busy for at least a year, even if they attempt to rush through. It’s impressively content heavy, in my opinion. The videos for the body weight exercises are also very useful, and I do like the way that the information is organized.

        Me personally, I probably won’t go for any of the additional content unless I’ve thoroughly exhausted all of the current content… which, at the rate I’m going, won’t be for awhile. Maybe I’ll change my mind in a few years?? But so far, this should be enough to keep me busy.

        Already I am feeling more empowered to make good decisions about my health. For the first time in awhile, I actually see my midsection shrinking… and it’s only been a month. Lol.

        Anyhow, I could follow up with you in like six months to let you know if it’s still worth it. :-) But so far, I say yes!

        Reply
        • financialfreedomsloth December 19, 2016, 12:16 am

          Hello Lara,
          my post was in moderation for a while since it was first time I commented here, that’s why it seems it was here for a few days allready.

          Thank you for the feedback! A supportive community and enough content for at least a few years is exately what I was looking for! I’ll sign up in january (I am on a budget off course ;-)

          Reply

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