One of the most common excuse for not keeping fit is “I’ve got no time”. Yet, we all know of the stories of successful CEOs and millionaires who have schedules packed down to the minute and still manage to find time to keep fit.
The truth is, in a day, we all share the same 24 hours. The same 1440 minutes. The same 86,400 seconds.
So ultimately, it boils down to how we decide to prioritize out time. Do you think you can spare the first 5 minutes of your day for your fitness?
In this post, I will attempt to convince you that fitness can be achieved in as little as 5 minutes a day.
- “5-Minute FIT” Routine Summary
- Prioritizing Your 5 Minutes
- Sample Routine
- The Breakdown
- Minimal Equipment
- THE Best Time To Train
- Finding Consistency
- Measuring Progress
- Why Should I Keep A Training Log?
“5-Minute FIT” Routine Summary
5 minutes. Exactly 300 seconds.
Time is relative they say.
5 minutes can breeze by in the blink of an eye, without you even noticing. 5 minutes can also be excruciatingly long if you’re pushing your limits doing something strenuous.
In summary, this 7-day weekly fitness plan aims to induce beneficial physiological changes with minimal time and maximal effectiveness.
For 5-minutes a day, you will either be performing a high intensity workout on workout days or a mobility routine on rest days.
Workout days will consist of alternating between exercises (usually 2) with minimal rest in between while rest days will be reserved for improving your mobility through a mobility routine.
In this post, a sample routine will be provided for you to follow for the first few weeks. Additionally, I will also teach you:
- how to prioritize and plan your own “5-Minute FIT” routine
- how to listen to your body and tweak your training plan accordingly
- when is the best time to train
- how to stay consistent
- how to measure your progress
Resource wise, I have included numerous exercise videos and provided a printable template for you to download or even edit to suit your needs.
Now… because time is (very) limited, let’s begin with learning how to prioritize our 5 minutes.
Prioritizing Your 5 minutes
So how do you prioritize these 5 minutes?
Listed below in order are the attributes of fitness I would prioritize when it comes down to choosing exercises:
- STRENGTH – the quality or state of being physically strong.
Achieved through compound, multi joint movements that utilize more than one muscle group. These usually involves pushing, pulling and stabilizing muscles.
The goal is to build muscle, increase contractile strength, bone density, and improve neuromuscular coordination.
Prioritizing strength is most important when we are young as our ability to build and retain muscle mass and bone density decreases as we age.
- MOBILITY – strength and control throughout the full range of motion.
Flexibility is just one component of mobility. Mobility includes both “active” and “passive flexibility” . Having flexibility but inadequate core strength and stability in your joints places you at greater risk for injuries when you lose control at dangerous ranges of motion.
Having mobility protects you from unexpected injuries by strengthening not just muscles but also connective tissues like tendons, ligaments and joints.
Mobility training also undoes some of the damage of a sedentary lifestyle like poor posture and short, tight muscles.
- CARDIOVASCULAR – your ability to deliver and utilize oxygen in working muscles for long periods of time.
This can involve various levels of intensity and usually utilizes full body locomotive movements like swimming or running.
Some cardiovascular stress is beneficial as it raises your metabolism and improves cardiovascular risk factors.
It’s true that there are many more attributes of fitness like balance, coordination and stamina. However I feel that if you’re short on time, working on these 3 aspects is more than sufficient. I’ve arranged the 3 attributes of fitness this way because I feel that you gain much more in terms of health and quality of life by prioritizing them in this order.
Taken together, the benefits of a consistent exercise routine will improve your physiology and delay or even prevent most of the age related disorders like sarcopenia (muscle loss), obesity (fat gain) and mitochondrial dysfunction because exercise in general induces a host of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory adaptations. 
As a bonus, with a trim, fit physique, you feel AWESOME, have more energy, a better mood, more willpower and generally, perform better in every aspect of your life!
To be honest, it is easy to simply write a routine for you to follow (I have written a sample one below). However, I wouldn’t know how to ‘tailor-make’ that routine for you based on your individual needs, strengths and weaknesses and how you feel that day.
For example, you might have very tight hamstrings which could be the cause of low back pain while another person might have tight pectorals (chest muscles), causing bad posture, shoulder and neck pains. Or you might still be aching badly in your upper body today so its better to do a lower body workout.
Thus it would be best if I taught you how to plan your own workout program using some guidelines. This would offer more flexibility for you to adapt or switch things around according to what you think is best for you that day.
Here is the basic weekly framework and sample “5-Minute FIT” routine:
|Push + Pull Superset: With minimal rest, alternate between 5 Pushups & 5 Pullups until 5 mins are up.
Scale repetitions and exercises according to ability.
|Legs + Core Superset: With minimal rest, alternate between 6 walking lunges & 5 hanging leg raises until 5 mins are up.
Scale repetitions and exercises according to ability.
|Wed||Rest (mobility)||Take time to feel for tight areas and move/stretch them. Not sure how? Follow along to this ‘passive’ mobility routine: https://youtu.be/cacwri2wio4|
|Push + Pull Superset – With minimal rest, alternate between 5 Pike Pushups & 5 Table Horizontal Rows until 5 mins are up.
Scale repetitions and exercises according to ability.
(legs + core)
|Legs + Core Superset – With minimal rest, alternate between 6 Cossack squats & 10 arch lifts until 5 mins are up.
Scale repetitions and exercises according to ability.
|Sat||Cardio||Do as many Burpees (with pushups) as you can until 5 mins are up.|
|Sun||Rest (mobility)||Take time to feel for tight areas and move/stretch them. Not sure how? Follow along to this ‘active’ mobility routine: https://youtu.be/rnOHvhCdNqE|
Thus, the basic framework is simple. This routine runs on a 7 day template with:
- 2 days of strength training
- 1 day of rest (mobility)
- 2 more days of strength
- 1 cardio
- 1 rest (mobility)
You can see that the routine prioritizes strength training first (4x/week), followed by mobility (2x/week) and lastly cardio (once a week).
This routine is also designed to allow optimal rest in between strenuous workouts on the same muscle (i.e. 72 hours between each upper body strength training day).
To further increase the efficiency of this routine, rest days double up as mobility days too as most mobility training is more like ‘light’ movement training and stretches that do not tax your aching muscles from the previous days’ training.
1. Strength Training
The most efficient form of strength training I know is the SUPERSET where you alternate between two exercises that utilize non-conflicting muscle groups such as push and pull muscles. This allows you to ‘rest’ one group of muscles as you hit the other group. Doing this with minimal rest also gives you a high intensity workout that ramps up your metabolism and cardiovascular system!
Twice a week for strength training, you will be doing an upper body push-pull superset as well as a lower body and core superset. This is sufficient to cover all major muscle groups.
NOTE: Do take note of the different planes of movement which I have planned into the routine above. For example, on Monday, the upper body push can be a horizontal push like a pushup while on Wednesday, it can be a vertical push like a pike pushup. This targets different muscles (chest vs shoulders) to get a more balanced conditioning overall.
The same applies for the core exercises. Our core does not just consist of our ‘abs’. Every muscle wrapping our entire torso from our obliques to our glutes, make up our core. Thus to ensure a balanced physique, you should pick different core exercises for each day. Let core exercises for the first day (Tue) focus on the ‘front’ core muscles like hanging leg raises while the other day (Fri) focus on the ‘back’ ones like arch lifts for your glutes and lower back.
You may wish to follow the sample routine above for a few weeks to see how you progress. Thereafter, I would advise you to switch exercises or progressions to keep your body on its toes.
Besides, changing things up makes the workout interesting and keeps you engaged! Especially if it’s a move you’ve had difficulty with in the past and can now do with ease because you got stronger.
In Appendix A below, I have included a list of exercises to switch around with in your routine, as well as YouTube videos for demonstrations and progressions.
You may have noticed that I listed the two ‘rest’ days above as mobility days too. This is perfectly fine because the mobility training I am talking about will not tax your aching muscles and is meant to improve the two important aspects of your mobility – “passive” and “active”. Besides, you get to work on problematic areas of your body even on non-training days!
An example of a “passive” stretch routine would be something like this 5 minute routine:
Done first thing in the morning, this will wake up all those tight muscles, tendons and joints.
Conversely, an “active” mobility routine would be something like this:
This routine will greatly benefit hunched shoulders and bad posture.
More mobility follow-along videos can be found in Appendix B below.
I would advise you to follow one or two videos for a couple of weeks until you can do the routine without the video. Each time you practice, you may feel a different effect on your body. Do this until you’ve ‘integrated’ the routine into your system and can do it anytime you feel the need to before moving on to another video.
In time, after a number of videos, you may even come up with your own 5 minute mobility routine that’s suited for your particular areas of weakness!
Lastly, you’ll notice that cardio-specific exercises only take up one day a week. This is deliberately done because it is already incorporated in the 4 strength training days. You will notice a significant cardiovascular tax if you perform your supersets during strength training days with minimal rest between exercises.
However, there is still a mini rest-break as you transition from one strength exercise to another. The one cardio day in this routine is meant to bridge that gap and tax your cardiovascular system heavily for the full duration of the 5 minutes!
Most cardio-metabolically taxing exercises involve some form of full-body movement. For the purposes of convenience in this training program, the exercises I’ve included below do not require much space and can be done on the spot.
The toughest of these exercises usually demand that you repeatedly move your body from a low position close to the ground to a higher position like when standing. This is where the Burpee comes in. In my humble opinion, Burpees are THE best metabolically demanding high intensity exercise! Most people will be huffing and puffing after just 10! They also require minimum space and the number of variations can only be limited by your creativity!
That said, there are plenty of other metabolically challenging exercises available in your exercise arsenal. See Appendix C below for more cardio-taxing movements and exercises.
I’m a firm believer in calisthenics training which mainly involves exercises that utilize the resistance from your own bodyweight to achieve fitness adaptations. You will gain much more in terms of developing overall fitness such as better control of your body in space, neuromuscular coordination, balance, etc.
Another advantage is that most of these exercises do not require any equipment. Thus you can workout anywhere, anytime – even from the comfort of your own home.
However, the only exception is somewhere to hang to perform various pulling movements.
A door pull-up bar (Amazon.com, Lazada.com) is a great investment for the home but my personal favourite are the Gymnastics Rings (Amazon.com, Lazada.com) as they are much more versatile and offer the element of instability compared to a fixed pull-up bar!
Now that you’re equipped with the necessary tools, such a basic framework and the exercises for planning your 5 minute routine, it’s time to get down and dirty! (or sweaty in this case 💦😉)
Once you start doing the routine, learn to be more conscious of how your body feels each day. Be aware of your own internal feedback such as how difficult a particular exercise move was, how you felt the next day and how to improve on your routine.
This is the concept of autoregulation.
It involves constantly listening to your body’s feedback before, during and after training and subsequently tweaking the routine to suit your needs.
Two useful feedback gauges are:
- Technical Difficulty
- Rate of Perceived Exertion
Use a scale of 1-5 or 1-10 to rate yourself. You can add these to your training log as a way to keep track of how you felt during training.
“I think this exercise was too easy… time to level up to the next exercise progression!” This happens when both the Technical Difficulty and Rate of Perceived Exertion are low on the scale.
Conversely, if both are high, you could be thinking like this:
“Man I’ve been aching for 3 days in a row?! Maybe I should decrease the repetitions for that exercise next week.”
Note that autoregulation is not limited to only the exercises and repetitions. You can also switch training and rest days around as needed.
Don’t be limited by the 7 days of the week – rest days don’t always have to be on Wednesdays and Sundays. Feel free to add an additional rest (mobility) day whenever you need to. Don’t worry about disrupting the format. Everything just gets pushed forward by a day!
For example, say there was an event and you slept late and just didn’t feel good the next day – a Monday; strength training day.
You decide to listen to your body and make it an active mobility day instead.
On Tuesday, just pick up from where you left off and do a strength training workout. Thus, that extra rest day pushes the rest of the routine forward by one day such that your strength trainings are now on Tue, Wed, Fri and Sat. Cardio on Sun and rest days are now on Mondays and Thursdays.
Listen, adapt and refine. These are the keys to autoregulation.
THE Best Time To Train
The first 5 minutes of your day of course! After you do some light stretching and movement to get rid of that post-sleep grogginess. 🙃
Why first thing in the morning?
1. You have no distractions, no appointments and no obligations to anyone or anything. NOTHING is standing in your way except your willpower and desire to train.
2. From a physiological perspective, exercise in the morning releases a flood of feel-good hormones like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. After the adrenaline wears off, you feel a sense of calm  and euphoria that gives you that ‘runner’s high’ (no running needed too 😉). Since exercise is also one of the best anti-anxiety and antidepressants , it’s like starting your day on drugs!
3. From a psychological perspective, getting into that habit of a 5 minute morning routine helps in starting your day on the right foot. Even if you got out on the wrong side of the bed, finishing that mini-workout first thing in the morning gives you that ‘swoll’ sense of accomplishment (much more than just making your bed)!
Consistency is the mother of success in probably everything we do. This applies to almost any program or change we choose to implement, be it a fitness routine or a diet.
Probably the number one reason why diets or training programs don’t work for most people is because they gave up after 1 or 2 weeks or months.
That said, how do you find and establish consistency?
Number 1 – Habits.
By repeatedly following this routine first thing in the morning, soon you will begin to form a habit. You may start to feel like you need to do your daily exercise or mobility otherwise the day just wouldn’t feel right. Eventually you might even feel that 5 minutes is too short and extend the time to 10 or even 15 minutes.
Of course, the caviar here is that this habit has to fit into your daily routine. Obvious right? That’s why it’s important to schedule it into the first 5 minutes of your day where you are least likely to be hit by the unexpected things life throws at you.
Number 2 – Don’t beat yourself up if you miss one or two days.
Don’t let that guilt from missing a day or two of exercise cause you to backslide into missing days and weeks. In other words, forgive yourself and move on.
Couldn’t wake up on time, no problem. Just set your alarm tomorrow for 5 minutes earlier! Repeat this until you finally get your 5 minutes workout done.
Don’t stop trying to get back on that moving train of consistency.
Number 3 – get an ‘outside’ commitment.
‘Outside’ here simply means some motivation that does not come from you – ‘outside of yourself’. This can come in the form a sibling or partner to exercise with whom you will feel compelled to honour your daily fitness appointment together.
It can also be some sort of pressure to stick to your routine. Like that project deadline that renders you accountable to your boss, no matter what happens. Or that stern coach that would reprimand you for reporting for training even a minute late so you always turn up 15 minutes early.
Everyone is different so different motivation tactics work for each person. Take time to think of what you could implement in your life to help you stick to your routine. Incidentally, you could try a goal setting and accomplishment tool like stickK.com which uses Commitment Contracts  to help people gain consistency.
Another reason people fall out of diets and routines is because they want instant results in the short-term. While that may not be healthy, it is certainly foolish. Furthermore, unrealistic expectations only sets you up for a great ‘crash and burn’ when you don’t see the results you hoped for as quickly as you expected.
The solution? Plan for the long-term. Focus on the long-run.
Learn to measure your progress is weeks and months. Have faith in your daily consistent practice, even if it feels like you are stagnant and not making much progress. Trust that in 1, 2… 3 months from now, you’ll be impressed at how far you’ve come.
Max Shank said it best, “BIG MONEY RESULTS are what you get with the cumulative effect of exercise. Just like compound interest in investing, these results come after a significant duration of consistency.” 
This is where the training log comes in.
Why Should I Keep A Training Log?
The invaluable training log is a tool to help you record and measure your progress. It’s where you should write down every rep of every exercise you do. This gives you a basis of comparison to see if you’ve improved from the previous week.
The training log is also another reason to keep you motivated to stay consistent otherwise that page would be blank if you didn’t perform your routine for that day.
Writing and keeping a training log is very simple. You can even incorporate it into the same page as your daily diary like I do. All you need to pen down is:
- the date
- the exercises you did
- the number of repetitions done for each set (e.g. Pull-ups: 5, 5, 5, 5, 4).
I like this format as you easily see how many reps and sets you did and the variations between sets.
When I work out, I usually have my diary open up in front of me. This allows me to write down the number of repetitions of exercises immediately after performing them. this also helps me not to lose count of the sets I’ve done if the workout involves a specific number of sets.
It really doesn’t take much time to stay fit. In fact, if fitness is one of your priorities, you will make time for it. Here, you have a simple and convenient routine to follow and I’ve also taught you the basics of planning you own routine. The only thing left is for you to take ACTION! Start today! 💪💪💪
I hope you have benefited from this post. ALL THE BEST and do share if you found this useful!
Any thoughts, questions or tips for improving this routine? What would you like me to write next? Comment below!
“5-Minute FIT” Routine Resources
References and Links
- Flexibility vs. Mobility: Learn The Difference and Why You Need BOTH! : https://www.gymnasticbodies.com/flexibility-vs-mobility-learn-difference-need/
- Exercise Modulates Oxidative Stress and Inflammation in Aging and Cardiovascular Diseases: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4707375/https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4707375/
- Physical exercise prevents stress-induced activation of granule neurons and enhances local inhibitory mechanisms in the dentate gyrus. : https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23637169
- Exercise treatment for depression: efficacy and dose response. :https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=trivedi+depression+2005+American+Journal+of+Preventive+Medicine
- http://www.stickk.com/, How it works – Commitment Contracts
- Exercise the “Right” Way: https://maxshank.com/exercise-right/
- Door Pull-up Bar (Amazon.com, Lazada.com)
- Gymnastics Rings (Amazon.com, Lazada.com) – I recommend wooden ones!
Related Blog Posts
Here are additional exercises to try. Its good to switch exercises after a few weeks when your progress has stagnated or you need a change to keep things interesting. Learning new moves also gives you a sense of accomplishment.
As always, YouTube is a great resource!
After many hours scouring YouTube’s vast database of videos, The following are some of the best videos which offer a variety of exercises, their progressions and regressions based on your level of ability.
For your routine, pick one you like, write it down and practice it for a few weeks. After 4 weeks, you should be very comfortable and seeing improvements in form and reps. Subsequently, you may challenge yourself by choosing a more difficult progression for the next few weeks!
Appendix A: Strength Exercises
Upper Body PUSH:
Upper Body PULL:
Unfortunately, Dominik Sky hasn’t produced any tutorial videos for legs yet. 😭
Appendix B: Mobility Routines
As discussed above, there are ‘passive’ and ‘active’ mobility routines and even those that combine both. Learn to feel for tight/stiff/weak/problem areas in your body and keep working on them! Don’t limit your mobility sessions to whenever you have a rest day. They don’t even need to be 5 minutes long! Just stretch whenever you feel like you need to, throughout your day!
In fact, Max Shank has a great mobility program called 5-minute flow which I have bought and tried and can testiment to its effectiveness. It is very comprehensive yet is simple enough with step-by-step videos to teach you the different movement patterns you can use to create your own 5-minute flow. Throughout my day, I now do a random 5-minute flow whenever I feel like I need some mobility in tight or stiff areas in my body. It’s certainly worth checking out!
Appendix C: Cardio Exercises
Like I said above, the best cardio-metabolic ‘bang for your buck’ exercises are full-body ones like burpee variations. Here are some more: