The 4×15 Athletic Workout for Busy People

Fact #1: We are all busy today.

Fact #2: Fact #1 is probably not going to change.

Fact #3: Even if we accept Fact #1 and Fact #2, we still need to find ways to get great training sessions in.

For many years, I struggled with the concept of the “perfect” workout.

If I didn’t have 1.5-2 hours to train, then it wasn’t worth training at all.

But as other things in my life took priority over my own training (i.e. children, work, etc.), I quickly realized that something needed to change.

The days of having unlimited time to train were simply gone, and I needed to my thoughts on training to evolve – along with my training sessions themselves.

The 4×15 workout is something I’ve dabbled with off-and-on for two years now. It’s not how I set up every single training session, but it’s a quick and easy way to make sure I’m checking off all the big boxes when it comes to physical preparation.

So what is the 4×15 workout? I’m glad you asked!

The 4×15 Workout in a Nutshell

When it’s all said and done, most days I’m lucky to have 60 minutes to train.

In the old days I would spend 10 minutes of that warming up, and the other 50 pushing weight.

But again, as my thought process has evolved, so has my training.

Now it’s not just about pushing weight, but having all-round athleticism.

It’s about looking and feeling good.

And having the energy to meet the demands of everyday life!

So instead of focusing all my time and energy on weights, I built a simple framework that’s simple, flexible, and allows me to check all the big boxes when it comes to movement and performance.

In my world, those four boxes are:

  1. Mobility and Movement Prep,
  2. Speed and Power Development
  3. Strength, and
  4. Conditioning

So how do I fit all those pieces into the puzzle?

After all, an hour isn’t a ton of time.

But if you structure things appropriately, and if you’re dialed in and focused when you hit the gym, you can get a ton done in only 60 minutes.

To check those four boxes, I set-up my 4×15 workout into four training blocks or sections, each with 15 minutes allotted to it.

It looks like this (and for those of you who are familiar with my R7 System of Program Design, I’ve noted that as well):

  • Block #1 – Warm-up, Resets and Mobility Work (R1-R3),
  • Block #2 – Speed and Power Development (R4),
  • Block #3 – Strength (R5), and
  • Block #4 – Conditioning and Recovery (R6 and R7).

Chances are, you probably already set your training up in a fashion similar to this. And if that’s the case, great!

The biggest factor is whittling down the unnecessary, and trying like hell to get the whole workout done in 60 minutes.

On the flip side, if you’ve only been focusing on one or two of these areas, I think you’ll love how this program allows you to check all the boxes of athleticism.

Now that you’ve got an overview of the program, let’s look at how you can use this framework to create awesome workouts for yourself, your clients or your athletes.

Block #1 – Warm-up, Resets and Mobility Work

As a somewhat “older” lifter, I will tell you this much:

At this stage in the game, warming up and getting physically prepared to train is non-negotiable.

Back in the day I could get loose with a couple mobility drills and be ready to rock, but it’s definitely more of a process as you get older.

For me, this typically includes 2-3 positional breathing drills or resets to start. This ensures that I can move air where I need to, and gives me a gauge for how my body is going to move that day.

From there, I crank through a mobility and movement circuit that takes the rest of the allotted time.

Rather than doing 15-20 isolated warm-ups, I’m a big believer in big-bang, compound movements that will get everything moving and shaking right. (My monster post on The Warm-up could help you here).

Last but not least, I often pair my mobility drills with exercises that “bridge the gap” between mobility and performance. So instead of simply doing a knee hug, I’m going to pair a knee hug with an A-skip.

Instead of just doing a lateral lunge, I’m going to do a lateral lunge and then follow that up with a lateral/defensive shuffle.

By layering your warm-ups in this fashion, you not only knock them out quicker, but rebuild your athletic vocabulary as well.

Block #2 – Speed and Power Development

For many years, I neglected my speed and power development.

I was so focused on strength that I let these qualities fall by the wayside, and now I’m trying to make up for lost time!

And here’s the thing – I know I’m not alone.

Many lifters that I’ve come across over the years have focused solely on strength training, only to realize that the “natural” athleticism they enjoyed as kids has slowly deteriorated.

And if that sounds like you, it’s time to recognize your mistakes and do something about it!

The key to getting started back into the speed and power game is to do things slowly and progressively.

In other words, don’t go out on Day 1 and test your max vertical jump and 40 time!

When I’m getting someone back into the game, I’ll start with stuff like this:

  • Jumping rope and low-level plyos,
  • Deceleration and force absorption drills for the lower body, and
  • VERY short sprints.

(For more info on this topic, check out my 4.5 Ways to Reintroduce Power to Your Training Program).

Start here for 1-2 months, and enjoy the process.

Enjoy the fact that you’re teaching your body to be fast and explosive again.

And as your body responds to this, you can slowly start building out the volume and intensity.

Right now, I think this may be my favorite of the four training blocks.

I really feel like I’m getting my athleticism back, and in many ways, moving better than I ever did as a young athlete.

If nothing else, start reintroducing some speed and power work into your programming – I guarantee you’ll enjoy it!

Block #3 – Strength Training

This part should be the easiest to program, as you’ve probably been pushing weight for years now.

Herein lies the problem – if you have 60 minutes to “lift weights,” then it’s easy to get everything you want to in. But what do you with only 15 minutes?

For starters, it makes you think critically about the exercises you have in your programming.

Is everything in there for a reason?

And if so, what is overlapping that you could remove with little (or no) repercussions?

For example, the second you start doing speed and power work, you probably don’t need much split-stance/single-leg strength training for “strength” purposes.

To make this easy on you, I’ll tell you what I do: I often choose one “big-bang” exercise that day, and train it for the whole 15 minutes.

Squatting variations.

Deadlift variations.

Bench press variations.

Find one big-bang exercise, and go hard on it for 15-minutes.

For lower-body lifts, this works perfectly – and I haven’t found much reason to change it.

An exception could be on an upper-body focused day. Instead of just meating out on one exercise, consider supersetting opposing movement patterns.

Here are some examples:

  • Bench press/Dumbbell row.
  • Chin-up variation/shoulder press variation.
  • Unstable surface trainer (UST) push-up/UST inverted row.

The ideas and options are endless, and when you superset, you can obviously get even more work done.

But here’s the key here – you have to get this done in 15 minutes – no exceptions!

Which brings us to our final block…

Block #4 – Conditioning

After doing this for 17 years now, it’s safe to say that I’m a big proponent of smart conditioning training.

With a heavy emphasis on the word smart.

Just because we’re training fast and furious doesn’t mean we have to be idiots about our conditioning.

In fact, we can still be “high-intensity,” without relying solely on 30:30 fat loss intervals, bathing our body in hydrogen ions along the way.

I much prefer alactic-aerobic intervals, or what Joel Jamieson describes as explosive repeats.

To work in this alactic-aerobic range, at minimum I’ll work on a 1:5 work-to-rest ratio, with some intervals being closer to 1:9 or 1:10.

Now I’m sure you might be thinking, “how the heck do I do that?”

And if that’s the case, here are some examples to help:

  • Prowler sprints, 6 seconds on 54 seconds off
  • Airdyne bike sprints, 8 seconds on, 52 seconds off
  • Battling ropes, 10 seconds on, 50 seconds off

If you do the math, each “round” of those examples is done in exactly one minute, which would all you to get 15 “rounds” in during your conditioning section.

Pretty cool, eh?

This is just one simple way to set-up your conditioning that makes programming easy, the training intense, but most importantly, all of it is super-effective.

Now bang out 10-15 quality breaths and call it a day!

Summary

So there you have it – the 4×15 workout.

If you’re pressed for time, but want to get a complete and total-body training session in, this is the way to go.

And most importantly, if you’re looking to tap into the real “Fountain of Youth” and regain that lost athleticism, this is a fantastic way to start.

Good luck and good training!

MR

 

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7 Comments

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  1. thanks Mike. I have really enjoyed your articles/posts over the years. This is article has summed up some ideas I have been having over the last few years (I am 47 now). I was thinking differently, in the lines of doing one stimulus a day, I like this better, thanks again

  2. I’ve recently made the plunge and changed my career to become a full time personal trainer. my own training has gone by the wayside as, like you, I’ve got family and other obligations. I am definitely going to give this a solid try. I’m excited about the athleticism side of it as well as I’m now closing in on 40 and don’t want to lose any more of my reflexes and agility.

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