I use to have a hell of a time getting everything done I wanted to while in the gym. I want to get in a good warm-up so I don’t injury myself. I want to get in a good strength routine. I want to get in a nice metabolic conditioning piece. I want to wrap it all up with a nice cool down and some mobility work.
Getting all of done within the 60 minutes I usually have to train was tough. Shit, sometimes I only had 30 minutes and that made it nearly impossible.
Then one day I put on my thinking cap and figured out how to pull it off. I call it block training. Today’s article is all about block training and how you can use it to create more effective and efficient – two very boring words – that help you get ALL the things done in the gym that you want to get done.
Bare with me here. This one is super rational and practical. No mind blowing shit coming your way but if you implement the strategies outlined I guarantee you a better workout as soon as tomorrow.
WHAT EXACTLY IS BLOCK TRAINING?
I started using this method of a few years back when I noticed I was often skipping a good warm-up, stretching, and mobility work. It was usually because I would run out of time or because I could only commit 20 to 30 minutes to training. I ended up prioritizing strength and conditioning over those other things.
Block training is more time efficient and structured approach for your training. You divide your workouts into blocks where a specific amount of time is dedicated to your priorities in the gym that day.
- ½ block is equal to 5 minutes
- 1 block is equal to 10 minutes
- 2 blocks would be 20 minutes.
In a 60 minutes workout you would have 6 total blocks of training you could use. In a 30 minute workout you have 3 total blocks you could use.
WHY TRY BLOCK TRAINING
First and foremost it’s easy to bull shit in the gym. It’s easy to check your phone, get distracted by someone, or just slack because you know your next set isn’t going to feel really good.
In my 20’s I hated working on stretching and practicing mobility drills. It felt like such a waste of time and was absolutely boring. I’d often skip it so that I could just pick up some heavy shit and put it back down or beat myself up with a Crossfit WOD. Those just felt more like actually working out to me at the time.
With block training you can decide what your priorities are for the day and dedicate a specific amount of time to it. You now have some awareness around how long it’s going to take you to that part of your workout. Plus, knowing that I’ll be stretching for 5 minutes that day plays to my psychology.
“Ok, workouts done. I’m only stretching for 5-minutes. I can do that. It’s just 5-minutes.”
HOW TO USE BLOCK TRAINING FOR YOURSELF
Let’s take a typical 60 minutes workout. Like I mentioned earlier that’s equal to 6 training blocks ( 10 minutes each ).
I use one of those blocks for racking weights, setting up equipment, and transition time from one exercise to the next. This leaves me with 50 minutes or five 10-minute training blocks to work with.
A typical training day might look like this.
- Warm-up: ½ block (5 minutes)
- Mobility drills: 1 block (10 minutes)
- Skill practice: 1 block (10 minutes)
- Strength work: 1 block (10 minutes)
- Conditioning: 1 block (10 minutes)
- Stretching: ½ block (5 minutes)
- *Transition: 1 block (10 minutes)
* I factor in 10 minutes for an empty block. This includes the time it takes to put away weights, set up for exercises, or and move from one exercise to the next.
Now you might be wondering about reps, sets, and rest when working in blocks. When I train in blocks I don’t count sets. Instead, assess how I’m feeling that day and work as hard as I can within that time frame. I rest in between exercises and sets as I deem necessary.
Example warm-up block:
I first set a timer on my phone for 5 minutes. Then I run through the following warm-up until the timer hits 5.
- 50 meter jog and back peddle
- 50 meter side shuffle
- Squat with external rotation
- Wrist work
- 25 meter bear
- 25 meter frog
- 25 meter monkey
- 25 meter monkey in opposite direction
Example mobility block:
* These exercises can be found in Kelly Starretts book “Deskbound.” I highly recommend it for anyone looking to improve mobility, prevent injury, and feel better on an every day basis.
Example skill work block:
Example strength work block:
Let’s say I’ve decided that I’m going to be doing 5 reps of the back squat and 5 weighted pull-ups for my strength work that day. I’ll do an set of 5 reps of the back squat and then immediately do a set of 5 reps of the weighted pull-up. After I’ve completed my pull-ups I assess whether or not I can complete another set of 5 back squats or if I should rest a little.
I repeat this process until my 10-minutes is up. Some days I may only get 3 sets in. Other days I may get in 6 sets.
Example conditioning block:
When it comes to conditioning work I’ll usually use those 10-minutes to complete a 10-minute AMRAP workout. I’ll set a timer for 10-minutes and complete as many rounds and reps as possible of whatever exercises I’ve chosen for that day.
An 10-minute conditioning AMRAP might look like this:
Example stretching block:
With my stretches I flow through them as gracefully as possible for 5 minutes. You can watch a video of my stretch flow routine that I do here. And yes, I am wearing a Darth Vadar tank top. #teamdarkside
- Kneeling hip flexor
- Half pigeon
- Full pigeon
- Arm chair
ARE THERE ANY OTHER WAYS TO USE BLOCK TRAINING
You don’t have to follow the outline that I showed above. The great thing about block training is that you can dedicate more time to any area of your training that you’d like to prioritize.
If you’re not doing any skill work and want to use that block to get in extra conditioning to focus on fat loss you can. Now you’ll have 20 minutes (2 blocks) to use for it.
Let’s say you’re pressed for time and only have 30 minutes to workout today. You can easily adjust your workout to accommodate this by adjusting the amount of blocks you use for each part of your workout or by adding and subtracting things based on your priorities, needs, and fitness goals.
WHO SHOULD AND SHOULD NOT TRY BLOCK TRAINING
Block training is can be great for the beginner trainee to advanced. If you’re a beginner or intermediate trainee looking to lose weight, build muscle, and improve your overall health and conditioning it’s a time efficient way to hold yourself accountable in the gym and to keep you from bullshitting.
If you’re more advanced and understand how to incorporate specific rest intervals into your training it’s also a great way to help you lose fat or build strength.
Block training is not great for anyone that doesn’t own a timer. I’m kidding. But seriously, if you don’t have a timer it’s going to be pretty tough to know when 10-minutes is up.
It may not be great if most of your training is done at a globo gym during peak hours. You may find yourself having to wait for equipment and this can really eat up some of those blocks. However, if you train at home or at a more private facility it can be a wonderful asset.
A SIMPLE BLOCK TRAINING ROUTINE YOU CAN TRY TODAY
Below is a super simple full body block training routine you can try. It only includes dumbbell, kettlebell work, and bodyweight exercises but I’ve also included some barbell modifications and other ideas for those of you with more equipment at home or if you train at a facility that has some of these things.
What you’ll need:
- Some sort of timer
- Your body
- A burning desire deep in your loans to build a limitless body.
Just a reminder, a block is 1 block is 10-minutes.
½ block warm-up:
Keep moving through these warm-up exercises at a consistent pace until your timer reaches 5 minutes. You do not need to go ALL OUT here. It’s just a warm-up.
1 block mobility drills:
Cycle through these exercises at a consistent pace until your timer reaches 10-minutes. You do not need to go ALL OUT.
1 block skill work:
This is where you can be creative. What is something that you’ve always wanted to learn in the gym?
If you’re not sure what you’d like to work on and enjoy variety I love Gold Medal Bodies Vitamin program. It gives you a different skill to practice every day.
1 block strength work:
- 15 – Goblet squats (or 20 bodyweight squats, or 10 barbell back squats)
- 8 – Pull-ups (or assisted pull-ups, or inverted rows)
- 8 – Dumbbell bench press (push-ups or incline push-ups)
Rest 30 seconds after each exercise and continue to cycle through them until you’re 10 minutes is up. Don’t worry if you stop after 3 sets and 12 goblet squats. Just wrap it up and move on.
1 block of conditioning:
Your conditioning is a 10-minute AMRAP. The goal it to complete as many rounds and reps as possible of the following exercises in 10-minutes
1 block of stretching:
Hold each stretch for 5 to 10 seconds. Take a big deep breath when starting the stretch and as you exhale try to get a littler deeper into it. Flow from one stretch to the next until your 10-minutes is up.
If you’re having a tough time getting in everything you want to in the gym, think about trying block training.
Any questions? Post to the comments below or contact me directly here. I read and reply to every email that I get.
Recommend resources from today’s article:
- Gold Medal Bodies: Vitamin Program – Build motor control and movement efficiency
- Gold Medal Bodies: Elements Program – Your foundation for physical autonomy
- Book: Deskbound – Standing up to a sitting world
Photo – Jenga
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