Why Short Workouts Work

Joe Holder
4 min readFeb 10, 2022


Latest episode with GQ, “How To Build A Better Body” is live now. I give you 5 key reasons why Short Workouts Work and you can watch here.

But if you’re pressed for time, and would rather just read them real quick, here ya go :)

The whole premise of “short workouts” is not for it to be a hack but instead just to assimilate movement into your day and life for health, not just performance.

Most of us won’t be Olympic athletes and that’s not the point. We are human, and humans are made to move.

Point 1: You’ll Actually Do Them

The less time you have to attribute to a workout, this less likely you are to use too much time as an excuse not to exercise. Getting a workout in doesn’t seem insurmountable, especially with how generally chaotic life can get.

Point 2: If Workout Intense, Doesn’t Need to Be Long

Not sure why people think they need to workout both intense AND long in the same session. The majority of the research that shows efficacy of intense workouts, the duration of the workout is low or the periods of actual exercise are short with longer rest periods. Think of the oft cited and oft misapplied “Tabata” workouts where you go 20 seconds hard and then take a 10 second break. You’re supposed to be tired and wiped after the 8th set. That is less than 5 minutes of work.

Point 3: Short Workouts Add Up Over Time

Think of this as dollar cost averaging, a technique from investing and alluded to in the previous point. Doing a short workout may not seem like much but when you place them in the context of what you are trying to achieve they are very valuable. The recommendations for vigorous exercise is 75 minutes per WEEK. 150 minutes for low to moderate intensity. That is, on average, ~11 minutes and ~22 minutes PER DAY respectively.

We’ve been tricked into thinking if we don’t go for hours looking like Rocky then a workout session isn’t worthwhile.

Contrary to popular belief, short workouts work. Just think about moving for health instead of always performance. Something as simple as going for a walk with small bursts of speed is beneficial.

Point 4: Try Exercise Snacks!

They don’t have to be long or intense — consistency of movement helps improve our health. Think blood pressure, connective tissue, blood sugar control. It ain’t all about just getting a six pack but perhaps just feeling good in our bodies.

So much research is out there about exercise snacks so if you need ideas be sure to check out my super simple library that gets you used on the right track.

Point 5: Short Workouts Make Long Workouts Possible

Too many of us try to be our old gym rat selves, discouraged that we can’t do a 90 minute session when that used to be cake. Conversely, we think because we never have done a long workout we can never do that in our lives. We then never start at all.

Short workouts then either act as stop-gaps if we are used to being in shape that allows to never become “deconditioned” aka acclimated to inactivity or as an onboarding ramp if we are just getting used to moving. Think of it as our “general prep” phase.


this is the biggest unlock. Move it so you don’t lose it but if you have lost it don’t stop moving cause your fitness can easily be found again.

Hope these helped! And if anything, just take a few deep breaths after reading this :).




Joe Holder

Founder of The Ocho System™, Plant Based Gang, and Exercise Snacks. Writer for @GQ. Consultant for various, primarily @nike @hyperice @dyson. Views my own