Ask Josh: How do I Workout when I'm Crunched for Time?

 I get a lot of questions sent in by readers. Most require more than a quick response. I’ve decided to start posting these questions on my blog with detailed answers. If you’d like a question answered, message me on Facebook or email me at


Ask Josh: My biggest struggle is figuring out a workout routine that I can do that covers all my bases when I can only make it to the gym once or twice a week. I just don't feel like my routine is hitting all the areas I need it to be. How do I workout when I'm crunched for time?  - Daniel


Throughout your fitness journey, you should be constantly assessing how much time you have to dedicate toward working out. If not, you are setting yourself up for failure.

How will you do a training program that requires five hours per week in the gym when you only have two (or one) available?

There will be phases of your life where you have 1-2 hours every day. Make the most of them and get the gains while the getting is good. Recognize that most of us are not professional athletes and these periods are few and far in-between.

Many people, like Daniel, hit periods where they struggle with time. Work, family, and life all can get in the way of your fitness journey.

When this happens, we still try to hold tightly to the idea that to get results we need to hit the gym daily and go balls-to-the-wall. This is what everyone else seems to be doing. It must me the ONLY way. This type of thinking leads to failure.

Don’t believe everything that you see on Social Media. People selectively represent the parts of their life that they want you to see. We’re all insecure and we, often unconsciously, make misleading posts to get more likes so that we feel better about ourselves.

Training high-intensity every day is NOT the only way. In fact, it’s a really bad idea for the vast majority of people – those of us that are not using performance enhancing drugs, anyway.

Everyone will have phases in their life where they can only make it to the gym 1-2 times a week for an hour.

This doesn’t mean that you should give up. It means that you should work as smart as possible to maximize your return on investment (ROI).


Here’s how to maximize ROI:

Forget everything that you’ve ever read about fitness. All those articles about AMRAPS, HIIT, fasted cardio, stability balls, Russian periodization etc. Forget that you ever read them.

Most of them have merit but not for someone who is only spending one to two hours per week in the gym.


Introducing the Big 6 Movement Patterns

Now that your mind is a blank slate, let me introduce you to the Big 6 Movement Patterns. These are the six primary movement patterns that the body uses to perform almost all athletic endeavors – including hunting and playing with your kids.

If you hit all six, you will have covered all the bases. You can spend your extra time hitting arms or doing cardio. I recommend doing them in the order that I have presented them to you for maximal recovery and results.


1)     Upper Body Pull

Most people that read my blog are archery hunters. They also spend way too much time sitting and doing pressing exercises in the gym. Because of this, they have a rounded upper back and internally rotated shoulders.

The upper body pull will strengthen the muscles associated with pulling your bow and maintaining proper shoulder and upper back alignment. This is what we call killing two birds with one stone.

Example Exercise: Seated Row, 3-point row, BB row


2)     Squat variation

The squat is arguably the most basic of all movement patterns and yet almost everyone still struggles with it.

A perfect squat requires good hip mobility and proper breathing mechanics. If you want to make sure that your squat form is on-point, check out this article that I wrote on that topic.

Example Exercise: Goblet Squat, Front Squat, Step-ups


3)     Upper Body Push

This is the movement that everyone WANTS to train. It is also the most over-trained. When overly developed, it causes the shoulders to round forward and leads to an impingement in the front of the shoulder.

If you’re part of the minority that has proper shoulder and upper back alignment, feel free to train away at this pattern. If you’re not, it’s a good idea to substitute this exercise for another upper-body pull or corrective exercise.

Example Exercise: Push-up, Neutral Grip DB Incline, ½ kneeling Landmine Press

Sub: Bent-Over Lateral Raise, Blackburns


4)     Hip Hinge

Remember your basketball coach yelling at you to box out? The box out is a good example of a hip-hinge.

If I had to give one test to determine athletic ability, it would be the ability to bend at the hips while maintaining a neutral spine. While the body is designed to do this movement with ease, modern living and too much sitting have robbed many people from the ability to do this simple movement.

If you are struggling with this movement or getting back pain from it, check out this video.

Examples: Romanian Deadlift, Single-leg Romanian Deadlift


5)     Anterior Core

Inappropriately training the anterior core is the number one cause of lower back pain. I’m talking to you guy that spends half his time doing ground-based ab exercises like sit-ups and crunches. Leave those exercises in the 80’s where they belong, with the popped collars and ripped jeans.

Instead, train the core how it actually functions. That is usually to resist rotation/extension and create rotation.

Examples: Plank, Ab-Wheel, Pallof Press


6)     Loaded Carry / Locomotive

This is a highly overlooked aspect of most training programs – even ones designed by professionals. You don’t spend much time on the mountain sitting in the same place picking up a heavy weight and putting it back down.

You need a movement that will act as a bridge to real-life activity and maximize fitness carry-over. This is that movement. It trains your entire body to move, push, pull, or carry a heavy weight from point A to point B. It doesn’t get more functional than that.

Examples: Farmer’s carry, weighted hike, sled push/pull


A few more things for maximal results:

Either the upper body push or pull should be unilateral – meaning that it is performed with one arm at a time like a DB Row.

Either the squat or hinge should be unilateral – like a lunge or single-leg RDL.

Perform the exercises as three cross-sets. Do a set of your upper body pull, rest a minute, do a set of squat variation, rest a minute, repeat for 2-4 rounds. Do the same with the upper body push and hip hinge and with the anterior core and loaded carry.

Keep the set/rep scheme basic. I recommend 2-4 sets of 8-12 reps on all exercises. If you’d like to know more about set/rep schemes, click here to check out The Complete Guide to Repetition Ranges.


So there you have it, the 6 primary movement patterns that will give you the highest return on investment. Give this workout a try and let me know how it goes in the comment section.


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