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Volume 3: How I built my foundation

Minimalist Conditioning

Volume 3:

How I built my foundation

© Copyright 2023 by Minimalist Conditioning. All Rights Reserved Any unauthorized reproduction is strictly prohibited. Please obtain a physician’s approval before engaging in any exercise program. Please get checked out from a doctor, and be safe. Exercise common sense more than anything.

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“Less is More”

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Minimalist Conditioning

Volume 3:

How I built my foundation

’No pain, no gain’ is a myth. I don’t need to “feel the burn” to make progress. There is a time and place for that, but not all the time, and especially not in the beginning. “


Equipment needed:


Water bottle

Jump rope

Pull-up bar


An iron will to succeed

(Hint, hint: This pretty much all I needed for a while)

How I built my foundation

As I started to make progress in my daily goals, I started to increase the volume of my pushups, squats, floor bridges, and leg raises. I wanted to add in some more exercises, mainly pull-ups and handstand pushups. Keep in mind that I couldn’t do a single pullup, and I had never attempted a handstand pushup in my life. It didn’t matter though because once I get an idea in my head, I set my mind to doing that thing, and then I work it backwards in my mind to make it happen

I knew that slow and steady would win the race. I needed to break down the moves, and apply my slow and steady progression. I also knew that to accomplish this, that I would have to split the exercises up throughout the days of the week, so that I would not burn myself out. I was making progress on a few exercises but let’s face it, I was still not in very good shape. I knew my body wouldn’t be able to handle three to five sets of six or seven exercises every day so I had to split it up and take it slow.

I had tried getting in shape plenty of times in the past, and my mind would push me harder than my body could keep up. I would set my mind with a goal in mind to do 50 pushups. I would fight so hard to do those 50 pushups, and I would grind it out and do them. However, my body would scream at me, my lungs would burn. My stiff, sore joints would lock up so bad that I could barely move my arms. I wouldn’t be able to do anything for a few days, which always involved bad decisions those days. I would get frustrated, hurt or quit. Soon it was back to inactivity and, packing on more LB’s.

I had to discipline my mind to keeping myself in check. I have always been my own worst enemy. I could push myself beyond the basic levels of what my body was capable of and end up getting hurt. I would try to sprint before I could walk. I had to build the foundation first.

I knew that the training volume would be the same or greater if I did something every day, as opposed to a few hard days each week.

I have mentioned “volume” a few times. It’s a great way to track progress for a set period of time, whether daily, weekly, monthly.

Training volume is calculated by weight times repetitions times sets.

For example: a 200-pound person doing three sets of pushups for 10 repetitions would be 6000 lbs.

Calculate the volume for each exercise that day then add it up as the week goes by each day and that’s the total weekly training volume.

This is actually one of my favorite ways to track progression. It looks at the big picture instead of each individual set.

I had a gym teacher in high school who taught me this. I was asking him questions about lifting weights after class, and he gave me work out program printed on a thick piece of paper. It was the basic exercises: Barbell squats, deadlifts, bench presses, shoulder press, power cleans, etc. split up over multiple days during the week. I had to write down the weight and repetitions for each set of each exercise. Then I would add the volume up each day and then each week. I handed it in to him at the end of the week and he gave me a new workout sheet. Same thing the next week. We looked at the training volume each week and he showed me how my training volume was increasing over the month without me really sweating each individual set. Before I talked to him, I felt like I had to add weight to every set or I wasn’t making progress. He helped put my teenage testosterone and enthusiasm in check. He showed me what a simple 5- pound increase to an exercise did over the course of the week.

It was simple, safe, old-school progressive training at work. It also showed me the value to writing down my work outs every time.

My experience has shown me that old-school, progressive training will always be effective.

As I rebuilt my foundation, I wanted to increase my weekly training volume slowly over time for each exercise. In order to do that, I had to change one of the other variables (such as the weight used, number of sets or repetitions or decreasing the rest between sets) to make the exercise harder. Since I was using my bodyweight for resistance, which made the weight constant, I could change the “weight” by choosing a more difficult variation of the exercise. For example, instead of countertop pushups, I went to standard pushup position. This is progressive training in a nutshell.

I got a notebook, and wrote down how many repetitions of each exercise that I was going to do. If I said that I was getting ten repetitions that day of an exercise then it was pretty much set in stone. For example, if it took me all day to get my ten pullups, then it took me all day but I had to get it done that day, no matter what.

I set a repetition goal for each set of each exercise. Once I hit those repetitions for the set, then I added another set instead of adding reps to the set. I wanted to work up to three to five sets of each exercise. Once I hit the given number of reps for those five sets, I would make the exercise harder. For example, I started doing my pushups holding on the counter of the bathroom sink. I wanted to do 20 reps. Once I hit 20 reps, I would rest for a few minutes, and then add in another set. Once that got easy, I added another set until I could do my five sets of 20.

Once that was accomplished, it was time to move on. I got into the standard pushup position and started the progression all over again. Once I hit my 5 sets of 20, it was again time to move on. I then did pushups with one leg in the air to make it harder.

Training has to be progressive to make progress. Our bodies will adapt to the demands we put on it. There ways to make every exercise harder. I can change the angle or add weight. Speed up or slow down. Decrease the amount of rest between sets. The variations are endless. The training just has to be progressive somehow.

I find the hardest version of an exercise that I can safely handle. If the best I can do is push against a wall or sit down in a chair, then that’s where I start. I will practice that movement every day until it gets easy. If I can only, do it a few minutes each day then that’s what I can do and its okay. I know my body will change and adapt to what I asking it to do. I also know that any movement is better than no movement.

At first, I didn’t have a routine and exercise wasn’t a daily habit. I also knew that my beat-up body would not be able to handle long, intense sessions so I worked my exercises into my daily routine any way I could. I figured that if I started with bodyweight exercises, I could protect me from myself and not hurt myself with weights. This would also help my endurance and my range of motion. I would do them at a slow tempo. Plus, since I was doing bodyweight exercises, I always had my gym wherever I went. I had no excuses to hit my daily numbers.

Eventually, my body adapted to the push-ups, leg raises, squats, and walking. I took the same approach as I added in the pull-ups and other basic exercises. I could do one pull-up so I started there. I couldn’t do a handstand so I started with a headstand against the wall and kept increasing the time I help myself in that position and focused on contracting the muscles in my body to stabilize myself. Bridges weren’t going to happen so I laid on my back and started by lifting my hips into the air. I added in the rowing machine for cardio and started tracking time and distance rowed in my trusty notebook.

My sessions got structured and I woke up every morning to get after it. I love working out in the mornings because I know that it is a time that I can always stick to and something won’t come up.

This basic system of progression what I use. I still take my time progressing along the way, even if I feel like I can do more, so that my joints can catch up to my muscles.

I have added in more exercises along the way and different modalities such as kettlebells, dumbbells, sandbags, and some barbells. I also jump rope and swim almost every day. However, despite these new exercises, the foundation of my program is still my basic exercises that I started with: push-ups, squats, bridges, handstands, leg raises, and pull-ups.

It’s the minimalist in me. I want to pick the most effective exercises, and master them. I want to get the most bang for my buck, and get the best workout that I can with the most efficient use of my time.

Once I progressed to structured exercise beyond doing squats and pushups at my desk, my weekly program looked similar to this:

< = > Monday:

Cardio training-30 minutes-Rowing, Walking, Stationary Bike

Or if I was pressed for time or didn’t feel like sitting on a cardio machine, I did interval training with a jump rope or sets of burpees for a set number of reps or 30 second sets with 10 seconds or so between.

Pull-up variation-3 sets of 10

Bodyweight Squat variation-3 sets of 10

< => Tuesday:

Cardio Training-30 minutes

Push-up variation-3 sets of 10

Leg raise variation-3 sets of 10

< = > Wednesday:

Cardio training-30 minutes

Handstand variation- 1 set for time- I started at 30 seconds and built up

Floor Bridge-3 sets of 10

< = > Thursday

Cardio training-30 minutes

Pull-up variation-3 sets of 10

Bodyweight Squat variation-3 sets of 10

< = > Friday:

Cardio Training-30 minutes

Push-up variation-3 sets of 10

Leg raise variation-3 sets of 10

< = > Saturday:

Cardio Training-30 minutes

Handstand variation- 1 set for time- I started at 30 seconds and built up

Floor Bridge-3 sets of 10

< = >Sunday:

I did some kind of light cardio like walking in the park just to get moving and did some basic stretching.

I stretch out between sets. Each workout takes me around an hour if I do the 30 minutes of cardio to start.

The variations are endless. This was my basic frame work that I still use today. I have added in some auxiliary exercises for grip, calves and core and balance work but for the most part, I keep this basic frame work. I also added in some kind of tougher type exercise at the end of each workout that I call a “finisher.” It’s something like sets of burpees, jumps, explosive push-ups, kettlebell swings or get-ups, or mountain climbers. It’s usually geared towards conditioning and meant to get me breathing heavy or build towards a movement meant to build explosiveness. I use it to tap into my primal side. I use the finisher to get a little aggressive, and it’s not set in stone. I change it up, keep it fun and interesting.

When I was getting back in shape and trying to change my life, I needed to start slow and gradually build my body back up. I kept it simple, safe, and progressive.

It built a foundation for more difficult variations of the basic movements, as well as working in other activities that I enjoy. Exercising changed my life, but I always remind myself that it needs to be steady, consistent, and most of all, it should be fun. I challenge myself every day, and I have fun doing it.

Exercise sessions should be something that are enjoyable, and I should feel good or better after a training session.

There are no magic programs. Making progress takes time and progressive effort. Consistent effort and daily discipline has been the “secret.”

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