The Lifehacker Workout: Exercise For Normal People

The Lifehacker Workout: Exercise For Normal People

Extreme exercise programs like P90X, CrossFit and Insanity will without a doubt kick you into the best shape of your life in a very short amount of time — but only if you stick with their crazy-for-most routines. The majority of people (trainers I’ve spoken with say something like 9 out of 10) give up on these workouts because they’re really intense and require an hour almost every day to do them. We’ve created a workout that borrows a few of the best ideas from these popular, though extreme, fitness programs, but tailored the workout to be easier for the average person to stick with, and we’ve plugged it into Fleetly, a group exercising web app and iPhone app, so we can all work towards a shared goal of getting fit. It’s equipment-free, it’s something anyone can incorporate in their day regardless of their current fitness level, but it’s still about incorporating fitness in your life. This is The Lifehacker Workout.

Photo remixed from originals by Christos Georghiou and Slobodan Djajic.

A Workout That’s Doable And Well-Rounded

I personally got through about a third of the P90X program before a medical emergency interrupted my progress; all it takes is an interruption, big or small, to feel dissuaded (or use as an excuse to stop), especially when the bar is so high. Honestly, though: I was ready for less pain.

So I turned to personal trainer and fitness competition champion Gillian Mounsey to help develop a more realistic program: One that provides variety, works out your core muscle groups with strength and cardio exercises, and won’t make you feel like you’re dying 10 minutes into the exercises. Lifehacker member The Other Half (who is an independent Beachbody coach in addition to having many other talents) offered some great insights as well.

Then there’s the inclusion of the free group-exercise tool, Fleetly. Exercising in groups helps team members stay motivated and achieve greater fitness goals. Thanks to technology we can all exercise together, in a way, even if we’re actually working out on our own in separate homes.

Why This Workout?

The Lifehacker Workout is designed so you won’t need any equipment except a deck of cards and, for tracking your walks or runs, a pedometer or app on your smartphone (many running/walking apps have built-in pedometers); Gmaps Pedometer is something you can use to calculate distance before or after your walk too. This means you can do the workout just about anywhere — and have no excuse to procrastinate. We’re starting the workout challenge in the next week or two, in fact. (More on that in a bit.)

Additionally, it’s a three-day-a-week program that only takes 30-40 minutes a day. Because we’re not doing the one-hour a day, six days a week more demanding P90X regimen, we’re working out our whole body every time (Monday, Wednesday and Friday), using good, basic movements that are easy to make more difficult as we progress.

For additional training, we’ve added an optional fourth day (Sunday) with more targeted workouts that vary each week. For those more intense workouts, however, you’ll need some equipment to get the most benefit: resistance bands or dumbbells at least, a pull-up bar and maybe a bench.

To be clear, this workout isn’t designed for building mass or getting into “beach body” shape in the quickest time possible. It’s designed for normal people, and it’s scalable to each person’s level, whether you tend to sit at your desk way too long or are more physically active.

Join the Challenge on Fleetly

One of the benefits of this program, of course, is that we’re doing it together. We’re setting up a group challenge on Fleetly for everyone who wants to join us. Once you log a certain number of workouts for the month, you’ll get your special Lifehacker medal. (It’s not about the badges, points or other trappings, though, as much as we’re all getting it done.)

We’ll update and repost this article with a link to the challenge when we’re ready to begin (in about a week or two) so you can participate, but you can get started with the Lifehacker Workout, of course, as soon as you want. Like now:

The Lifehacker Workout

Ready? Here’s an overview of the schedule. Click on the links below to jump to that day’s exercises. You’ll be able to see these shared workouts and associated videos on Fleetly too (chosen precisely for its group challenges and sharing of workouts).

Monday: 30-40 minute Full Body Workout Wednesday: Deck of Cards Workout Friday: 30-40 minute Full Body Workout Sunday: Optional Targeted Workout

A Few More Words Before Getting Started

When beginning any exercise program, remember to take it slow, listen to your body and build it up gradually. Also don’t forget to add in some stretching before and after exercising.

Finally, the importance of what you eat when you’re training or trying to make a significant difference in your fitness level can’t be overemphasised. When upgrading your fitness routine, also don’t forget to upgrade your eating and sleep habits as well.

See you all at the virtual gym soon!

Thanks to Gillian and The Other Half for their time and advice developing this plan.

Gillian Mounsey has a B.S in Exercise Science from Hofstra University and has been a personal trainer for over 15 years. When she is not training, coaching or conducting workshops Gillian devotes her time to raising funds and awareness for Hope for the Warriors™ and she also runs her own non-profit initiative, Live Fit America. Her numerous athletic accomplishments include winning first place in the nation in the 1995 United States Marine Corps National Youth Physical Fitness Championship, taking third place in the 2008 CrossFit Games and most recently, in July, taking firsty place in the 69kg weight class of the 2011 Liberty open North Texas Weightlifting Meet.


  • Crossfit is not extreme!! Its 30-45 minutes every day and is great fun! It is amazing what you can actually do when you try!! I definitely wouldn’t discourage people from trying it by calling it extreme!!

  • I have just started PX90. Just about to finish my fourth week and it has definitely made a difference to my overall fitness and well being. I read hundred of posts on here about exercise and always made plans in my calendar to start running “the next day” but it really took a structured, well set out and easy to follow routine like p90x to get me into gear.

    One thing I’ve found is that it is all to easy to make an excuse. But once you bring yourself to press play on the video you can’t really stop. You just do it without overthinking it and afterwards you always feel great.

    I greatly recommend this program to anyone who’s finding it tough to fit in the exercise. I know I spent hours each night surfing the net, so fitting in an hour after work or in the morning isn’t so bad.

    Before anyone asks.. I used to be superfit and run 10km in under 40 mins but after two years in the workforce I really needed something to get me off my arse.

  • Has everyone forgotten 5BX? Came out in the 1960’s and was revolutionary. 11 minutes a day and you can get incredibly fit. You can still download copies of the program.

  • I went to a gym for a few months, gave it a really good go, had a personal trainer who worked me hard; I stopped not because I found it too hard.. I liked that it was intense.. but I stopped because it was BLOODY BORING! Insanely, unsatisfyingly B.O.R.I.N.G.

    No amount of technology in the gym, be it MP3s, TVs, animated running tracks and all that stuff made it interesting, fun, exciting or in any way satisfying.

    There are people who enjoy the feeling they get after working out, the satisfaction that comes after weeks of training and seeing the results. Yes, I lost some flab and gained some muscles.. but I didn’t get anything “psychological” out of it.

    Intense or not, excercising is fricken boring. I am not a person who enjoys it on any level.. and no, I’m not a fatty thank you very much PT (you condescending troll), I am 186cm and weigh 86kg..

    I’ll give this thing a go though.. see if it works for me..

    • Perhaps you should consider a sport.

      I too find straight up exercising boring as batsh*t, but add some competition, desire to win, social aspect and a goal (other than a generally unhelpful by itself goal of ‘to get fit’), and you’ll find yourself not even looking at it as a workout anymore.

  • I can’t agree more with lights487’s comment about how boring gyms are, I could think of nothing worse than spending hours training on a treadmill or exercise bike except in the cases where the weather was really bad outside or you need to do a really targeted exercise.

    At the end of the day you have to find something that works for you and is interesting. For me I do a fair bit of multi-sport and running and have found the best way to keep the motivation up is not to pay a personal trainer to stand around and tell me what to do for an hour but to hire a coach to plan a program to get me the goals I want. Having just finished the freycinet lodge challenge solo and on course to do the Melbourne Ironman its def working for me.

    Hopefully the life hacker workout will help get a few people outside and enjoying the scenery because their is nothing better than going for a run or a ride on a nice sunny day and just taking it all in.

  • “Aim to do about 8-10 reps if you want to build more mass or 12-15 reps for building lean muscle.”

    I’m sorry, what? This makes absolutely no sense.

    As you can see the 12 – 15 rep range prioritises sarcoplasmic hypertrophy over myofibrillar, which is the exact opposite of what you’re claiming. “Lean muscle” (whatever that even means) is best built in the 4 – 6 rep range.

    Moreover, why is the goal on the full-body days only to do more reps? There comes a point (quite quickly on the exercises given) where you’re doing 20+ reps and as a result getting close to nothing out of it. My advice to anyone considering doing this routine is to utilise some of the more difficult bodyweight exercises from the optional workout to allow for greater progression in difficulty over time. Really a better recommendation would be to get a barbell & start lifting, but that’s outside the scope of this program.

  • I tried P90X, although I enjoyed it considerably I found that I just didnt have the space for it. On top of the room issue there was also the additional equipment required. Would be up for giving it another go when we move house in 12 months.

    As far as gym being boring, I really get surprised when people say this. I listen to music or Podcasts, music if I think I need a bit more motivation, podcasts if I don’t. Can’t say I ever get bored, I’m generally too busy working toward targets, counting reps, keeping a pace, etc etc. I suppose each person is different, but if you’re getting bored I think you’re doing something wrong.

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