What is trigger training

Trigger, intermittent, micro or mini workouts are short series of exercises that are done throughout the day. This technique described trainer Craig Weller, former Marine and bodyguard, and current director of sports programs at Precision Nutrition.

The essence of trigger training is to do the exercises little by little, but regularly and often – about once an hour to do several short sets with little or no resistance.

Mini-workouts exclude heavy loads and work to muscle failure. The activity should be light enough that your brain perceives it not as coming stress and fatigue, but as an interesting challenge and a pleasant opportunity to take a break from work.

How did intermittent training come about?

A few years ago, Weller was filming an exercise library for Precision Nutrition. For 2.5 weeks, he showed different movements for 10 hours a day. He did this five days a week.

In an hour in the gym, you can perform about 100-200 repetitions, while Weller did 1-2 thousand times in one working day – an unthinkable amount for a regular workout.

For half a month of work, he significantly improved his physical form: he lost weight, pumped up his muscles and felt great. After this unintentional transformation, Weller wondered what made his work routine different from regular gym training, and identified several differences:

  • He moved most of the day, but little by little and not super intense, so it wasn’t hard.
  • He worked intermittently – the shooting included female and male versions of the exercises, so that while the girl was filmed, he rested.
  • He used fairly light weights – light dumbbells were taken for filming.
  • He saw the workout itself differently, not as a way to tire the muscles, but as a job to be completed.

Based on these differences, Weller decided that attitudes towards physical activity played a key role.

When you show up for a workout, work out for an hour, and do it to tire your muscles and get results, your body reacts to the load as if it were stress, and your brain quickly turns on fatigue signals.

If you distribute approaches throughout the day, activity is perceived not as a threat, but as an interesting challenge that you will definitely cope with. As a result, you can do a lot more without feeling tired and get huge benefits from it for the body.

Benefits of trigger training

This method of training can be a real salvation for those who work from home and spend most of the day sitting. Moreover, it does not matter whether you play sports in your free time. If you sit continuously for several hours, trigger training is what you need.

Save the body from the harm of a sedentary lifestyle

The more you sit, the above risk of weight gain and obesity, insulin insensitivity and type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Even regular training for an hour a day does not save you from increased risks if you spend the rest of the time sitting.

In one American research tracked the incidence and mortality of more than 240 thousand adults (50-70 years) for 8.5 years.

It turned out that people who watched TV for about seven hours a day were much more likely to die from heart disease and other causes than those who spent less than one hour in front of the screen per day.

Moreover, the risks remained elevated, even if TV watchers exercised seven or more hours a week – quite a lot, especially given their age.

Even worse is the effect of continuous sitting for a long time.

In the cross section analysis Using data from 4,757 American adults, they found that the more breaks people take from prolonged sitting, the smaller their waist circumference and the amount of C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation in the body.

Micro-training, on the other hand, will not only increase the total amount of physical activity (and calories burned) per day, but also dilute continuous sitting. In the long run, this can save you from adding inches to your waist and increased levels of inflammation.

Helps to think better and worry less

In review scientific studies have found that moderate to vigorous physical activity has a positive effect on cognitive functions, including academic achievement scores and test scores on processing speed, memory, and executive function.

In addition, scientists have found compelling evidence that physical activity reduces the risk of developing age-related cognitive impairments such as Alzheimer’s disease.

Even one short workout can have a positive effect on your brain function.

For example, in the study with the participation of 20 young healthy people tested how physical activity will affect the results in the Stroop test – a task in which you need to name the color of words, not paying attention to the meaning of the inscription.

On one day, the participants simply passed the test, and on the other, they first had a light exercise on a bicycle ergometer, and then repeated the task with color words.

Scientists have found that the part of the prefrontal cortex responsible for performing a cognitive task is much better activated after physical activity. This was confirmed by the test results: the participants reacted much faster after training.

In addition, exercise reduce anxiety and improve mood, so your chances of ending the day in a great mood are greatly increased.

Help to develop technique and improve performance in sports

The more often you do some kind of movement, the better it turns out and the less energy you spend on it. With each new repetition, neuromuscular control increases: the body learns to contract and relax muscles more efficiently and use exactly as many fibers as necessary.

Unlike deliberately working to fatigue or failure, small trigger sets will not cause fatigue, which means you can work on problem areas really often and improve your technique faster.

Relief from frequent snacking

Iya Zorina

Lifehacker fitness expert.

While I was writing this article, I tried to do trigger workouts, focusing on the desire to snack. When I work from home, I go to the fridge every 1-2 hours. It seems to me that I want to eat, although in fact I guess that this is just a desire to be distracted.

I tried replacing my snacks with 2 sets of 50 double jumps and 2 sets of 5 pull-ups. After that, I didn’t want to eat at all.

And although personal experience is not the best proof of effectiveness – if you have long wanted to give up snacking, it’s worth a try (and write in the comments what you did).

How to compose your trigger workout

Weller gave some tips on how to compose a mini-workout.

What movements to choose

For intermittent training, exercises that involve many muscle groups at once are suitable. But at the same time, they are quite simple and can be performed without a warm-up.

Here are some good examples:

  • air squats;
  • goblet squats with light weight;
  • different variations of lunges;
  • swings and snatches with kettlebells (provided that you are familiar with the technique);
  • pushups;
  • tilt dumbbell row;
  • oblique pull-ups on rings or training loops;
  • pull-ups on the horizontal bar;
  • standing dumbbell press (with light weight);
  • thrust of the expander to the chest;
  • straight and side bars.

You can also incorporate stretching and mobility movements into your micro workouts. For example, something from dynamic stretching to develop joint mobility and warm up muscles at the same time.

Pick 1-3 moves from the list and try them out throughout the day. You can do one thing all day or alternate exercises to add variety and evenly load the entire body. It is best to combine lower and upper body movements, such as pull-ups and squats, in one trigger workout.

And to protect your shoulders from overloading, it’s worth adding twice as many pulls (pull-ups, pulling a dumbbell or expander to the chest and stomach) than presses (push-ups, dumbbell chest presses).

How to choose the number of approaches and repetitions

Perform 1-3 sets of exercises per micro-workout. Remember that your goal is not to get tired, but to add a little more physical activity.

As for repetitions, test different exercises and find out the ideal number for yourself. At the end of the set, you should not even come close to failure or feel significant burning in the muscles.

Most of the exercises should be done five times. If you wish, you can increase this amount, but only if the movement is really easy for you and does not cause fatigue.

How many times a day to practice

In trigger training, the main thing is regularity and frequency. In order not to miss mini-sessions of exercises, set a timer and exercise every 45-60 minutes.

You can also tie micro-training to some frequent event: the desire to have a snack, a walk under the horizontal bar, going on a smoke break. In this case, you don’t even need a timer: you thought about the candy in the buffet – went to work out (and then took your candy, if you still want to).

You can build trigger workouts into Pomodoro mode. This is when the working day is divided into segments of 25 minutes of full concentration (“pomodoros”) with five-minute breaks between them. After four “tomatoes” they arrange a long break for 15-30 minutes.

In five minutes of rest between “pomodoros”, you will have time to do two sets of air squats and two sets of five push-ups. And there will even be time to go to the kitchen for a cup of coffee.

What workout can you try?

Weller led an example of a micro workout for one day. You can use some of the movements from it or – if you have a kettlebell, expander, dumbbells and a press wheel – do the program completely.

  • 8:00 am – 5 push-ups, 5 dead bug reps, 4 rounds.
  • 9:00 am – 5 goblet squats, 10 kettlebell swings, 5 lunges per leg.
  • 10:30 – 10 expander wiring, 5 push-ups, 3 circles.
  • 11:30 am – 5 goblet squats, 5 dumbbell rows per side, 4 circles.
  • 13:00 – 5 rolls on the press with a wheel, 5 “no money” wiring with an expander, 5 wiring with an expander, 3 circles.
  • 14:30 – 10 seconds side plank on each side, 5 lunges with dumbbells on each side, 2 circles.
  • 15:30 – 5 dumbbell rows on each side, 5 dumbbell deadlifts on each leg, 3 circles.
  • 17:00 – 5 dumbbell presses on each side, 10 wiring, 2 circles.

If you like the program but don’t have enough equipment, you can replace the dumbbells with water bottles, and the rolling with the press wheel for a plank.

What to combine with trigger training

Weller recommends not making micro-workouts the only activity of the day. When given the opportunity, go for a walk, run, dance, play outdoor games in the fresh air.

If you’re into fitness, lifting, or doing interval training, leave it in your schedule: micro workouts don’t cancel out other physical activity, they just complement it by helping you sit less and feel better.

Try microtraining and write your impressions in the comments.