10 Minute Muscles for Parents

Written by Al Painter, BA & NASM-CPT, PES, CES, and trainer at Integrate Performance Fitness.

As a busy parent, it can be a bit "challenging" to find time to workout. Alright, who am I kidding, it can be darn near impossible on a good day. Between work, impacted family schedules, kids that may "need a bit" of your attention, its tough to think about a workout, let alone actually attempt one.

At my house, my 2-year-old and 4-year-old make sure that mom and dad never have a dull moment. Especially since any time mom or dad goes down to the floor for an exercise, my kids could be in another room, that is soundproofed, where they are in a deep deep sleep and BAM! Their radar starts screaming and they come running for a little dog pile jungle gym time. Par for the parenting course, yes, however it makes fitting in fitness a bit tricky.

Its a power akin to me trying to unwrap something to eat in the kitchen. I swear, I can merely think about doing it, and I get bombarded with my daughter's inquisitive inquiries:

"Dada, what is that? What are you eating? Where'd you get that? I want (insert guilty pleasure snack here). Mommy let's me have that." Then with "luck," little brother gets wind of what's going on in the kitchen, and the whole process starts over again.

So what do you do? You know you need some kind of exercise throughout the week. Especially since "they" tell you you need 30 minutes a day of physical exercise.


I've always wondered who they are and why they're so much smarter than us? If you ever find out who they are, drop me a line I'd appreciate the reveal.

Wow, that was a long stretch of pronouns for parental PE wasn't it?


One of the easiest ways to get in regular exercise is to completely abandon what you think a workout is. The biggest reason is because the notion of 60 minutes of time no longer fits if you are a busy parent. Think of exercise as a muscular M.A.S.H. unit (yep, totally dated myself there didn't I?).

You just have to get the job done well enough to get to the next day. You may not have all of the luxuries of a traditional workout (READ: time), but you can still get something done to give your muscles some work and your mind a break.

Here's the easiest way to do it: pick exercises that involve as many muscles moving at once that you can. I'm going to break a lot of hearts here, but this means toss out crunches (which you should any way, very inefficient way to work the core) and any other exercise like it.  You need big bang for the buck compound movements and those won't cut it.

One of the most efficient ways I've found is to combine squats with single arm pushing or pressing and hinging with single arm pulling. Will it get you on the top step of the podium? No, but it can go a long way to getting your heart thumping and blood pumping.

Let's assume that all you've got is 10 minutes and the meter's running until the next "Fournado" hits. All you need to do is set an interval timer to a work time of :20 seconds, and a rest period of :10 seconds.

From here you simply pick two exercises that entail the arms and legs moving together, and BAM! Instant totally body workout. Plus, with the :20/:10 time scheme, 10 sets is 5:00 minutes, 12 sets is 6:00 minutes, etc.

Here's an example of one of the more popular sanity savers, I mean mini-workouts we do at my house. All you need is an exercise band you can anchor from a door that has handles and you're set.

Superset: Hinge + Pull and Squat + Press

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  1. Set your timer to :20 of work ("on") and :10 of rest ("off)."
  2. Set the amount of sets based on how much time you've got.
  3. Start the timer and set up facing the anchor point standing on two legs holding the handle in right hand.
  4. Hinge over with your hand going away from your hips and as you come back up, pull toward you and row driving from the heels to activate the glutes.
  5. Rest for :10, then turn around
  6. Face away from the anchor point with the same hand and foot position as the pull.
  7. Squat and bring the hand back into the start of  the push postion.
  8. As you stand up push your right hand away. You should feel your heels driving into the floor activating the glutes. The farther away your hand gets from your body, the more same side core you should feel.
  9. Alternate movements until you finish the amount of sets you programmed into your timer.
  10. At 10 sets of :20/:10, you've just moved for 5:00 minutes.
  11. Rest for 1:00 minute, and the same thing using the left hand.
  12. You've hit the entire body with exercise and gotten your heart rate up in only 11:00 minutes. It doesn't get much more efficient than that.

Only have 8:00 minutes? Set the timer for 16 sets and use both hands to push and pull instead of one.

This is but one of the many ways you can find ways to fit in fitness with wee humans  in the house. Here's another pro Parental PE tip for you: set up multiple sets of bands so that your kids can play too (Make sure they are the SAME color. Just trust me, this will work in your favor!).

This does a couple of things:

  1. It involves the whole family and can get your kids into the habit of movement at an early age. At this point, my kids exercise at home with me and I love it.
  2. It also stacks the deck in your favor and you may actually get you a solid block block of exercise!

What strategies do you use? How do you plug parental PE into your day? What's your favorite way? Leave a comment and let me know, thanks for reading!


Topics: Fitness, Exercise, Family

Al Painter, BA & NASM-CPT, PES, CES

Written by Al Painter, BA & NASM-CPT, PES, CES

Al Painter is a trainer at Integrate Performance Fitness.