The 13 Minute Workout: How to Maintain Your Physique with Minimal Time Spent

 [How I cut my total workout time in a third and even put on a lot of muscle.]

If you had asked me one year ago, “Ludvig, could you maintain your body by spending a third of the time in the gym, and barely even getting sore?” I would have flat out told you no.

Now, I’m not so sure.

Is it possible to put on weight, gain muscle, and stay in shape without adhering to long conventional workout routines? This has been the case for me the past 6 months.

Let me give you the rundown.

Despite working hard and playing hard, I went from 70 to 77 kg in 6 months. And I did it with low effort.

I have found that:

I only need 13 minutes to do an intense workout, using my special routine.

All I need is a good pump 3-7 times per week to maintain my body. So let’s say 5 days. Of course, the key word is “maintain”.

I didn’t build my body by doing this.

I built my body with heavy compound lifts (deadlifts, squats, weighted dips/pullups, etc), and it took me about 2 years of serious effort.

The rest has been downhill.

As long as I eat decently, do Intermittent fasting (been at it for 7 years) and flex my body everyday, I’m good.

Yet, I did put on muscle doing this…..


Consists of two variations:


*3 laps of Farmers Walks

*8-12 incline bench-press x 3

*6-8 x 3 standing, modified biceps curls  (use a dumbbell, do a bicep curl, then do a shoulder press)

*12 x 3 deadlifts (light weight)


*10 pull-ups x 3

*8-15 leg extensions x 3

*15 dips x 3

*8-12 tricep throwback x 3

*8-12 tricep/wrist-machine x 3   (don’t know the name for this one — see picture below)

And then there is some light stretching in between while catching your breath. Otherwise no breaks. So, while it’s not heavy, it is intense. By the end, you should have a serious pump and you should be very tired.


Throw in an additional exercise in between if you can. It will become a fun challenge.

My workouts range between 10-20 minutes. 13 is the average.


The point is to gain a pump. It makes you feel great and helps you maintain muscle mass. Like Arnold said,

To ensure you get a pump, you need to have enough minerals in your body. Such as zinc, magnesium and potassium. Avoid being drained of these by not drinking too much coffee, getting enough sleep, and not eating too much salt.

Eat bananas, broccoli and spinach and you will be fine.

Summary Action Points:

Here is how you start implementing the 13 Minute Workout:

  • Work out at least 5 days for the next week
  • Try the exercises listed above unless you have a better idea
  • Do not take any break longer than 15 seconds in between sets

If it works, do it another week, and another. Then see if you can maintain it like me.


If you had told me this was possible one year ago, I would have scoffed at you.

If you are busy and cannot do long workouts of 45+ minutes several times per week, give this approach a try.

It’s not going to be quite as powerful, but it’s way more effective (higher return on time invested).

This unorthodox approach has been working for me the last 6 months. See if it works for you too —

This is assuming you already built up a solid foundation in the gym (muscle mass + low body fat). Which took me two years of serious effort when I first did it.

I am also doing Intermittent Fasting. I eat 1-2-3 meals per day, then don’t eat for 16-24 hours. When I had stomach problems and excess body fat, I did a 2-Day Fast every week.

how to maintain your physique with minimal time spent

Interesting Questions to consider:

-How much hard work is required for easing down like this? I’ve never heard of anyone doing this except me, but I’m sure there are others. If you are doing something similar, leave a comment describing your approach.

-Is this sustainable? It works for aesthetics, but does it work for maintaining strength? We will see in another 6-12 months.


I had some hesitation in publishing this article because it can be interpreted as a “magic pill” solution–which it is not. What this is, is a very effective way of maintaining your body. You might even gain some muscle, like I did. Overall, I am very surprised it works. It’s like gaining 80% of the results in 10% of the time.

UPDATE: 11th September 2019

I did this for about 9 months and it worked. But now I started adding fat on my tummy, so I can no longer recommend it.

But if you are in very good shape, you can perhaps use this as a rule of thumb.

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  1. Thank you for sharing your routine. Maybe you just naturally have low bodyfat levels which makes a 13 minute workout 5 times a week enough. Personally I’d just get fat.

  2. Appreciate the detail you went into your workout route. I know I need to up my game but I had a previous ankle injury so I started with yoga workouts – couldn’t believe how much I sweat and holding certain poses definitely made me feel the burn. I think now I can move though into more strenuous weight bearing.

  3. Hi, Ludvig.

    I can’t figure out what that tricep/wrist-machine exercise is. It looks like a back exercise? Please explain more in detail, or mention similar exercises.


    • Hi Håkon,

      That’s the “Lat Pulldown Machine” – see image:

      You can use this machine to pull vertically (as I am doing in the article picture). Then you do that, using your wrists and triceps. Your form should look almost like a preying mantis.

      This isolation exercise will give you big upper wrists / lower triceps (making you look better in a shirt). But I doubt it makes you much stronger in real life. :)

  4. I’m currently in school studying a hard tech related subject. I’m in the process of canceling my gym membership since time is such a precious commodity nowadays. I’m not bashing your article Ludvig but even just going to the gym might not be possible. I’ve also read Wall Street Playboys’s Efficiency and have arrived to the same conclusion that going to the gym isn’t possible.

    I do have a pullup bar, a kettlebell, a backpack (to do weighted pullups), fat gripz, a jump rope, and it’s about to get cold here in Chicago. The general structure is:
    * hang in there for 30 more seconds of pain.
    * blood circulation is great for the brain (nootropic boost).

    Do whatever works for you and your situation!

  5. Ever heard of Art De Vany (the so called grandfather of Paleo)? He does this kind of work out (6 days a week of 10 – 15 minutes per week). He’s 80 and in better shape than most people in their 20s.

    Also of interest would be Dr. Doug McGuff – his workout plan is based on working out only once per week for 10 minutes – and he’s got a pretty good level of muscularity for it.

    To me, this kind of thing makes perfect sense. Look at all the accounts of hunter gatherers – they all report a high level of muscularity and athleticism, and we know these people don’t have gyms.

    The belief in long workouts seems overly mechanistic to me: thinking of the body as something you ‘sculpt’ or ‘build’, like it is inert. The evolutionary approach to body building, that is, sending the right growth signals and getting adequate rest seems more correct in my view.

    • Hi David,

      Regarding Art de Vany. I had come across his name before but never read up on him until now. Thanks for the advice.

      I don’t have any particular beliefs about why this works. I’m just observing that it has worked for me the past 6 months and I will keep doing it for the foreseeable future until it stops working.

    • Hunter-Gatherers didn’t have desk jobs, soda pop, or the kind of muscle mass that Ludvig is wearing. I don’t think the typical person benefits from exercise at a level that pro athletes only do intermittently, but ten minutes a week doesn’t seem nearly enough for a person with a mostly sedentary lifestyle and a diet with more junk food than insects – i.e., most of us.

  6. Lol bro science.
    You look like a senior on an all inclusive trip to Crete on that rowing machine.
    Only missing the crocs.

  7. Why did this surprise you?

    To my understanding it’s all about four factors: consistency and genetics and diet and sleep.

    Other factors like stretching, hormones, changing workouts to shock the body………. they may work but are probably less efficient.

    What is your take?

    • It surprised me because I was used to doing longer workouts and lifting heavy weights.

      –Which isn’t necessarily contradictory to doing short workouts and getting a pump, but it’s more strength-oriented and takes more hard work.

      “What is your take?”

      Great question.

  8. How do you get started?

    • Hassan, try this:

      Work out at least 5 days for the next week

      Try the exercises listed above unless you have a better idea

      Do not take any break longer than 15 seconds in between sets

  9. Been looking for something like this. Will try it out. Thanks.

  10. Relatively low weight isolations are a traditional bodybuilder thing (though probably more sets than you are doing). Bodybuilders also usually follow a stringent diet and/or a cardio cycle (in addition to all the chemistry).

    One possible long-term consequence of doing less weights, if you don’t do any cardio, is a slower metabolism. A less serious one is losing some peak strength, even if you keep the same muscle mass. That’s more easily reversible, if you ever want to, but keeping it light is a lot better for your joints.

    • Hi Abgrund,

      Yes, this is something I am thinking about. If it will work long-term or not. Or whether I am coasting off of past hard work + youthful physiology. I still haven’t made a conclusion.

      • You are coasting, but I have been doing this for about ten years (I do one body part per day, for 10-15 minutes e.g. 100 chinups in as few sets as I can manage, or four heavy + one light set of bench press, or five sets of bodyweight squats) and am still in pretty good shape.

      • 10 years is a long time. Your approach seems effective.

  11. You got to build the core before you can make the score. Feel free to quote me on that.

  12. I will give this a try for the next 3 weeks.

  13. Twitter individual says

    It is good that you speak your mind even though it is a general topic such as fitness.

  14. Thanks for sharing the routine bro

  15. Thanks for sharing your tactics. I wish i knew it 10 uears ago. Keep it up still.

    • I did not learn about this until recently. It developed out of advice from a friend and personal experimentation. My friend advised me to try doing workouts 5-7 days per week and do isolation exercises (because it was low-hanging fruit). So I did that.

      However, his workouts were around 35-75 minutes (total overkill, in my opinion). I opted for a minimalist approach, and it has worked so far.

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