Minimal Upper Body Training

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Doing Exercises Fitness and training methods are always evolving, always changing. The theories about what is best and what is most effective will always be changing, what is most important though is that people keep pushing the boundaries and developing new stuff.

Minimimal Equipment, Minimal Space – Scott Abel

Recently I have been scoping out some of my favourites via YouTube and have come across some very cool training methods that have certainly shown me something new and have given me new ideas for training myself and clients. One in particular stood out……

Minimal Upper Body Simultaneous Training

This is a term coined by Scott Abel who came up with a method of really mixing resistance and cardiovascular work using simple Dumbbells and a Bench.

Please watch the video, it will show you exactly what this post is about. Simultaneous training is an interesting to me for the following reasons:

It is easy to get the hang of and works naturally. The movements all feel familiar, for instance the chest press is a sort of punching action and the bent over rows are a sort of rope pulling action. I was surprised at how when first experimenting with simultaneous training that it felt really natural. Most people will also find the movements to flow nicely and just work…..

It is different. the exercises are more metabolically activating as oppose to pumping up or stimulating a specific muscle. So you will feel your abs tense up, your shoulders burn and your heart start to beat faster. A real hybrid of resistance and cardiovascular work.

Metabolically Stimulating. There is no better way to empty out those muscle glycogen stores, trigger muscle growth and therefore raise the metabolism than some high intensity resistance training. You will notice that after doing a short workout like this that your metabolism will be significantly stimulated, you will digest food better, feel warmer and have a general sense of wellbeing.

It works to improve athletic performance. this to me has become a integral part of any weight bearing exercise I am doing. If it does not improve functionality and performance then its not worth doing. Simultaneous training is great in this way as it works on your co-ordination, balance and hand to eye movement. The speed at which the exercises are performed is critical in mirroring how fast you would move during a sport like Boxing, Football or Tennis….

Simultaneous training provides a real shock to the muscles. whether you are a seasoned lifter or novice I guarantee this type of training will challenge you. It is something totally new that not many people have experimented with before. The muscles are worked in a whole new way, so the impact is not as specific and deep but more evenly spread.

Very little equipment is needed . A set of dumbbells of an decent weight is all you need to get started, you don’t even need a bench as most of the exercises can be done lying on the floor if need be. From there you can cover all the upper body movements like:

  • Chest Presses
  • Rows
  • Upright Rows
  • Should Press
  • Lateral Raises
  • Bicep Curls
  • Triceps Extensions

In one hybrid of high intensity training you can blast all the muscles. Instead of doing all the exercises without a break like the video suggests I found simultaneous training to be more effective when doing 3 exercises in a row for about 10-15 reps each side then taking a break (to catch breath) and moving onto another 3 exercises. Of course though this should be scaled to your own varying levels of fitness, I suppose the higher the level of fitness the more exercises can be done without breaks.

Simultaneous training is safe. This is because the weight used is lighter than what you would normally use, therefore not making you compromise form. Remember to pick a weight that seems pretty light at first, you will notice as you get towards the last few reps and feel the burn that the weight will start feeling pretty heavy!

I would Suggest giving simultaneous training a try once or twice a week. If you can only get into the gym one day a week this would be a great way to spend your time.

The workout style is made for less equipment so if you have a set of dumbbells lying around at home give it a try. Simultaneous training is Minimal, Safe and Effective……


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  1. Greg says

    Personally, I enjoy including minimal equipment in my workouts. Body weight exercises and lots of core work. Makes it easier when I have to travel for work.

    Nice workout. In recent years, I’ve tried to focus on complex exercises to hit multiple muscle groups in as short a time as possible. The hallmark of the busy lifestyle, I guess.

  2. What says

    Is this a joke? I can’t tell. If so it’s been done before. VIDEO……

    @ What: Nope not a joke haha but I like the video you linked so am going to let this comment slip lol

  3. Luke R. says

    Yeah, I used to have this mental block that told me I needed to go to a fully equipped gym to get a great workout, so I shunned the 20x40ft “gym” we have at my work… Then I realized nobody actually USED that gym, and that a few dumbbells, a bench, and a treadmill we’re all I needed to get a great workout!

  4. mattyb says

    Is the same weight used every workout or is there a progressive element workout to workout as well? In the video the trainer used the heaviest dumbell setting for many of the exercises. Just curious what he would do next time, or next week.

  5. Lee says

    I love this site, and this is only my second post, but as the guy posted at top, Is this a joke?

    This training can be applied safely, but the video posted by Scott Abel and his trainee, are anything BUT safe… the form was so ballistic and dangerous, I’ve actually said a prayer for the trainee in the video’s tendons… they will need all our prayers for supernatural protection from tearing and strains…

    Holy moly!

    Great blog, I’ve read it for a while with great interest, but a few things make me pause.

    @ Lee: Thanks for your concern. I personally see nothing wrong with these movements for the following reasons:

    - The weight you should be using for simultaneous training should be pretty light, if you try it you will see that it cannot be done with heavy weights. Therefore very little strain on tendons.
    - The movements used are very natural they mirror things like throwing punches or pulling on a rope, Also these movements have been done for years by boxers and fighters as part of their training.

    I understand some people may find these videos or posts “weird” or “worrying” but I have much respect for people like Scott Abel who have been doing this stuff their whole life and understand that the human body is fairly robust and can take some unorthodox movements. If you are not a fan of this type of training then disregard it and stick to what works best for you. It is worth a try though……..

  6. Kashka says

    It’s an interesting method. Depend on what’s your goal is. The program will certainly stimulate the upper body muscles to some degree, while keep your heart rate up. But I serious doubt that the program will make you jacked like bodies those two are supporting there in the video.

    @ Kashka: Totally agree, these workouts are not to build huge muscles like the guys in the video. Scott Abel recommends using these workouts in order to stimulate metabolism and muscle growth in addition to more volume based training if you want to add size.

    Saying this, on their own these more intense workouts do work to build athletic and fairly muscular bodies.

  7. NUFF says

    I tried this at lunch today. My feedback:
    *I did not get as winded as the guy in the video. Maybe I didn’t go hard enough?
    *Like others mentioned, my form was terrible.
    *It felt more to me like “warmup” routine. I ended up doing 3 rounds of the circuit in the video and I was not spent at the end.

    My overall feedback was it was good and I will add it in from time to time. I may even do a single round as a warmup/neural activation routine.

    thanks for the post.

    @ N: Thanks for your feedback. It is funny what you say about not getting as winded as the guy in the video but I experienced the same thing. It was hard but not overly exerting. As you say definitely a good routine to throw into the mix every now and then, what is pretty impressive is the way it works the body. You will definitely feel a different kind of soreness following this workout…..

  8. Danielle says

    Love the website, and agree that there is a proper way to do simultaneous training. However, as a physical therapy student, watching that video made me cringe. Way too heavy of a weight and it looked like he had no control over the movement. So I think it’s important to emphasize that speed of movement is only advanced after control of movement at specified weight is achieved.

    My back still hurts after watching that….

    @ Danielle: Thanks for your observation. Very interesting stuff, I agree with you that the weight in the video is too high. Yet we need to take into account that these guys seem pretty strong so it maybe alright for them. I have now tried this method several times myself and come to the conclusion that it does indeed work best with a pretty light weight, while emphasizing the speed and movement.

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