How To Get A Full Body Workout In 12 Minutes With Body By Science

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This post has been a long time coming. I have been doing Body By Science once a week since I first started doing it with my husband about two and a half years ago, and I have mentioned it repeatedly on this blog, but I have never gone in depth about what it is, why I do it, or how to do it.

Body By Science is a book that is filled with glorious wisdom about nutrition and fitness, and it is very similar to The Primal Blueprint (in fact, Mark's Daily Apple, the web site of the creator of The Primal Blueprint, even includes a guest post from the creators of Body By Science!). This workout uses five weight machine exercises to achieve the maximum workout in only 12 minutes!

Why It Works:

This type of training engages your fast twitch muscle fibers, the largest category of muscle. In order to engage them, we have to fatigue the slow and intermediate twitch fibers faster than they are able to recover. This is best accomplished with high intensity strength training where fatigue is reached in 45-90 seconds (Body By Science, Fountain of Youth). That means your 90 minute run? Nope, unless you were literally sprinting your butt off, you didn't engage fast twitch muscle fibers (and you're also not burning fat for as long afterward -- see the next paragraph).

Not only does this routine help engage your muscles, but it helps you shed fat, too. Even Women's Health is onto it. Recent studies show that women who engage fast twitch muscle fibers lose fat and overall body weight far quicker than those who engage in steady-state cardiovascular exercise (Women's Health, The Real Secret to Fat Loss). Furthermore, they say that "if your workouts involve fast-twitch muscle stimulation by using weights... your body will continue to burn fat for up to eight hours after a session. Slow-twitch workouts (such as long runs, extended swims or cross-training sessions)... will only burn fat for about an hour after a slow-twitch session"(Women's Health, The Real Secret to Fat Loss). 

By recruiting your fast twitch muscle fibers, you will also improve your cardiovascular health. Engaging these muscles will clear out plaque in your arteries (Healthy Living, Fast Twitch Muscles & Weight Loss).

As we age, fast twitch muscle fibers slowly convert into slow twitch muscle fibers. This is why we lose muscle mass and our metabolism slows down as we age. But, by engaging your fast twitch muscles using Body By Science, you can counteract this process and help preserve your fast twitch muscles fibers as you age (Healthy Living, Fast Twitch Muscles & Weight Loss). More muscle mass and a better metabolism? Yes please!

The Basic Principles of the Body By Science Routine:

(1) Push Yourself - Up The Ante! (Time/Weight/Increase)
(2) Constant Muscle Stress - Slow And Steady Wins The Race
(3) Rest! <--omg. please. rest.

(1) Push Yourself - Up The Ante!
  • Push yourself with time: When you attempt this workout, the goal is to push yourself to complete muscle failure within 45 seconds to 2 minutes, tops (I aim for 45 seconds to 1:30, because if I can make it all the way to 2 minutes, I need to up my weight). 
  • Push yourself with weight: You should be starting out with a weight that is so difficult to lift, you are not even sure you can make it that long. Don't worry. You'll make it!
  • Push yourself to increase both: After that first workout, each time you hit the gym, you should be UPPING THE ANTE, either by increasing your weight on each machine from the last time you tried it, or by doing more time with the same amount of weight. Keep in mind that you should still be abiding by the time parameters, so if you are pushing yourself up to 2 minutes or more, it's time to increase your weight and drop the time back down!

(2) Constant Muscle Stress - Slow And Steady Wins The Race!
While you are performing each exercise, it should be done in a way that keeps your muscles under constant stress. Some tips, courtesy of Doug McGuff and John Little (the authors of Body By Science):
  • Smooth moves trump speed! Do not try to max out on the number of reps. 
  • Perform the movement very slowly. Take at least 3 seconds to move the weight even an inch!
  • After moving the first inch, just try to keep the movement going slowly.
  • Don't simply push hard and then let the weight swing back. Make sure you are keeping both movements slow and steady, so that you are working your muscles on the way back as well.
  • Don't fully extend your limbs - if you do that, the weight will be resting on a bone-on-bone tower and your muscles will get to rest for a second. Instead, once you get close to straight, reverse the motion.
  • Don't let the weights rest at the bottom of your movements, or if they do touch, it should only be for a FRACTION of a second. 

(3) Rest!
If you are doing this properly, you will need to take a day off after this workout (and, truly, it should be far more than a day! it should take you a few days, up to a week, to recover). Additionally, you need to give yourself the time to rest so that your muscles can regenerate.

Ready to go? Here are the exercises you will need to perform!

Don't Have Access To A Gym?
You can still hit the "Big Five" muscle groups with four simple free-hand exercises. This won't be quite as effective as using proper weights machines, but it is great in a pinch or if you are just getting started! Read this post for more detailed information on completing these exercises.
  1. Chin Up
  2. Pushups
  3. Squat
  4. Static Lateral Raise

Want To Buy The Books?


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