You plus one pair of dumbbells plus 15 minutes equal fitness
I was recently contemplating one of the most common excuses I hear as to why people don't exercise. Of course that exercise is lack of time, followed closely by lack of equipment. So I wondered what would be the minimum investment one could make in time and equipment. Time wise, 60 minutes a week of moderate to vigorous exercise seems to be a general, but not unanimous consensus. For equipment of course, that would be zero dollars, using nothing but body weight. For some reason however, people just seem to regard calisthenics as not worthy, and feel the need to use some type of equipment to get the job done. The most basic piece of equipment is a single pair of dumbbells. Many guys already seem to have a pair or two stashed away in a closet or in the basement, unused. I see these at yard sales and flea markets all the time for about a buck. Many of them are of very light pink type, but I also see pairs of 10 - 15lbs as well. So with one set of 10 -15lbs dumbbells in mind, I tried to figure out how to use these in a way that would meet the criteria of a fitness based workout in 15 minutes or less. During my research I came across a site, Shovelglove, that certainly offers one possibility using a sledge hammer instead of dumbbells. Much of what follows is largely the result of my adapting his concept for a sledge hammer and putting it to use with body weight and dumbbells with the idea of achieving a minimum passing score on a physical fitness test. The site itself is worth a read, particularly the part about the trap of progress, and Urban Rangering. Oddly enough, or perhaps not so, he too is a software engineer.
Off the top of my head I came up with the following list of exercises. When I began thinking about this, I had in mind a "daily dozen" that would be done on most days of the week. I ended up going for ten. The first four exercises are kind of "required" to make this work, but the rest are substitutable with what ever you may wish to do. Do this four or five days a week and get on with the rest of your busy life.
Deep Knee Bends/Hindu Squats - with or with out weight
Over head press
lunges - with or with out weight
toe touches/Stiff leg dead lift
In starting this workout do each exercise for 10 reps, or as many as you can, which ever is less. Do each rep of each exercise at a brisk but deliberate pace, the idea is not to rush, but to keep moving. After completing an exercise, take a couple of deep breaths and move immediately to the next exercise. Once you are able to confidently do 10 reps of each exercise and move to the next after a breath or two, add 2 reps to each exercise. The last rep should be a challenge but not so hard that you might not get it. Don't add reps every work out, and don't add reps on any exercise until you can add them to all exercises. This way you only have to remember one number. Keep doing this till you are able to do each exercise for a full 50 reps. If 50 sounds like too many, start with a more modest goal, like 20 or 25. After you get there decide if thats good enough, or to go further. If when starting out you struggle to get ten or fewer push-ups, getting to 20 or 25 and hanging out there for a while is not a bad idea. For guys over 40, 30 good "Army" push ups would be sufficient to pass the push up test. A good way to get an idea of where you stand is adultfitnesstest.org. If you pass, go back and re-evalutate once a year. The key is, once you are fit, there is not a lot of benefit to pushing much further. You may just want to ride the plateau and enjoy the view.
Note - Why 50? Generally speaking, 50 is the minimum macho number for doing push ups.