If you want to keep fit and strong but have limited time in which to achieve this, 5BX is for you.
The Royal Canadian Air Force's 5BX plan was created half a century ago by a man named Bill Orban to help cadets get in shape.
Its main advantage, says personal trainer Gavin Walsh, is its focus on brevity the workout takes just 11 minutes. "The 5BX plan is a great programme for anyone who struggles to find the time to exercise," he says. Lack of time is such a common excuse, but if you can't find 11 minutes in your day to exercise then there is no helping you."
Full body workout
It's hard to imagine a routine that strengthens every muscle in the body yet takes only 11 minutes, but this is what the 5BX is designed to do, as well as increase flexibility and coordination. To see real improvements, the routine should be carried out five times a week or, even better, every day. So what does it entail? The clue is in the name; 5BX stands for 'five basic exercises', which are:
1. (Two minutes) Stand with feet hip-width apart and arms in air. Reach down to touch the floor, then stretch up into a backward bend. Repeat for duration.
2.(One minute) Lie on back with feet six inches apart, arms at your sides. Sit up until you see your feet, keeping legs straight.
3.(One minute) Lie on front with hands under your thighs, palms facing upwards. Raise your head and one leg a few inches off the ground, then repeat with other leg, then alternate.
4.(One minute) Lie on front with hands under your shoulders, palms on the floor. Push your upper body up, keeping knees on the floor, then lower to start position.
5.(Six minutes) Run on the spot, lifting your feet a few inches off the floor. Count one step every time your left foot hits the ground. After every 75 steps, do 10 scissor jumps.
The key to the success of the 5BX is its simplicity. The exercises can be carried out anywhere, which is why they are suited to members of the armed forces, for whom space is limited.
Walsh says: "The 5BX exercises are really simple and need no fancy equipment. Although there is a downside to this; the likelihood is that you will get bored if you do it every day. In the short-term, this type of programme is great for those who need a kick-start, but for those who already exercise I'd suggest keeping it in the back pocket for when you are really short of time."
Adapt to improve
Ideally, of course, you should perform workouts that last longer than 11 minutes, and the 5BX is really only useful as a 'top-up' for those who do a lot of other exercises, or those starting from scratch.
"Though the 5BX does seem to work most body parts and would wake up the body, increasing your metabolism at the start of the day which is great for burning calories, you don't see many people working out in the gym for 11 minutes and then leaving.
Once your fitness levels increase, 11 minutes is simply not enough time to challenge your body and your fitness. Adaptation and progression is vital with any fitness programme.
"You should aim to get at least 45 minutes of exercise three to five times a week. There are no short, sharp fixes. So perhaps a better way of incorporating the 5BX into your schedule would be to do it three times with a five-minute jog in-between each set."
Gavin Walsh suggests these short, high-intensity workouts that can be used in a similar way to the 5BX:
1. Do 100 burpees as quickly as you can.
2. Do these 300 reps with no rest: 25 press-ups, 25 squat thrusts, 25 squats, 25 lunges, 50 jumping jacks, 50 bicycle crunches, 25 lunges, 25 squats, 25 squat thrusts, 25 press-ups.
3. Do 30 seconds of squat jumps followed by 30 seconds rest for four minutes, rest for one minute then do the same with press-ups, rest one minute and then the same with burpees to finish.
So while the 5BX has its uses as a warm-up exercise or supplement to your normal routine, it will never replace those tough, sweaty hours you put in elsewhere.