Redemption: The Matthew McConaughey Ninja Bodyweight Workout

Quick Tips

Ninja Workout

I have to start by offering an apology for misleading many of you on my previous article about Matthew McConaughey’s training philosophy.

All I did in that post was mention that “he sweats”, which I suppose made complete sense to me as the main point of the article, but left many of you readers wanting to know some specifics.  After reading it, I feel that the message was received, but it was lacking in “how-to” knowledge.  That is my error.  I hope to redeem myself by sharing a decent little bodyweight workout with you today.

In honor of Spring of course.

Hopefully I can redeem myself here.  I’m nervous.

Wisconsin Mecca

The Mecca of the Midwest

As the weather warms up here in “God’s Country”, Eau Claire, WI, the doors begin to open to all sorts of opportunity for engaging in physical activity outside.

Training outside is the greatest.  It’s freeing.  The air is fresh (depending on where you live), the sun is beaming, and quite honestly, when you train outside the workout seems less monotonous than training indoors.  Training inside year round can make you feel like a rat in a laboratory.


Alright, let’s talk about Matthew McConaughey’s workout, because that is why we are gathered here today.

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Super awkward that I had to post this pic, but needed the visual.

Let’s face it, guy has the kind of body aesthetics that women drool over and men want, yet his theory on physical activity and what it takes to maintain his physique is so incredibly simple.  I love that.  Why complicate matters?

Performance-wise, I’m not entirely sure how strong the guy is, if he has aches and pains or any sort of endurance.  But aesthetically he is doing alright.

Just sweat everyday… doing something.

I received a lot of interest in the previous article, so I should probably man up and post a workout of his… ahemmmm… or at least a workout that I believe he may enjoy participating in.

Well, ok… maybe it’s just a workout that I designed with the thought that if he and I were hanging out, he would enjoy working through it with me.  Based on some of his older interviews in Men’s Health, he tends to avoid the gym whenever possible in favor of training outside in a more natural environment.

Workout structure

Equipment:  None (although a heart rate monitor is highly encouraged)

Time commitment:  30 minutes-ish

Difficulty:  3/5

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*** Warm up***

Start with a 5 minute run at 70-75% of your HRM (heart rate max)

  • Run #1)  2 minutes at 80-85% of your HRM (heart rate max)

—>  Recover to 130 bpm

a)  20 Push Ups (no rest leading into the run)

  • Run #2)  2 minutes at 80-85% of your HRM (heart rate max)

—>  Recover to 130 bpm

b)  20 Reverse Lunges (no rest leading into the run)

  • Run#3)  2 minutes at 80-85% of your HRM (heart rate max)

Recover to 130 bpm

c)  20 Bodyweight Squats (no rest leading into the run)

  • Run#4)  2 minutes at 80-85% of your HRM (heart rate max)

–> Recover to 130 bpm

d)  20 Burpees (no rest leading into the run)

Finish with a 5 minute run at 70-75% of your HRM (heart rate max)


Fitness thoughts

Buy a heart rate monitor.

If you are going to take your cardio training seriously, you need to be monitoring your work bouts and your recovery time with a heart rate monitor.  Buy the cheapest version Polar sells if you are concerned with cost.  It will work just fine and help guide your training.  The heart rate monitor will give you insight into your progress.

On the 2 minute run, which is the “work” portion of the session, you’ll notice that I suggest running at a pace that is 80-85% of your heart rate max.  The easiest way to figure out your heart rate max is to get on a treadmill, crank it up to a ridiculously high speed and incline, and sprint until your vision becomes blurry.  The test ends when the treadmill spits you off.


Seriously, don’t do that.  However, there are some equations that you can use.  Most heart rate related formulas have some flaws in them.  They are just formulas, estimations, so this makes sense.  The Karvonen formula is “the best of the worst” when it comes to finding max heart rate.  No matter which formula you choose, remember that your heart rate “training zones” are going to be ESTIMATED.  I’d rather you use these formulas than the really old school method of finding heart rate, which is nothing more than 220-(Your Age).  220-your age is quick, but there is a lot of room for error.

Recover to 130 bpm after each run prior to working through each bodyweight exercise.  Recovering to 130bpm will keep your training efforts aerobically challenging and also provide an beats per minute (BPM) mark to green light the next work bout.  Recovering based on time is ok in a pinch, but recovering based on when you heart is ready to go again is preferred.  Your body will let you know when it’s time to go back to work.

The bodyweight strength movements that follow the rest periods are integrated to break up the monotony of running and provide a low load resistance based training stimulus.  Don’t expect to build great amounts of strength from just 20 reps of any of those movements.  If fact, let me re-phrase that last sentence… You will not build strength from those exercises.  Not at that rep count, with bodyweight load, etc.  Unless you are relatively reconditioned (which isn’t a bad thing) or new to purposeful exercise.  You may experience some strength gains, but I would rather see you work through a dedicated strength program at that point.

Scale the workout.  Run for less time if you need to.  Decrease the reps on the bodyweight moves if you need to.

Or, if you are battle hardened, increase the running time, add a few more rounds of bodyweight moves, etc.

Take your training outside and get some fresh air.  It will change the training experience.



Cheers to breaking up the monotony of running!




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