The Hillfit Minimum

The Hillfit Minimum is something I came across about a month ago simply while visiting I was already familiar with Chris Highcock’s book HillFit because I received a copy when it first came out.

(As I mentioned in a podcast, the book was a sort of inspiration for designing workouts while traveling for the Australia 21 Convention, both with ideas directly from the book, and ideas of my own that sprang from it).

So what is the Hillfit Minimum? It’s a simple starting point for people new to the book, and new to exercise. It consists of

  • a wall sit
  • a pushup plank

Each is (eventually) intended to be performed for ~60 seconds.

What is interesting is that when I first stumbled across this, it struck me as a way to start the day, or even relax, after long hours spent working on a computer. And it appeared to be something that while intense enough to actively focus on, it would not induce enough fatigue to interfere with my workouts, and recovery from said workouts.

I tried it immediately, and have been performing the HFM nearly every non-workout day of the week since. Typically in the mornings, sometimes later in the day. I perform each movement for 60-70 seconds, and no more.

I could go significantly longer, but, these are not intended as exercise for me. These are intended to wake me up, and wake my body up. The HFM is great for this because these two exercises together, allow me to lightly contract and uncontract nearly every major muscle group in my body (or just, maintain a static contraction).

Even at 60 seconds a pop, the HFM allows me to focus, to breathe, and to contract.

I’ve never been a personal fan of outright meditation, but I suppose the way I’m using the HFM is not far from it. I’ve also taken to adding on to, and modifying the HFM for personal context and goals, including the following :

  • VMO massage during the wall sit (left quadriceps is still recovering from surgery)
  • wall sit at different angles
  • 12 second negative at the end of the plank (stop watch is in front of me for timing)
  • holding the plank in slightly different positions
  • following the wall sit with x3 slow body-weight squats
  • following the wall sit by balancing on one leg with knee locked + active contraction of surrounding tissue
  • laying on my SpineWorx for 10-15 minutes
  • left leg terminal knee extension, split stance, body weight only
  • cover my eyes with palms, take three really deep breaths
  • hop in place, barefoot, mid-foot strike, 30-60 seconds (this is great for “lubing” my left knee up at any time)
  • the classic : going for a walk outside
  • substitute a super-long duration static belt squat (2-3 minutes), low intensity, for the wall sit (active “stretch” of my surgically repaired/tightened MPFL)

So utterly simple, and yet, a big boost to my daily quality of life, and I’m thankful to Chris for that.

Chris also released V 2.0 a few weeks ago, which features multiple alumni speakers of The 21 Convention [James/Skyler/Bill – the big 3!).

About Anthony Dream Johnson

CEO, founder, and architect of The 21 Convention, Anthony Dream Johnson is the leading force behind the world's first and only "panorama event for life on earth". He has been featured on WGN Chicago, and in the NY Times #1 best seller The Four Hour Work Week.    His stated purpose for the work he does is "the actualization of the ideal man", a purpose that has led him to found and host The 21 Convention across 3 continents and for 6 years in a row. Anthony blogs vigorously at and

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5 Responses to The Hillfit Minimum

  1. Stuart Gilbert May 17, 2013 at 8:58 am #

    Interesting piece Anthony…It would be interesting to know the thought processes that led you to trying this out. Did you for example, feel that despite your intense exercise sessions, that there was something missing from your health and fitness jigsaw? i suppose that with you not considering this as exercise, it can therefore be labelled as activity…something it appears that in the Western developed world, we seem to be lacking in, and that which many health experts and scientists regard as now being as, if not more important for overall health and well being, than intense exercise sessions. I suppose if you can strike a balance between the two, then you have the best of all worlds.
    I also like your experimental approach to these “sessions”. I too did something similar, until slacking recently ( and my middle aged body is quick to remind me, when i’ve spent too many days sitting in a chair and not being active, so prompted by this piece I’ll be returning to these little activity sessions as well as my training.). I like to incorporate stuff like 6 second bursts of fast feet, quick step ups, one or two legged jumps onto stairs, rope hangs, but like yourself, not to the point where they will negatively effect my training sessions. I’ll be adding the Hillfit minimum to my arsenal also now. An interesting approach also to use 60 seconds. Another way would be to perhaps do it in 20 to 30 second bursts, but do it more frequently throughout the day, like Pavel’s Grease The Groove protocol. Or combine the two approaches if you were feeling energetic that day. adding at least a couple more things that you could rotate, so that one muscle group doesn’t get overworked, might help in this regard also. Just my two pennies ( cents ) worth.

    • Anthony Dream Johnson May 17, 2013 at 1:58 pm #

      Hey Stuart


      I suppose I did feel something was “missing”, but not as the fault of exercise. More the fault of being so sedentary, so many days a week (so many hours of my life basically). I’m not “up on my feet” for work, so over time this may be the natural response : do something to mitigate that inaction (which includes literally, making the effort to not sit or even stand in one place so much).

      Intense strength training 1-2 times a week is good, but, that only affects my brain and my psychology so much. Physical activity of almost any kind is a stress reliever so long as it does not lead to over training and the corresponding internal environment. Much of what I listed here leads back to just that : my physical brain, and my psychology (both direct effects as well as indirect effects via biology).

      As for explosive stuff, I still stay away from it. The “hopping” is the only exception, but this is pretty straight forward, done maybe 1 inch off the ground, nothing fancy, etc. My suspicion is that the hops mimic in a simple way “whole body vibration”, in tandem with small rom contractions for the knees and ankles. If I had access to a large vibration plate I would probably just stand on it or do tiny-top squats for the same (or better) effect.

      I did have access to a $30,000 vibration machine in Australia this past December at a nearby rehab facility. Pretty cool stuff, although I mostly did slow body weight squats, and stood on it in different positions.

  2. Stuart Gilbert May 18, 2013 at 7:15 am #

    The sedentary bit is what I was trying to get at. I’ve always been a HIT kind of guy when it comes to exercise ( it just makes common sense to me – just wish that there wasn’t so much in fighting within the community, from people trying to protect their own little share of the market ), but as I’ve got older I’ve realized that a couple of sessions a week, even if my diet was optimal, just won’t cut it. My middle aged body, certainly reminds me when I’ve exercised too hard for too long, or, on the flip side when I get up to move after long periods of being sedentary. I think that you are slowly coming to this realization also. The interesting thing to see will be how your views change as you get older. I suspect that you will chronicle the adjustments that you make as you advance in years, and it will be fascinating for not only people like me, but also yourself, to reflect on the changes. I have every copy of Richard Winett’s Master Trainer and it has been almost like I’ve shared the journey of his last 20+ years of training experience. His approaches to his training are constantly evolving and I look forward to each issue to read his reflections.
    We can thank the aging process and the wisdom it brings for quite a few useful innovations in the field of health and exercise. Close to home, if it wasn’t for the effects of training experience ( negative as well as positive ) then neither of us would have benefited from the insights of Bill DeSimone.
    With regards to my use jumps and “explosive” stuff….I would hardly call what I do explosive. ( Lol ). I use the types of jumps kids would do in the playground. These are not plyometrics or depth jumps. They are minimal in volume and one legged hops up onto the first step of a flight of stairs, for example, don’t stress my joints too much. Having developed severe arthritis in both knees from playing too much soccer in my youth, I now only perform anything after weighing up the risk to benefit ratio from a very cautious standpoint. I also do some sprinting before my leg workouts ( once again minimal in volume ) and like the jumps, I don’t do them to exhaustion, and I actually enjoy them, they make me feel like a kid again. Having been swept up in the distance running craze at one point in my life, it now amazes me that people forget how they used to run as a kid ( short bursts…plenty of rest ) and as they get older, in an effort to recapture their youth they often resort to plodding around the streets, which to me, now seems like the antithesis of what they should be doing. Even if I do go for a jog, I keep it slow and enjoyable, I’m not how I used to be, one of the runners with agonized looks on their faces, my breathing is done through my nose ( thanks Chris Highcock for that idea ) and I never go more than 2 to 3 miles after watching this….
    I still like to run, but I base it on these recommendations. The one thing I can say, now that I have finally shaken off ALL of the competitive aspirations of my youth, is that I no longer do any form of exercise that I don’t enjoy. A bit of self competition is a good thing, but no longer having to train for “something” has been quite liberating. I can do what I want and when, with no deadlines to meet, and no one to impress other than myself. If my memory serves me well, then I agree with your views on the fact that competitive sports are NOT the health promoting activities that they are made out to be by many, and it pains me to say that as a High School Physical Education teacher.
    In closing, I just want to say, keep up the good work. I don’t agree with everything you say, but I like the fact that you are a critical thinker, not accepting, blindly what is fed to you, and that you are not scared to say what you think and rattle a few cages in the process. Individuals such as yourself are liked by some, but annoy many, but you can’t be ignored, and I like that..

  3. Free Woman July 2, 2013 at 12:25 am #

    Hi Anthony!

    I’m a bit confused because I saw on here a photo or video of you wearing a shirt that said, “NO YOGA” on it and now what you are doing is actually part of yoga;

    “What is interesting is that when I first stumbled across this, it struck me as a way to start the day, or even relax, after long hours spent working on a computer.

    ….These are intended to wake me up, and wake my body up. The HFM is great for this because these two exercises together, allow me to lightly contract and uncontract nearly every major muscle group in my body (or just, maintain a static contraction).

    Even at 60 seconds a pop, the HFM allows me to focus, to breathe, and to contract.

    I’ve never been a personal fan of outright meditation, but I suppose the way I’m using the HFM is not far from it.”

    Wall sits and planks

    ….. all of this is part of Yoga so why the “no yoga”?

    I don’t get it.

    • Anthony Dream Johnson July 12, 2013 at 3:36 pm #

      The shirt was just a friends. I’m not super against yoga. Although I am opposed to “stretching” that leads to muscle and joint injury. There’s plenty of that in the yoga I’ve seen around Florida. Like in exercise, little attention is paid to bio mechanics. The focus is on “feeling good”, which is often misleading.

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