I work out in a way that many of us work out: I’m committed, but that doesn’t mean I love it. I run a few miles on an elliptical machine and lift weights with my legs, arms, and chest. I do sit-ups and side-ups and exercises for my back while on my stomach. I love none of this—I simply like the way I feel when I’m done.

So when I first perused the Elev8d Fitness workout library, I was immediately skeptical. For one, the videos looked so simple and easy. Why would I even bother doing this, I wondered? The methods were small and brief, and that looked great, at least in terms of saving time. But mostly this gave me doubts. What could this possibly do for me in eight minutes or 16 minutes, as recommended? I wouldn’t even sweat, I figured. This seemed like a way of loosening up for real exercises—more complicated and longer ones—more than anything.

From a distance these moves also seemed unlikely to do what I wanted most: prevent injuries in my back, which occasionally aches from years of tennis. My technique, you see, is not as good as the players I write about—and besides, Roger Federer still has a back ache now and then. So, of course I will too, and I never thought I could do much about it.

Well, I was wrong—so wrong—and I’m thrilled about it. My overall experience with Elev8d Fitness: It’s challenging, useful, efficient, and, compared to other workouts I do, more fun. And when I say challenging, I mean super difficult (at first) and hilarious because a seemingly simple exercise shows you how weak you are, and how much work you have left to do.

I made two decisions from the start. One, I would do this from home, in my living room. And two, if I didn’t have any shown equipment, I would compromise by following patterns as best I could, or replacing something simple instead. I figured, why not? This is meant to work, so those small additions or changes, I figured, would not kill it. This was supposed to be simple, after all, so I would stick with that.

From my first attempt I was surprised. Why? I failed, that’s why, and failed miserably. Here are a few of my favorites (read: the most challenging): The Airbench required me to stand with my back facing the wall. Then I had to slide my rear down on the wall until I got down to a sitting position, as if I were on a chair. I could keep my hands on my thighs as I held for 30 seconds. That is, if I could hold for 30 seconds. I lasted 15 as the pressure in my legs—mostly in my thighs—made me sink and give up.

The next exercise, Elev8d Side Unders, required two chairs with a rope between them. You’re supposed to squat low and stretch one leg to the side under the rope and duck under, but I couldn’t go low enough. This is no matter. I did it without the rope and felt the pressure from the move in a good way. The rope is now my goal. This led me to another at-home adjustment for the Elev8d Stair Crabs. For that you bend, put your hands on a low bench, then climb up one leg at a time while staying in a squat (you’ll look a bit like a catcher in baseball when you finish). I didn’t have a low table or bench, so I did this on my living room couch. It worked perfectly and I could feel the pressure building in my back and legs.

For the Deliberate Burpees, you put your feet wide and your hands down in front of them, then leap back into a push up with your legs at length. Hold that, then return, and then jump straight up with your arms fully extended over your head. This one makes you sweat the most.

Remember what I said about this being easy and simple? That couldn’t have been further from the truth. By the time I was done, I was sweating and could feel a sensation in my back—and it was a good sensation, not pain. It doesn’t seem to matter that I can’t do these exercises perfectly. I’ll get better, but they’re just as worthwhile, it seems, as a rookie rather than a pro—especially if you’re a rookie with no ego, which I should have been from the start. Am I standing up straighter? I’m not sure, but I think so (and it’s early in the process, too). And the better I get, it seems, the better the results will be.

Better Back Workout

Try this eight-minute workout for a better back and see for yourself the transformative effect of alignment and low-intensity interval training.

Stork Walks

  1. In a standing position, extend your arms directly in front of you, palms down.
  2. Lift your knees to your arms, alternating legs and keeping your torso straight.


Side Unders

  1. Construct a line to go under at waist-height, such as draping a belt across the backs of two chairs about three feet apart.
  2. Stand sideways at that line, squat with most of your weight loaded on the outside leg, and reach the inside leg under the line to the other side.
  3. Switch your weight to the leg on the other side and transfer your body to the other side, your torso bent, your head down. It is okay to use your hands to keep balance.
  4. Repeat exercise back to original side.


Table Pull-Ups

  1. Lie flat on your back with your head under a table, your knees bent and feet on the floor.
  2. Grab the table with both hands and pull yourself up, repeating the process for the allotted amount of time.
  3. For a more strenuous exercise, keep your legs straight.


Inch Worm

  1. In a standing position, bend at the hips, keeping the legs straight, and walk your hands forward into the plank position.
  2. Lower your legs and hips without touching the floor, lift your head and chest and pull your shoulders back, pinching your shoulder blades together.
  3. Release your shoulder blades, pike your hips into a downward dog position, pull your hips back and walk your feet in, keeping your hands on the ground as much as possible.
  4. Repeat process for allotted amount of time.


Table Pull-Ups

  1. Lie flat on your back with your head under a table, your knees bent and feet on the floor.
  2. Grab the table with both hands and pull yourself up, repeating the process for the allotted amount of time.
  3. For a more strenuous exercise, keep your legs straight.


Superman to Starfish

  1. Lie on your stomach, your legs extended directly behind you, your arms extended directly in front, hands open, palms down.
  2. Lift your hands and feet as high as you can off the ground, hold for a second, and ease them back down.
  3. Spread your arms and legs wide and lift your hands and feet off the ground as high as you can, hold for a second, and ease them back down.
  4. Slide your arms and legs in, back to the original position, and repeat the exercise for the allotted amount of time.