The 7-minute workout is the latest hotness in exercise science popularized by a New York Times article. As a result of this popularity, the masses have renewed hope in their on and off love affair with getting fit and healthy. So is the 7-minute workout just the latest fad in a long list of workout gimmicks, or is it the real deal?
To find out more about the 7-minute workout, I went straight to the source, an article entitled, HIGH-INTENSITY CIRCUIT TRAINING USING BODY WEIGHT: Maximum Results With Minimal Investment, published in the American College of Sports Medicine’s (ACSM) Health & Fitness Journal by Brett Klika, C.S.C.S., B.S., and Chris Jordan, C.S.C.S., NSCA-CPT, ACSM HFS/APTof the Human Performance Institute in Orlando, Fla.
The article describes the history, methodology, pros and cons of High Intensity Circuit Training (HICT), also known as High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). Fellow Body Boss Daryl, previously blogged about the importance of sprints and high intensity training. Circuit training is not a new concept by any means, but it has become increasingly more popular as society makes less and less time for exercise. HICT gives many of the benefits of a longer workout program in a fraction of the time.
The 7-Minute Workout
The 7-minute workout is a sample program for HICT, and it’s used to illustrate how HICT can be implemented to maximum effect for the majority of people. The workout consists of a 12-station circuit, alternating between total body, upper body, lower body and core exercises. The total body exercises are used to increase the heart rate while the lower, upper and core exercises develop strength while maintaining the increased heart rate.
Each exercise is performed in rapid succession at a moderately intense level for 30 seconds with 10 seconds of rest between each exercise:
- Jumping jacks
- Wall sit
- Abdominal crunch
- Step-up onto chair
- Triceps dip on chair
- High knees running in place
- Push-up and rotation
- Side plankIllustration by Ben Wiseman
- Lose Weight/Fat – The 7-minute workout, when done consistently, can be a fast and efficient way to lose weight and decrease fat.
- Minimal Time Investment – HICT training requires a minimal time investment. No drive to the gym is necessary, and you are done in less than half the time of your favorite 1-hour TV show.
- No Equipment Necessary (except your body and a chair) – With enough intensity, your body can provide more than enough resistance to get a good workout. No weights or other workout equipment required.
- It’s Simple – HICT training can help keep diseases related to your heart and lungs at bay. Also, it has been linked with decreasing insulin resistance, a major factor in developing Type-2 Diabetes.
- It’s only 7 minutes long if performed at 100% intensity, which most people won’t/cannot do. So, it’s recommended that you perform the circuit 2-3 times. That’s more like 20 minutes long.
- For individuals with hypertension or heart disease, the isometric exercises (wall sit, plank, and side plank) are not recommended. The isometric exercises can be substituted with dynamic exercises.
- HICT can be a great and efficient way for fat/weight loss, but if you are a competitive athlete looking for absolute strength or endurance gains, a more traditional training program tailored for your goals may be a better fit.
- As always, proper exercise technique and appropriate rest between exercises are crucial to avoiding injury.
- Do It 3 times – Performing the 3 x 7-minute circuits has been perfect since I’m just getting warm after the 1st circuit and close to exhaustion by the 3rd circuit.
- Challenge Yourself – If the stock workout is not challenging enough, take the intensity up. For example, replace regular push-ups with incline push-ups and regular squats with jump squats.
- Mix It Up – Missing certain exercise groups like delts and lats? Then diversify the exercises. Switch out or add pull-ups into the mix as one of the upper body exercises.
- Download an App – There have been an influx of 7-minute workout apps that include a built-in timer, voice coach and whistles to notify you when to start and stop (most important) the exercise. I use this free one, and it works great.
The 7-minute workout is ideal when you don’t have access to the gym or workout equipment. For example, I found it to be perfect between coding sessions, vacations on the beach, and when I just don’t want to drive to the gym. Furthermore, it’s flexible and extendable, so you can create an HICT program that fits your strength and endurance goals. Keep in mind that it’s only one small part of your overall strength and conditioning program, but if you are going from couch potato to active, it’s a great place to start.
What are your thoughts about the 7-minute workout? How would you improve on this workout to increase strength and endurance?