Are y’all familiar with the concept of the 7 minute workout? Our CSCS personal trainer and certified athletic trainer, John Edwards, clued me in to this fitness strategy recently. I have to say that I was a little wary. I’m coming from a history of 2 hour soccer practices with 1 hour of strength and conditioning tacked on to the end.
How can a 7 minute workout get you results? Well, John showed me the research, he explained how to make the workouts efficient and he showed me the results. And bottom line, a hard 7 minute workout is better than no workout at all. And there is research proving your 7 minutes of effort will not be in vain. Needless to say, I’m super excited to share this strategy with y’all. For all the busy moms; the busy professionals that work sun up to sun down; and everyone who has those days where 7 minutes is about all the time you have to spare. Read on good people with fitness desires thwarted by the busyness of life.
The Science Behind Shorter Duration and Higher Intensity Workouts
A growing body of evidence is showing that high-intensity interval training (HIT) initiates many physiological improvements (improved insulin sensitivity, improved lean muscle mass, improved oxygen capacity, and improved blood lipids) that are similar to traditional endurance training despite a lower total exercise volume and time commitment. Translation: HIT workouts over a shorter period of time (30 minutes vs 1 hour on the elliptical) and have great health benefits and get you results. (We’ve shared information about HIT with y’all before so I know you are up to speed.)
There is a training method in the science world called the Wingate test or challenge. Basically, you do 30 seconds of ‘all-out’ effort (most studies use cycling) against a steady resistance. Typically, someone will do four to six Wingate challenges with 4 minutes of rest in between. This gives you a workout with 2 to 3 min of maximal effort over a 15–30 minute period. Many studies have shown that six sessions of this low-volume yet high intensity workout over 2 weeks have great metabolic results which improve fitness, percent body fat and decrease risk for chronic diseases.
So the big question is, can you decrease the total workout time and still have a benefit that makes it worthwhile? Can you sneak in a 7 minute workout while the coffee is brewing in the morning? Is it worth your effort to set the alarm 10 minutes earlier instead of a full hour to exercise? Will you actually see results if you drop by the gym for a flash workout on the way home? Well, new research is saying yes, but it is all about spending those seven minutes the right way.
How to Do a 7 Minute Workout the Right Way
Low-volume (meaning a shorter amount of time or less repetitions) HIT sessions are characterized by brief repeated ‘bursts’ of vigorous (read: major effort people) exercise mixed in with periods of rest or low-intensity exercise for recovery. A few examples:
- Treadmill or Track Workout
- 30 seconds sprint
- 30 seconds to 1 minute jog
- Repeat several times
- Rowing Machine
- 60 seconds as fast as you can go
- 1-2 minutes pulling slow enough to get your breath back
- Repeat several times
- Body Weight Circuits
- 45 seconds intense body weight exercise like jump squats, lunge jumps, knee tucks, mountain climbers
- 45 seconds of walking
- Repeat several times
The main difference behind the 7 minute workout is that you are combining different HIT resistance training and aerobic exercises with minimal rest. Your workouts will need to be setup along the high intensity circuit training (HICT) mindset. Here are some suggestions on how to choose which exercises to string together for your 7-15 minute workout.
- Promote strength development for all muscle groups, either in one workout or several workouts over one week. (i.e.: don’t just work your chest and shoulders every single time.)
- Use large muscle groups to challenge yourself with resistance and aerobic intensity
- Each exercise can last about 15-20 repetitions or 30 seconds before moving quickly onto the next
- Modify each exercise quickly if you feel your intensity is decreasing at all
- Transition the length of circuit or type of exercise to minimize your rest time
- If you have to take a break, allow less than 15 seconds or you will lose the benefit of keeping the intensity high for at least 7 minutes.
- Ideally, perform 7 minutes, rest for 60-120 seconds and repeat the 7 minute circuit again or a few times.
I know it sounds contradictory: You want to work as hard as you can but you don’t want to work so hard that you have to completely stop and rest. One way to accomplish this is line up your exercises so you give one muscle group a rest while working another muscle group. For example: do diamond pushups right after doing squats or do a plank to catch your breath right after doing an intense cardio exercise like mountain climbers.
To make the most out of your short duration workout, do a series of exercises that you can perform in quick succession-using proper form and technique-and at high intensity with minimal rest.
7 Minute Workout Example
30 second exercises + 10 second transitions + no rests = 7.5 minutes
- Jumping Jacks 30s – Total Body/Aerobic
- Wall Sit 30s – Lower Body
- Push Ups 30s – Upper Body
- Abdominal Crunch – Core
- Step Ups with Knee High Onto Chair 30s – Total Body
- Squat 30s – Lower Body
- Triceps Dip on Chair 30s – Upper Body
- Plank 30s – Core
- High Knees/Running in Place 30s – Total Body/Aerobic
- Lunch Jumps 30s -Lower Body/Aerobic
- Push Up and Rotation 30s – Upper Body
- Side Plank 30s – Core
Then if you have time for a little extra, check out this blog about “finishers” and how to get one last burn and metabolic benefit for up to two hours afterwards.