Aerobic exercise and strength training are both important components of physical fitness, but who has the time to spend hours slogging away in the gym? It turns out—you don’t have to. All you need is seven minutes of hard work. Sound too good to be true? Tell that to the researchers at the Human Performance Institute in Orlando, Florida who have published their work in the American College of Sports Medicine’s Health and Fitness Journal.
Here’s the catch—those seven minutes need to be a challenging, high-intensity effort.
High-Intensity Circuit Training
Everyone wants the magic equation for fitness. The recipe for real results isn’t hocus pocus—it’s exercise science. And the science shows that high-intensity interval training is the best way to get maximum results in minimal time.
So, what’s the recipe? It’s a workout that combines aerobic and resistance training and consists of exercises performed in rapid succession at a high intensity level. But it’s not just the exercises that matter—it’s the order and the timing.
Exercises in a high-intensity circuit should be performed in an order that allows opposing muscle groups to rest between exercises. For example, squats might be followed by push-ups. What’s more, dynamic exercises that increase the heart rate should be alternated with lower-intensity exercises—so jumping squats might be followed by a stationary plank.
Timing matters, too. Intervals are high-intensity efforts alternated with short recovery periods. For best results, the researchers recommend 30 seconds of hard effort (about an 8 on a scale of 1 to 10) followed by 10 seconds of rest.
The 7-Minute Workout
Ready for a challenging 7-minute workout? Here’s one that consists of 12 bodyweight exercises in just the right order:
1.Jumping jacks (Total body exercise)
2.Wall sit (Lower body exercise)
3.Push-up (Upper body exercise)
4.Abdominal crunch (Core strength)
5.Step-up onto chair (Total body exercise)
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6.Squat (Lower body exercise)
7.Triceps dip on chair (Upper body exercise)
8.Plank (Core strength)
9.High knees/running in place (Total body exercise)
10.Lunge (Lower body exercise)
11.Push-up and rotation (Upper body exercise)
12.Side plank (Core strength)
If that list looks easy, then you might not be working hard enough. The exercises should be performed at a high intensity (8 out of 10) for 30 seconds, with 10 seconds to transition to the next exercise. The entire circuit takes about 7 minutes. For an extra challenge, perform the circuit two to three times. The objective is to perform the exercises in rapid succession at a high intensity, with minimal rest between exercises.
7 Minutes to Success
The beauty of a high-intensity circuit like this is that it can be performed anytime, anywhere. You don’t need any fancy equipment or a gym membership and you can do it anywhere—even in a hotel room.
The key to success with a high-intensity circuit: get uncomfortable. Work hard for seven minutes—and then you’re done!
Klika B, Jordan C. High-intensity circuit training using bodyweight: Maximum results with minimal investment. American College of Sports Medicine’s Health and Fitness Journal. 2013; 17(3): 8-13.