Ok, I admit, the title of this post is a strong one and reeks of the typical over-hyped media nonsense that we here at the WLCR are so strongly fighting against. We all have heard the promises of breakthroughs and weight loss secrets uncovered only to be left disappointed. This was my first thought when I read a recent article about a 7 minute workout that can be done at home without equipment. Really, 7 minutes!?! It seemed a bit infomercial’ish. My initial gut reaction gave way to cautious optimism when I realized that the information was coming from a health and fitness journal published by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) – a reputable and reliable source. So I read on and was glad I did (If you want to read the article yourself, click here). The article is touting a form of exercise they called High Intensity Circuit Training (HICT). This specific type of exercise is in the same vein as High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) but with more granularity. HIIT is just a description of the alternation of short bursts of high intensity effort with longer periods of moderate intensity (read more about HIIT here and here). HICT is more of a recipe to create a super efficient workout that maximizes intensity while minimizing time. This is not an easy exercise program, but it is a quick and efficient one.
HICT was born out of a problem created by the current exercise recommendations from most of the medical societies. The ACSM and most medical societies recommend 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity exercise or 75 minutes per week of vigorous exercise. They offer the alternative of resistance training but this is a time consuming option as well. They recommend doing one set of 8-12 repetitions for each major muscle group at an intensity of 40-80% of your one rep maximum. They also recommend 2-3 minutes of rest between each set. If you add that up, it’s a lot of time at the gym.
The time constraints of those recommendations inspired HICT. Its creators combine aerobic and resistance training into a single exercise session lasting about 7 minutes. This can then be repeated 2-3 times depending on the fitness level of the participant. This clearly cuts the workout time dramatically. Even with that short time, howeve there has been significant research, as they site in their article and as I site in my book (which can be purchased here – please excuse the shameless self-promotion), on the numerous benefits of a high-intensity, limited rest workout. HICT has been proven to be a fast and efficient way to lose weight as well. High intensity exercise leads to marked increases in catecholamines and growth hormone. This translates into significantly better fat loss. The metabolic benefits have been shown to last for up to 72 hours!
These workouts are designed to target all the major muscle groups in the body but in a balanced manner and in a way where the participants can easily transition from one exercise to the next. They can be adapted immediately to increasing or decreasing intensity depending on the level of the participant. The exercises are placed in an order that allows one major muscle group to rest while the next group is being worked. For example, you can alternate upper and lower body exercises so the one is resting while the other is active. An example of this is that your legs are resting while you are doing push ups and your chest is resting while you are doing squats so these two exercises can be placed back to back. The more intense exercises are also alternated with the slightly less intense ones. Rest between exercises is minimized (15-30sec). The objective is for the rest time to allow an incomplete recovery which maximizes the benefits while minimizing the time.
You can design your own workout based on the above guidelines. I am planning to do so when I get a moment and will post them to the workouts section. The example provided in the article is as follows:
Each exercise is done as hard as possible for 30 seconds with 10 seconds of time to transition to the next exercise. The entire circuit can be repeated up to 3 times depending on fitness level.
- Jumping Jacks
- Wall Sit
- Step-up or jump onto a chair
- Tricep dip on a chair
- High knees running in place
- Push up and rotation
- Side plank.
I would recommend keeping a count of your total reps. The importance of measuring cannot be underestimated (for more on that read this). If you do this workout every few weeks you can then judge your overall increased fitness. If any of you find other HICT workouts or use the recipe above to create your own, please post them in the comments section below. Enjoy the workout!