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Seven minutes in ... hell?

The truth about high-intensity circuit training

When I first heard about the Seven-Minute Workout, I immediately imagined the accompanying late-night infomercial, narrated by the same guy who screams that I should squeeze my way to a slimmer midsection with an attractive truss and get all the fitness benefits of horseback-riding by straddling a chair! All for eight easy payments of $19.99!

As it turns out, though, the Seven-Minute Workout is backed by research and science and, if done properly, can make you stronger and fitter.

“Traditionally, resistance training often is performed separately from aerobic training,” according to a report in the American College of Sports Medicine’s Health and Fitness Journal. “Our approach combines aerobic and resistance training into a single exercise bout lasting approximately seven minutes. Participants can repeat the seven-minute bout two to three times, depending on the amount of time they have. As body weight provides the only form of resistance, the program can be done anywhere.”

Kevin Kusinski is a convert. He’s a Chicago-born and Atlanta-based fitness expert who works at Snap Fitness at Agnes Scott College and runs a healthy-food service called K Squared Meals.

In his mid-twenties he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and in attempting to find the right drugs to treat it, gained about fifty pounds. He started working out, and discovered that exercise helped him to manage his depression and anxiety.

He credits the concept of high-intensity circuit training with helping him reach new fitness goals.

“It not only makes the body a fat-burning machine, but I can’t tell you how much I have sweat since I have started,” he says. “I am completely obsessed. If you are looking to get the cuts in your body, it is exactly what you need to do.”

The key is exertion—you want to go as hard as you can during the 30-second periods.

The original program suggests performing the following exercises for thirty seconds each, with 10 seconds of transition time between exercises.

“The exercise order allows for a total body exercise to significantly increase the heart rate while the lower, upper, and core exercises function to maintain the increased heart rate while developing strength,” the report says.

  1. Jumping jacks
  2. Wall sits
  3. Push-ups
  4. Abdominal crunches
  5. Step-ups onto a chair
  6. Squats
  7. Triceps dips on a chair
  8. Planks
  9. High knees/running in place
  10. Lunges
  11. Push-ups and rotations
  12. Side planks

Here’s Kevin’s version:

  1. 30 seconds of push-ups
  2. 30 seconds of jump squats
  3. 30 seconds of burpees
  4. 30 seconds of mountain climbers
  5. 30-second break

Repeat three times, then:

  1. 30 seconds of V push-ups
  2. 30 seconds of vertical jumps
  3. 30 seconds of sprints
  4. 30 seconds of chin-ups
  5. 30-second break

Repeat three times.

Beginning this week I’ll be teaching a variation of this workout in a class called Tabata Power, named for Professor Izumi Tabata, who trained Japanese Olympic athletes by taking them through a series of 20-second bursts of intense exercise followed by 10 seconds of rest, then repeated for four minutes.

According to Wikipedia, the athletes used this method four times per week.

According to regular people who’ve tried it, you might need to use a barf bag.