For years, The fitness world has been engaged in a game of Name That Tune–style one-upmanship, offering dramatic outcomes from ever-shorter, tougher sessions: 45 minutes . . . 30 minutes . . . 20, 12, and finally 4—as the Tabata method espouses. But a new study from the American College of Sports Medicine shows that top results come from spending just a little more time in the gym. Enter the 7-minute workout: a plenty-speedy strength routine involving high-intensity intervals (30 seconds on; 10 seconds or less off), like Tabata. You perform 9 to 12 of the prescribed moves as a circuit for 6 to 8 arduous minutes.
So why invest the extra grueling minutes? "The sequencing—full body, lower body, upper body, core, repeat—is what makes it effective," says creator Chris Jordan, C.S.C.S., of the Human Performance Institute in Orlando, Florida. "It targets every major muscle group and keeps your heart rate up."
As the payoffs make clear, the additional time is well spent. "It builds strength, functional fitness, and muscular endurance," says Michele Olson, Ph.D., an exercise physiologist at Auburn University at Montgomery. The key to maximizing gains is to change the moves. "Do the same workout regularly—no matter the intensity—and your body grows accustomed, diminishing the returns," Jordan says. "Keep the order but tweak the exercises—for example, do a standard push-up on Monday, but a staggered-hand push-up Wednesday."
Perform this plan as a circuit, executing 9 to 12 of the exercises below for 30 seconds each, moving from one to the next within 10 seconds. If you're aiming to burn major calories, go right into a second and even a third set. Complete it three times a week, on nonconsecutive days, for best results.
00:00–00:30 Jumping Jacks
00:40–01:10 Wall Sit
02:40–03:10 Chair Step-ups
04:00–04:30 Triceps dips on a chair
05:20–05:50 High knees
06:40–07:10 Push-ups with rotation
07:20–07:50 Alternating side planks
Workout length will vary from 9 to 12 exercises in 6 to 8 minutes.
Take It Up a Notch
Wall sits and crunches too easy for you? Sub in these moves for an even more ass-kicking quickie workout.
|1. Mountain Climbers|
Start in push-up position, with palms under shoulders. Maintaining position, bend left knee in toward chest, tap toes on floor; return to start. Immediately switch sides and repeat on right. Continue alternating sides, moving as fast as possible.
|2. Single-Leg Squat|
Stand on left foot, with right foot lifted a couple inches off floor, arms extended at shoulder level in front of you, palms facing floor. Squat, bending left knee but keeping right leg lifted throughout. Return to start. Repeat for 15 seconds, then switch sides and repeat.
|3. Alternating Side Plank with Push-Up|
Start in push-up position, with palms under shoulders. Perform one push-up, then as you press back up, lift left hand off floor, rotate torso to left, coming into a full side plank, and extend left arm toward ceiling. Rotate back to center, perform another push-up, and then rotate to the right. Continue, alternating sides.
|4. Bird Dog|
Start on all-fours, with knees under hips, palms under shoulders. Extend right arm at shoulder level in front of you and lift left leg to hip level behind you; hold for one count, then return to start. Switch sides and repeat. Continue, alternating sides.
Stand with feet hip-width apart, arms at sides. Squat down, placing palms on floor under shoulders, then jump feet back to push-up position. Quickly, jump feet back up to hands, and then straighten legs, hopping up, with arms extended overhead. Repeat.
|6. Lunge and Rotation|
Stand with feet hip-width apart, arms extended at shoulder level in front of you, palms together. Lunge back with left leg, bending knees 90 degrees, and then rotate torso to right. Rotate back to center, then return to start. Switch sides and repeat. Continue, alternating sides.
|7. Single-Leg Triceps Dip|
Stand facing away from a chair. Lower body, grabbing the edge of the chair, hands shoulder-width apart, fingers facing body, and legs extended in front of you. Lift right leg a few inches off the floor. Bend elbows, lowering butt toward floor. Straighten arms; repeat for 15 seconds, then switch sides and repeat.
|8. Reverse Plank|
Sit on floor with legs extended in front of you. Place palms below shoulders, fingers facing away from body. Press into the floor, pushing hips toward ceiling until your body forms a straight line. Hold.
9. Plyo Split Squat
Stand with feet hip-width apart, arms at sides. Lunge back with right leg, bending both knees 90 degrees, and draw arms behind you. Jump straight up, swinging arms overhead, and switch legs in the air, landing with left leg behind you, right leg in front. Continue, alternating sides.
|10. Side Lunge|
Stand with feet hip-width apart, arms at sides. Take a wide step with left leg to the left, bending left knee 90 degrees, keeping right leg straight and toes facing forward, and extend arms to shoulder level in front of you, palms facing floor. Return to start; switch sides and repeat. Continue, alternating sides.
|11. Staggered Push-ups|
Get in push-up position, with palms under shoulders. Move left hand forward a few inches, and perform a push-up; return to start. Switch hand positions and repeat. Continue, alternating sides.
|12. Full Side Plank|
Lie on right side, with hips and legs stacked. Place right hand on floor under shoulders, and press into floor, straightening right arm, and lift hips toward ceiling. Extend left arm and lift left foot toward ceiling; hold for 15 seconds. Lower, switch sides and repeat.