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."
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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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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