What’s the bare minimum I can do and still get results?

Everyone is busy and has priorities that range all over. It’s one of the things that makes us everyday people. We’re not fitness bots (not even me) and we don’t spend our days and night consumed with ideas of how we can get shredded, right? Even though my life is about fitness to a massive degree, I too have other priorities that constantly demand my attention. So, the million dollar question: what is the bare minimum we can do and still get results?

Enter: the 7-minute workout. So, this isn’t new, but absolutely worth a revisit. In May 2013, the American College of Sports Medicine released a 12 exercise workout using only your body weight, chair, and a wall. The workout is based on the science of high intensity workouts which has repeatedly shown to be even more beneficial than long, steady state workouts and in far less time. The 7-minute workout fulfills the basic requirements for high intensity effort. It’s like combining a long run and a strength training routine together.

There a couple requirements for this format to work. For one, it happens in intervals of all out effort mixed with periods of rest. In the original protocol, this means working hard at each exercise for 30 seconds followed by a 10 second rest. Secondly, you must focus on exercises that emphasize the large muscle groups and alternate between areas of the body, so a particular order is important. Overall, it should be a difficult 7 minutes, but it is only 7 minutes and you’re done.

What are the benefits of doing high intensity interval training (HIIT)?

1) Fast results: Many studies have shows you can get better results in 15 well planned minutes of interval training 3 days a week than jogging on the treadmill for an hour.

2) Burn more fat. You will burn less calories overall doing short HIIT workouts than running on a treadmill, for example, but you will lose more fat over time because of the increase in what we call EPOC (excess post-oxygen consumption) and because of the different energy systems usage when you do high intensity versus low intensity work.

3) Increased metabolism and anti-aging. Because of the increase in EPOC and human growth hormone production that high intensity work stimulates, your metabolism can be increased for 90 minutes to 24 hours after your workout and the HGH has anti-aging benefits. Your body will also be rebuilding your muscles in accordance with how much stimulus (damage) they received during a workout. The harder the workout (usually) the greater this effect.

4) Increased endurance. HIIT workouts have been shown to increase your muscle’s concentrations of mitochondria which oxidize glucose and stored fat for energy, so the more mitochondria you have, the easier it is for you to fuel endurance activities. The more mitochondria you have, the fitter you are and combining strength training with cardio has been shown to increase mitochondria more than either by itself.

5) Decreased appetite. Steady state training (running for an hour, for example) has been shown to increase appetite whereas HIIT has been shown to decrease it for hours afterwards.

6) Keep muscle and lose fat. In many ways, goals of losing fat and gaining muscle are in opposition with each other. It’s very difficult to maintain muscle while losing fat. Steady state cardio seems to encourage muscle loss, but HIIT preserves it while also burning fat. If you see the body of a competitive sprinter versus a competitive marathoner you can see the difference.

7) Improved insulin sensitivity. Too much sugar in your diet causes cells to be less responsive to insulin. This can eventually lead to obesity, type 2 diabetes, and many other health problems. Doing HIIT drastically increases insulin sensitivity and helps to reverse this process.


Here’s what the original workout looks like:
Now, some of these exercises are not accessible to everyone. Luckily, since the idea of the 7-minute workout has been around awhile, there are now a few versions, so everyone can find one that works for them. There are multiple free apps available that can lead you through the workout with built in timers and animations to make it very easy. If you have an Amazon Alexa you can enable the 7-minute workout skill and it will lead you through it as well.

I’ve got an app on my phone (simply called 7 Minute Workout) that has easy, medium and hard 30-day 7-minute workout plans. I’ve been following the hard plan whenever I want to do a quicker workout than what I usually have planned (because my energy levels are super low or it’s gotten later than I realized, but I still want to work out).

How do I find a version that works for me?

You can check out some of the apps out there or if you would like to make your own version of this workout for yourself, it’s really not too hard. You just need 1-3 exercises in the cardio, lower body, upper body, and core groups for a total of 4-12 exercises. The order is important so it should look like this:

1) Cardio exercise
2) Lower body exercise
3) Upper body exercise
4) Core exercise
5) Cardio exercise
6) Lower body exercise
7) Upper body exercise
8) Core exercise
9) Cardio exercise
10) Lower body exercise
11) Upper body exercise
12) Core exercise

If you would like to, you may select only 1 exercise in each category and repeat it 3 times. Remember that each exercise should be a challenge to you and you should be working as hard as you’re comfortable for 30 seconds for each exercise. If you’re just starting out, have 15 seconds of rest between each exercise, if you’re more confident and fit then do 10 seconds of rest between exercises, and if you’re a little masochistic, do only 5 seconds of rest between each exercise.

So, if I was to make a 7-minute workout based on the exercises in Every Day Fitness for Everyday People: Level One, it would look something like this:

1) High March
2) Bodyweight Squats
3) Elevated Wide Grip Push-Up (using a counter or wall)
4) Cat/Cow
5) Butt Kicks
6) Side Leg Lifts (alternating)
7) Walnut Crushers
8) Modified Windmill
9) Side to Side Leg Sweeps
10) Glute Bridge
11) Thumbs Up
12) Basic Crunch

This would be a great starting version of this workout. Of course, if any of these didn’t particularly work for you, you could substitute them with another exercise from the same category.

I love a lot of things about this workout method in general. It is still a great workout, it’s easy to do nearly anywhere since it’s all bodyweight exercises, it works the whole body, and best of all, it’s short enough that no matter what, you can talk yourself into it. I often will do the basic 7-minute workout two or three times as a 14 or 21 minute workout so I can still get it done in a short period of time, but also feel doubly (or triply) sure that I got enough stimulus to encourage growth. 

That’s my two cents for today folks! Click below to visit all my social media sites, buy my book, or puruse my website 🙂 

Stay well!     

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