Whether you call it the Quarantine 15 or the Covid 20, many of us gained a few extra pounds over the past year as our routines got turned upside down and stress levels skyrocketed along with binge drinking and Netflix marathons. For whatever reason, it just seemed harder to find the time or the motivation to exercise. We’re here to fix that, as long as you can find seven minutes. That’s all you need to battle (yes, battle) through alight-speed workout that’ll supercharge your body more than you think is possible. No, a seven-minute fitness frenzy won’t swole you up like Chris Hemsworth, but it can burn fat and build strength. “Some movement always beats no movement,” says MH fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S., “especially if you’re pushing your limits.”
So why seven minutes (instead of five or ten)? The key is intensity, according to research from the Human Performance Institute in Orlando. In a study published in the American College of Sports Medicine’s Health & Fitness Journal in 2013, scientists at the institute showed that a seven-minute workout protocol built around high-intensity circuit training (HICT) can be effective. The authors of the paper created a workout that combined total-body aerobic and resistance training in a fast-moving circuit, and their busy clients thrived, improving their strength and endurance while burning fat. And yes, you could exercise for even less time, because workouts as short as four minutes can deliver benefits. But you’d have to train impossibly hard, at an intensity even greater than 100 percent of your VO2 max (a measure of your cardiovascular output). Meanwhile, a seven-minute session elicits a metabolic response while letting you go at a more manageable 90 percent of your VO2 max.
These four workouts remix HICT principles with fun moves that help you hit a host of fitness goals. Two of them will blast fat and build strength, and one crushes your cardio fitness. The fourth focuses on recovery and relaxing tight muscles. “Motion is lotion,” says Dan Giordano, D.P.T., C.S.C.S., who designed the recovery session. Every workout keeps you moving for nearly every second of your seven minutes. Do any of these once per day, or to overclock your fitness, do it twice or even three times per day.
7-Minute Bodyweight Blaster
Rev your heart rate while building strength and athleticism with this session from Jahkeen Washington, Men’s Health’s 2020 Top Trainer winner and the owner of JTW Fit.
DIRECTIONS: Warm up with a 30-second plank, 10 reverse lunges, and 10 jumping jacks. Then set a timer for 7 minutes. Do 10 rounds (yes, really) of the first 4 exercises below. In the first round, do 10 reps of each movement, then do 9, and so on, until you’ve done 1 rep of each move in the final round. Have time left? Perform a hollow hold until time is up.
Start standing, feet shoulder-width apart, abs tight. Bend at the knees and hips, lowering until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Stand, squeezing your glutes. That’s 1 rep.
Start in pushup position.Keeping your hands on the floor, jump your feet forward. Remove your hands from the floor. Reverse the moves to return to the start. That’s 1 rep.
Stand with your torso at a 45 degree angle with the floor, arms hanging naturally. This is the start. Raise your arms until they form a T with your torso. Lower them. That’s 1 rep.
Start in pushup position, hands slightly wider than shoulder width. Bend at the elbows and shoulders, lowering your chest to within an inch of the floor. Press backup. That’s 1 rep.
Lie on your back, arms and legs outstretched, lower back pressed into the floor. Raise your shoulder blades and thighs an inch. Hold until time expires.
7-Minute Single-Dumbbell Destruction
Grab a dumbbell (or kettlebell!) and never put it down in this workout from Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S.
DIRECTIONS: Warm up with a 30-second plank, 10 reverse lunges, and 10 jumping jacks. Then set a timer for 7 minutes. Use a medium-weight dumbbell or kettlebell. Do the moves below as a circuit. Do not rest between sets; battle to keep moving for the entire 7 minutes. Keep score and see how many rounds you can complete.
- Pass-Through Reverse Lunge
Stand holding a weight in your right hand, core and glutes tight. Step back with your left leg, then bend at the knees and hips, lowering until your left knee is an inch
from the floor and your right knee is at a 90 degree angle. Pass the weight under your right thigh to your left hand. Press through your right heel and stand up. Repeat on the other side. That’s 1 rep; do 10.
- Offset Romanian Deadlift to Row
Hold a weight in your right hand at your hip, core and glutes tight. Keeping your hips and shoulders square to the front, push your butt back, lowering your torso as far as you can without rounding your back. Pause, then row the weight to your rib cage. Lower it. Stand and squeeze your glutes. That’s 1 rep; do 8 per side.
- Plank Pull-Through to Row
Get in pushup position, hands directly below shoulders, core and glutes tight, feet slightly apart, a weight just outside your right hand.Keeping your abs tight, reach across and grab the weight with your left hand, pulling it beneath your left shoulder. Row it to your ribcage; hold for 1 count, then lower it. Repeat on the other side. That’s 1 rep; do 10.
Start standing, a weight held in your righthand at your shoulder. Bend your knees slightly, then explode upward, straightening your arm and driving the weight overhead as you do so. Lower the weight to your shoulder. That’s 1 rep; do 10 per side.
Light-Speed 7-Minute Sprint
Running coach Jes Woods of the Brooklyn Track Club pushes you through a speed session that’ll smoke legs and lungs on a treadmill or outdoors.
DIRECTIONS: Warm up with a 30-second jog, then jump into the workout. Breathe deeply during the 30-second recovery windows, and go hard when it’s time to run.
0:00–2:00 ➡️ Run at a moderate pace, about 80 percent of your max effort.
2:00–2:30 ➡️ Walk or jog to recover.
2:30–4:00 ➡️ Run a bit harder than you did at the start.You’re running for only 90 seconds this time.
4:00–4:30 ➡️ Walk or jog to recover.
4:30–5:30 ➡️ Run hard. You’re running for only 60seconds, so go all out.
5:30–6:00 ➡️ Walk or jog to recover.
6:00–6:30 ➡️ Here’s your big finish. For 30 seconds, run as fast as you possibly can.
6:30–7:00 ➡️ Walk or jog to recover. Enjoy the sweat.
7-Minute Mad Mobility
This total-body flow session from Men’s Health sports-medicine advisor Dan Giordano, D.P.T., C.S.C.S., is pure back, shoulder, and hip bliss.
DIRECTIONS: Work from one move to the next, resting as needed. Take your time and take a deep breath at each stretch. Do 2 rounds.
Start lying on your stomach, arms out to the side. Lift your right foot; reach it over your left leg, aiming to touch your foot to the floor. Pause and hold. Return to the start and repeat on the other side. That’s 1 rep; do 8.
Sit on your shins, then shift your right foot out to the right, knee straight. Bend at the waist
and place your hands on the floor. Gently rock backward, stretching the inner thigh of your straight leg. That’s 1 rep; do 8 per side.
Kneel on your right knee, left foot on the floor. Place your hands together straight out in front of you. Pull your left elbow back as far as you can, as if shooting a bow and arrow. Extend your arm. That’s 1 rep; do 8 per side.
Kneel on your right knee, left foot on the floor. Put your left hand on the floor. Reach your right arm toward the ceiling, stretching your chest. Squeeze your shoulder blades. Return to the start. That’s 1 rep; do 8 per side.
This story originally appears in the June 2021 issue of Men’s Health.
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