The daily grind seems to be getting longer and longer, and as we get older, it feels like there are fewer hours in the day. For busy people on the go, the new 7-minute workout trend is a godsend, and, even better, you don’t need gym equipment, which means you can exercise anywhere! Research has revealed that high-intensity interval training and the 7-minute high-intensity circuit training sequence burns more calories than traditional longer workouts did, so it’s a win/win – for your schedule, and for your waistline. But, as with any trend that sounds too good to be true, there is a catch…
What Is HIIT
High-intensity interval training (HIIT) has become increasingly popular in the last few years. It is a training technique that pushes participants to their physical limits through cardio and resistance training using body weight in short intense bursts of exercise, with even shorter intermittent recovery periods. HIIT works by raising your heart rate and keeping it up, burning more fat in less time. High intensity training with interval recovery periods also helps people increase their physical energy and prevent fatigue.
HIIT For Weight Loss
This short intense interval exercise regime with resistance training (using body weight) is one of the fastest and most efficient ways of losing excess body fat. Intensively working large muscle groups through cardio and resistance with very little rest between sets results in EPOC, which increases your metabolic rate for up to 72 hours post-workout, meaning you will continue to burn fat, even after you’ve stopped exercising. And, not only will a HIIT workout burn more calories than a traditional workout in a shorter amount of time, but it will also trigger your body’s repair cycle. HICT-style resistance training with short rest periods may also increase catecholamine and growth hormone levels when compared to traditional steady aerobic training, which is believed to have a greater impact on subcutaneous fat loss.
What’s The Catch?
Traditional HIIT is usually about 30 minutes, between the intense bursts of exercise and recovery periods, which means the intense bits total at least 15 to 20 minutes. So, can you do it in just seven minutes? Well, not necessarily – that’s the catch. The 7-minute interval circuit training was developed by researchers from the Human Performance Institute in Orlando. They suggested that people repeat their 7-minute HICT program two or three times for maximum benefit. That still means you can complete a great and very effective workout in just 14 or 21 minutes, but seven minutes perhaps isn’t quite enough. However, on days where you really don’t have time, seven minutes is still far better than none!
Types Of 7-Minute Workouts
When it comes to short workouts in quick bursts, the best option is high intensity. Nothing beats the scientifically-researched HICT 7-minute workout, which has a number of benefits, from weight loss to muscle building. However, there are other options if you don’t have time for a long session, or if you don’t have the energy for a HIIT workout.
Anything from pilates to yoga to weight lifting can be done in 7 minutes, or in succession to make them 14 or 21 minutes, and they are all great options if you feel like a change from the original high intensity 7-minute workout. It’s hard to make yourself do the exact same workout every single day, even if it is only 7 minutes, so mix it up with these four fantastic options…
7-Minute HICT Sequence
The researchers who developed this original 7-minute workout used the latest exercise science to create this superior HIIT program that targets every major muscle group and can be practiced anywhere, without the need for weights, props or equipment, except for a chair. The sequence includes 12 exercises, practiced for 30 seconds using your own body weight, with 10 seconds of rest before the next 30-second exercise. The moves include jumping jacks, a wall sit, push-ups, abdominal crunches, step-ups, squats, triceps dips, plank, knee raises, lunges, push-up rotations, and side planks.
7-Minute Yoga Wake Up Sequence
If you want to exercise in the mornings before breakfast but don’t have long and find it impossible to do vigorous exercise before breakfast, then this 7-minute yoga workout is the perfect option for you. HIIT and HICT may not be recommended for people who are overweight or obese, extremely unfit, elderly, previously injured, or with comorbidities. Some people also suffer from low blood pressure, which can cause them to faint, especially in the morning before breakfast, so intense morning exercise may not be suited to them either. This yoga sequence is a lot gentler and more achievable for people with those conditions, however, it still wakes the body up, increases the heart rate, massages the lymphatic system, and increases oxygen intake and circulation.
The sequence begins with part of the joint release series, which wakes up your body, lubricates your joints and stretches your muscles. That is followed by two sun salutations (surya namaskar), which were designed as part of a morning ritual to wake up and get the whole body moving, encouraging good posture for the day, and stretching out muscles. Sun salutations will also increase your heart rate and kick start your metabolism for the day, without causing you to feel faint like a HIIT workout would.
Joint Release Series
Head And Neck Rolls – Slightly raise your shoulders to avoid straining your neck and complete a slow head and neck roll for the length of an inhale and exhale. Do three rolls in each direction.
Shoulder Rolls – On an inhale, move your shoulders forward and up, then on and exhale, move them back and down. Think of those four points as you roll your shoulders around three times and then reverse directions – back and up on an inhale; forward and down on an exhale.
Elbow Rolls – Lift your arms out to either side and then, keeping your upper arms still, draw big circles with your hands, rotating your elbows – again, three in each direction.
Wrist Rolls – Place your fingers over your thumbs to make two fists and slowly roll your wrists, three times in each direction.
Seated Twists – Inhale, raising your arms towards the ceiling then exhale and twist from your core, placing one hand on your opposite knee and the other hand on the ground behind you. Inhale and straighten your back and then exhale and twist a little further, turning your gaze to the back of the room. Repeat in the other direction.
Waist Circles – Roll your waist by leaning forward to one side, sending your shoulder towards the opposite knee then around in a circle so that the other shoulder ends up towards the other knee. Practice three in each direction.
Ankle Rolls – Move into staff pose and then rest your hands on the floor behind you. Slightly widen your legs and roll your ankles, three times in each direction.
Knee Lifts – Place your hands underneath your thigh and bend your knee up towards your chest, then slowly guide it back down to the ground. Repeat three times with each leg.
Hip Rotations – Keep one leg straight and hold the other knee with one hand and cup your foot with the other hand. Slowly open your hip, move it across the stationary leg, then into the chest and back down, making it a complete circle. Repeat three times with each leg.
Spine Rotations – Keep both legs out straight and twist from your core, placing both hands behind you and moving your body towards the ground, then do the same in the other direction. Inhale when you’re sitting back in the center, and exhale as you twist and move towards the ground. Complete a total of six.
Wide-Legged Rotations – Sit up straight again and open your legs wide with your toes pointing up. Lean towards one foot and around in a circle towards the other foot, as you complete the other half of the circle, lean slightly back to engage your core, making your abdominals work. Repeat three times in each direction. Exhale as you lean forward and inhale as you lean back.
Cat-Cow – Move into tabletop position, planting your hands firmly on the mat, directly underneath your shoulders and your knees underneath your hips. As you inhale drop your belly towards the ground and lift your tailbone and head towards the sky. As you exhale, round your back, dropping your tailbone and head towards the floor. Complete a round of six.
After the joint release series, practice two morning sun salutations…
The great thing about this 7-minute yoga sequence is that you can do it if you don’t have much time. However, it is not enough exercise for a healthy lifestyle on its own. If you only have time for this 7-minute sequence in the morning, then you walk half-an-hour to work and half-an-hour home, then that will increase your overall exercise for the day. Otherwise, you can add other sequences and poses to it if you do have extra time or energy, or try the HICT (above) in the afternoons as well as your morning yoga practice.
7-Minute Pilates For Your Core
Pilates was developed by a man named Joseph Pilates during the First World War, when he fitted springs to hospital beds, allowing bedridden patients to exercises and rehabilitate. Pilates spoke about the importance of developing a ‘girdle of strength’, which is achieved through targeting the deep trunk muscles. This core stability training specifically targets small, deep back and stomach muscles that control and strengthen the position of the spine and improve posture.
If your core is an area you particularly want to work on, then an intense 7-minute pilates core workout is a great sequence to add into your day. You can mix up your workout routine by practicing the HICT program three times a week and this pilates workout three times a week. Or, you could add this abdominal workout to the end of a walk, yoga session, HICT session or run to really target the core when you are already warmed up.
7-Minute Strength Workout (With Dumbbells)
The original HICT 7-minute workout still incorporates weight resistance training, using your body as weight. However, you can mix up your routine by adding a dumbbell routine once or twice a week instead of, or as well as, your HICT, yoga or pilates core 7-minute workouts.
Resistance training using weights burns more calories than cardio and increases lean muscle mass. As we age, our bodies tend to lose about 10 per cent of their total muscle mass, which is naturally replaced by fat. Weight training will rebuild or maintain that muscle and can help stop that extra fat from creeping in. Weight resistance training also increases bone density and strength, which prevents them from becoming brittle as you age. This 7-minute dumbbell workout targets muscles and bones around the entire body.
All of these 7-minute workouts can be repeated two or three times to maximize their benefits, or they can be completed one after another for an incredible full body workout. They can also be added individually to the end of another exercise like running or cycling. HICT and HIIT is extremely effective and efficient in improving overall health and reducing body fat, but it is not the best option for increasing power, strength and endurance. A mixture of different exercises, combined with a healthy diet, is the key to maintaining a healthy weight and lifestyle.