Let's Revisit the Seven-Minute Workout

The first time I heard of the Seven Minute Workout, I thought it was a great idea. But then I did it, and didn't enjoy it. On paper it looked too easy, and yet the side planks at the end were killer. I didn’t keep up with it, even though it was designed to give you a day’s exercise in just a few minutes, enabling everyone to stay fit with a simple routine.

The Seven Minute Workout was a blockbuster hit of 2013, first published in the May/June issue ACSM’s Health and Fitness Journal and brought to the public consciousness by a New York Times article shortly afterwards.

The NYT explained that this workout “essentially combines a long run and a visit to the weight room into about seven minutes of steady discomfort—all of it based on science.” A hack was born.

So I tried it again today. I’m stronger now than I was in 2013, so I was secretly hoping I’d be better at the workout than when I first tried it. It was a bit easier, yet still frustrating in many ways.

Let’s say you’re trying to do 30 seconds of push-ups. If you can do, say, 15 pushups, you might find yourself at muscular failure before the timer is up. Do you get to rest for the rest of the time? Or should you push yourself to squeeze out a few more reps? The timing was still a bit odd.

The whole workout felt challenging on my upper body and core, but light on the legs. 30 seconds of lunges and a 30 second wall sit are nowhere near the effort level of 30 seconds of push-ups and 30 seconds of dips. The authors of the workout are both men, and I can’t help thinking that if it were designed by women or by a mixed-gender team, it would be more balanced for those of us with less upper body muscle.

I know some people love the idea of short workouts, but I have a major gripe with them: If something’s gonna make me sweat, I’m going to want to change into workout clothes, including a washable sports bra. So then add five minutes of changing clothes to either end of the seven-minute workout, and maybe even a shower. With all that, the short duration of the workout just makes me feel silly, not efficient.


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