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The Scientific 7-Minute Workout (well.blogs.nytimes.com)
216 points by danso on Oct 24, 2014 | hide | past | favorite | 144 comments

I tried the seven minute workout for a little while and saw no improvement in any dimension. This[1], on the other hand, has gotten me some significant results so far, five months in.

[1] http://stronglifts.com/

I'm curious about your fitness level at the time of trying the 7min workout? I'm asking because it's sort of important. If you were fit before you started with the workouts, I'd expect these wouldn't be a big improvement for you.

Stronglifts looks very interesting (I've read most of thee content on the website), and it got me all excited about doing it, but quickly I realised that I can't even do basic shit.

I'd say my fitness level on a scale from 1 to 10 (where 1 is morbidly obese and 10 is an athlete) is about 2. I'm probably not obese morbidly, but I'm overweight (97Kg@185cm / 214lbs@6'1), and I've never done any real[0] sports in my life. most of my day is spent behind a desk, programming; be it at my job, or at home for a hobby. On, average, I probably spend about 20 hours (might as well be more) in a sitting position.

I tried a few of Skimble[1] workouts that were recommended for me (Easy to moderate intensity), I'd do them for 2-3 consecutively days. I'd be so sore the next few days that I couldn't lift a glass to drink; I ended up being on light painkillers to be able to do everyday things.

The 7min workout looks ideal for someone like me who's looking to take the first step towards a better life.

To conclude: Stronglifts would probably paralyse me for a few weeks after one workout. I know the author described himself as being weak at first, but people often underestimate themselves when we reflect upon our own pasts (I'm guilty of that, at least).

-- [0]: I did some sailing, which required once-a-week visit to the gym, but we mostly did warming-up stuff (which, in hindsight, was pretty tiring for me)

[1]: http://www.skimble.com/

You'll be sore for a week. It sucks; it is, for instance, hard to walk downstairs after your first and second squat session. But then you won't be sore anymore, though if you're like me you'll get a persistent burning feeling that isn't distracting. And if all you're normally doing is sitting in front of a computer, the week of soreness isn't that much of a drag.

It's also a bit tricky; there are lots of little form details you need to work out, and getting them wrong retards progress and sets you up for additional soreness. But I find that I like that aspect of it: beyond just being able to pick up heavier stuff every session, I also often walk away having figured something new out about correct form, which is gratifying.

You should also check out Rippetoe's _Starting Strength_ (there's a Kindle version of it) for a similar program and much more detail on how the motions actually work.

Have you tried "5 Tibetans"? (see here for more: http://pa-mar.net/Main/Lifestyle/5TibetanRites.html) - it's not very strenouous, and you can increase the repetitions at your own pace (this should help considering the description of your current fitness state), does not require much time or any special equipment (just a yoga mat). I am fairly active (I practice Aikido 3/times week and been doing that for 25 years) but I still got some benefit from daily practicing these. Once you have reached the maximum number of repetitions and kept at it for a bit (say, 6 to 12 months) you could probably move to something more intense, if you want.

Leads directly to a page trying to get people to buy a book. Nice.

A book from someone who explains how to perform the exercise, nothing more. From an author I am not associated with. There are probably a zillion videos about 5T on youtube, if you prefer and the original text (1930 or somesuch) is probably available for free as a pdf. I believe most people would prefer something more "modern", though, that's why that specific book is on the page.

(Yeah, I have a referral link to Amazon on the left, but I am not exactly forcing anyone to buy the book).

First off, don't exercise two to three days continuously, especially if you are just starting off. If you are targeting different muscle groups, it's okay, but if you are targeting the same ones, it's not necessary.

Everyone has a different reason for working out. What's yours? Is it for strength? Building muscles? Losing weight? Different goals call for different routines.

If you are interested in StrongLifts, I would just suggest doing it with a weight that you feel comfortable with that doesn't completely paralyze you after a workout, not that StrongLifts is suppose to do that. Having done 7 minutes workout, it's a great start.

> First off, don't exercise two to three days continuously, especially if you are just starting off. If you are targeting different muscle groups, it's okay, but if you are targeting the same ones, it's not necessary.

Not only is it not necessary, it's actively harmful. After stressing your muscles, you need to give your body time to recover. If you stress your muscles beyond your body's ability to recover quickly, you will get weaker, not stronger. If you wait at least 48 hours between workouts, you'll see better results.

Try to get enough electrolytes before training and ignore your personal trainer's suggestions to push hard from the beginning - initially go at 50% of what you think you can do and slowly increase this each new workout (personal trainers often want to show off and just kill the beginners). That way you'd avoid the "muscle week off" after a work out. Also, try to restrict soda, simple carbs and start slowly moving towards protein-rich foods, complemented with vegetables and fruits, so that you can build muscles. I started this a year ago, now my fitness is better than ever.

If you start with light enough weights, StrongLifts should be easier than the 7-minute workout. If you get a light bar (say 5-10kg) to start with (in case 20kg Olympic bars are too heavy), doing 5 sets of 5 squats with the bar should be easier than doing squats as fast as you can for 30 seconds straight. Then add 5lb to the bar each session and you should be able to progress no matter how weak you were to begin with.

I agree, I wasn't out of shape, but surely out of internal strength and even the 7min workout was a great start.

A few things.

1. 6'1" @ 215lb is not that bad. I'm 6'4" and 195lb. Morbidly obese would be like 250lb+ at your height, at least in the US.

2. If you start with light weight and follow the linear progression of a program like StrongLifts, you will not likely hurt yourself. Weight lifting is safer than most forms of cardio, especially when practiced with good form. It would be helpful if you have a place you can exercise where there is a squat cage, so that you can use safety pins, but it is also not that hard to get out from under a squat. Search for "how to safely fail a squat" for more info.

3. It will be helpful to have a coach or a knowledgeable friend to check your form. Preferably someone who often squats big already. In a pinch, you can video yourself doing and ask for advice on a forum, or even me, if you want my inexpert opinion. Respect the depth! (That means, squat until the crease of your hip is below your knee.)

4. I would guess that a bigger guy like yourself will find it very easy to make progress early on. I do not think that it is likely you would paralyze yourself doing stronglifts.

5. Soreness is a big problem for the first 2-4 weeks, but your muscles will begin recovering faster after that. You should work out through the soreness, at whatever level of weight you can manage.

6. You will make strength gains more efficiently by supplementing with protein and creatine, and reducing carbs in your diet in favor of fats and proteins.


You asked about my initial level of fitness. I didn't weigh as much as you, but I was skinny-fat. Very weak and flabby at 190lb and 6'4". The last sports I had done before this was Tae Kwon Do for a half a year back in '09 or so. And before that, basically nothing.

You can see what has happened to my strength since I started stronglifts six months ago here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B_bJrdrwGYeWV01FRmZlVFBrTjA.... (Green line is deadlift, blue is squat, gray is benchpress. The big dip recently is when my son was born and I took a month off.) Or you can see me lifting in this YouTube playlist: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLMiIOCPvdFUBq9GtCb7L3.... I am not claiming this is good form. I am very much a work in progress.

I am by no means strong, but many of my lifts have reached the intermediate level of strength. They were all way below beginner when I started.

The only thing I'd add is that if you want your arms to look good, you're going to need to throw in some curls, because stronglifts does not focus on the bicep. It is a show-muscle -- you don't really use it for much, but it's important for appearing strong in our culture.

In short, I'd recommend the barbell to anyone who doesn't have a particular bone, tendon, or muscle disease. This stuff works.

The great coach Mark Rippetoe is the to go source for strength training [1]

[1] http://startingstrength.com/index.php/site/about

SS and StrongLifts serve similar purposes are are both effective. StrongLifts can be better for people starting from very low fitness levels, while SS remains effective up to a higher strength level.

This (unofficial, but true-to-source) site is a better resource for the actual Starting Strength programs if you don't want to buy the book: http://startingstrength.wikia.com/wiki/FAQ:The_Program

> StrongLifts can be better for people starting from very low fitness levels, while SS remains effective up to a higher strength level.

Why would that be true? I believe the only difference is that SS recommends 3 work sets and SL recommends 5 sets, and SS uses power cleans while SL uses rows. Do the additional sets work better for people starting from low fitness levels?

> Do the additional sets work better for people starting from low fitness levels?

Yes, because they cannot handle too much weight and so, their training volume is very low even on 5 work sets. Note that the body will catch up pretty quick and 5x5 will be too demanding after 9-12 of solid training.

Also, SS is much more technical because of the power clean, which is a very demanding exercise. You cannot possibly do 5 sets of power cleans without putting you in risk of injury.

Too bad most gyms in my area (Los Angeles!) are not equipped for strong lifts. For example, just one barbell in the whole gym, No dead-lift platform etc. All of them just have machines . The only gyms equipped for Starting Strength / Strong Lifts workouts are Crossfit gyms but they somehow dislike the idea of only using weights. I offered my local Crossfit gym full membership fee just for access to the barbells and they declined.

Damn, this is bizarre; the kind of elitist attitude that gives Crossfit bad rep. 5 basic lifts with a linear progression (SL/SS) and some mobility/flexibility work is absolutely fantastic way to create foundational strength. Rippetoe goes into much more detail on this — http://www.t-nation.com/training/crossfit-the-good-bad-and-t..., http://www.t-nation.com/free_online_article/most_recent/ripp..., http://www.t-nation.com/free_online_article/most_recent/ripp...

Yeah, that's a shame. I understand their rationale as it might undermine their programming. At my CrossFit gym, they'll allow you to try other styles of programming only after you've become proficient at "CrossFit"

Look the other poster said, check out powerlifting gyms in your area. I've heard good things about BarbellBrigade and MetroFlex

I am doing the original 7 minute workout 3 times in a row every 2-3 days as intense as I can (e.g. 56 push ups in 30 seconds) and I saw huge improvements all around my body after 6 months (my body type is between ecto and mesomorph). Later I combined this with strength exercises with 20-25kg dumbbells, i.e. 1st day 7 minute workouts, 2nd day fast interval strength exercises (particularly chest and upper body) with dumbbells and 3rd day rest. The 2nd set of exercises in the article seems worth trying as well!

So it's a 21-minute workout?

Well, I take different breaks depending on how I feel so I can start new 7-minute set either immediately or have some time to recover in between if I feel not so great on that given day.

I basically started with the original set, for two months I tried to increase number of repetitions during each phase without hurting myself, then after I pushed to my peak intensity my body got adapted to it so I added a 2nd set at a lower intensity and was slowly increasing it. The same repeated later and I added 3rd set. Now I can push all 3 sets at the same intensity (actually, 2nd and 3rd are easier), and I tried adding 4th one but got an injury so I decided to stick with 3 as my optimum.

I can't find it in the NYT article so maybe it was in the original paper, but I'm pretty sure the 7-minute workout was always meant to be repeated three times (although maybe not directly after another).

I find it hard to believe that you can do squats more than one day a week. It takes a while for large muscles to recover, especially when you're doing heavy weight.

5x5, 3x per week, bumping up 5# each session (we got a squat rack for the basement). It was rough getting started, but after a week or so, no big deal.

I've had much more trouble consistently increasing weight on bench presses.

In fairness, I probably have a mechanical advantage for squats.


I'm a relatively experienced lifter - heavy squats 3x per week is brutal for the first week or so and then your body adapts to it.

I've found that I'll actually stick with a ~hourlong workout, 3-5x a week that I believe in and have goals for over anything quick with no discernible aim. And it's amazing how time magically appears to actually show up at the gym when you prioritize it.

A "scientific" 7 minute workout with no discernible goals is an admirable thing but honestly it's a cheap novelty at best - I've never heard of anybody actually sticking to one, "doing the bare minimum" is just not motivating at all. Scientific according to whom? To what end? Why am I doing this?

Exercise science is inherently a little bit voodoo. Motivation and consistency are much more important than the time requirement.

If somebody's had any success with vague goalless 7-minute workouts, or has even stuck with them consistently, I'd love to hear differing opinions.

I agree with most of what you said, except for the part about doing the bare minimum not being motivating. I'm also a pretty experienced lifter (Been lifting for 9 years, can DL 3x my bodyweight, Squat 2.5x bodyweight, BP 1.6x) but I'm always looking for the bare minimum to improve. If that happened to be a 7 minute workout, that's what I would do. I think it's incredibly motivating to use your time really effectively. I spend probably about 1/4 to 1/2 the time in the gym as anyone else there with comparable fitness levels because I've done a lot of research on training methods and have tried tons of different programs and permutations to find the ones that are most effective for me.

I think you're right that the biggest problem with this is that there are "no discernible goals" associated with this "scientific" workout. For noticeable strength and physique improvements, the lowest I've found to be effective are 40 minute workouts 3 times per cycle with a cycle length of 7-10 days depending on the types of workouts done.

In my experience, this is doable as long as you stick to these rules:

1. Leave one rep in the tank for every set you do. 5 reps means 5 picture-perfect repetitions. As soon as form starts to break down, you are doing it wrong.

2. Start light.

3. Eat like a horse. At least 10% above you maintenance levels in training days.

4. Deload every 4 weeks.

Note that I am 40+ years old. I have been squatting twice per week more than 3 years now.

Just about every powerlifting or strength/mass program, from novice to expert, has multiple squat days a week.

The theory is that because the large areas (ex: leg, back) are actually composed of many muscles, you can hit them more frequently with slight variations (working different parts/ranges/etc.) and still recover.

I have never heard of that. To my understanding, the important elements are:

    - Recovery doesn't take seven days.
    - Squats target the biggest muscles.
    - The biggest muscles produce the most testosterone, enabling you to make gains in other muscle groups more easily.
Given those and the constraints of safety and putting up the most weight you can for a decent amount of volume, you want to squat as often as possible. Not just for your legs, but because it enables you to do more elsewhere.

Molecular biology student here. I've never heard muscles producing (synthesizing) testosterone. It's synthesized in male testicles and adrenal gland. Care to elaborate what do you mean?

Maybe its just bro science, but most natty lifters talk about the importance of squats in terms of the additional testosterone released by growing the largest muscle group.

Ex. http://breakingmuscle.com/strength-conditioning/new-study-pi.... The muscle may not produce the testosterone, but it is produced by working the muscle.

That's all I know.

I agree, you are more correct than I was in my post.

That's not any theory I've heard of. Programs generally have you doing the same exercises repeatedly. Variations are not usually intra-program substitutes, and "slight variations" as substitutes are an anti-pattern. "Many muscles" also has nothing to do with it either--most leg exercises put the largest component of stress on the glutes, which are one big muscle body. On the other hand, the back is a whole lot of different muscles but I don't think very many people do 3 back days a week.

In particular, the GP was talking about Stronglifts, which has you doing the same old back squats 3 times a week, variations strongly discouraged.

There are a lot of tried-and-true programs that include multiple squats a week.

Stronglifts is one, but there are programs from Glenn Pendlay, Bill Starr, Mark Rippetoe, etc. and they're all good for beginner to intermediate lifters - and they all feature two or three days a week of the same-old squats.

A beginning lifter should make gains in the squat even while doing it three times a week, sometimes for many months. After you hit the wall, programs will drop the number of squat days, replace a day of back squats with the front squat, or replace all-heavy days with a light-heavy-medium rotation.

It's true - you'll eventually plateau. But a 3x week squat program works for a lot of people, especially when starting out.

When I was younger and had the time for serious weight lifting I found that I could do heavy lifts every day without issue provided that I slept afterwards. I used to get up at 4 am and lift massive weights for an hour and a half and then go home and sleep for a couple of hours (I was a student at the time who never went to a class before 11 am, but that is another story). Provided I slept my body could handle the load of doing this every day and I got massive increases in strength in a relative short period of time.

Novices should be able to do this. When I first started working out, I increased my squat 5lb per session, 3 times a week, for about 2 months straight. Novices' large muscles can usually fully recover within 48-72 hours. Large muscles actually recover quicker than small muscles.

You're right though that more experienced trainees who have built up a base level of strength take more like a week to recover. Intermediate powerlifting/Olympic weightlifting programs (see Texas Method, Bill Starr 5x5) usually still recommend squatting three days a week, but only one of these days is a heavy day.

For Stronglifts / Starting Strength, you're starting out very light.

SL5x5 starts out with the unloaded bar, SS with a _lightly_ weighted bar. The whole idea is that you're initially _well_ below your actual potential.

You're increasing the weight fairly aggressively (10# per week for squats), but it'll take you a few months before you're up to significantly challenging weights.

You'll also re-set a few times, and eventually switch to a different progression.

If you're not going balls-to-the-wall, you can squat twice a week. If you're going heavy, 1x is more viable.

The first few workouts are tough. As a beginner I could squat heavy 3x a week for the first 6ish months, increasing weight per workout. Now it's 2 days heavy and 1 day light.

There are many advanced programs that squat heavy as possible every workout. Look at some of the Average Broz programming.

Believe it. I'm not strong though. Maybe when I'm repping 300 it'll be hard to do it three times a week. At 245 it is not a big problem.

I agree recovery is key. I do one day per week legs, one day pulling based (upper body, legs of course somewhat involved), and one day pushing based (legs not really involved) weights. Each time large muscle groups first, working to smaller ones that aren't tired yet. A small amount of various whatever-I-feel-like cardio each day, from a fast hike to a swim. That and eating well.

Sometimes less is more.

Then you've done it too hard. Ideally one should work-out at an intensity and volume (reps) that allows to be recovered after round about 48 hours. If the training is too hard compared to the fitness level you miss the point of supercompensation for the next training session. So, you have to build the ability to train hard up.

You'd be surprised at what you're body is capable of as long as you're lifting with proper form, getting enough rest and doing mobility on a regular basis.

I've squatted up to 5 days per week. Recovery is a multi-week integral, and good programming accounts for that.

I squat heavy 3x a week. It's mostly about the diet.

Any non-anecdotal data supporting StrongLifts workout healthiness?

I doubt there has been anything on Stronglifts in particular. Strength training[1] in general and progressive overload[2] in particular is pretty well-supported, as far as I know. Stronglifts is just one of many schedules of weight training.

    [1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strength_training
    [2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Progressive_overload

Thank you for the references.

The health benefits of any strength training program aren't going to be exactly mindblowing. The biggest mortality factor you can hope to improve on using exercise is cardiovascular health, and strength training does little here.

(Theres a study on risk factors from smoking to education here:


> The health benefits of any strength training program aren't going to be exactly mindblowing.

Health benefits of strength training listed on Wikipedia look still pretty attractive, to be honest. The primary obstacle is necessary equipment, for someone who travels around this means gym access becomes a factor.

I agree that cardio seems to be far more essential to health than strength training, though.

Thanks for sharing a very interesting document.

The 7 minute workout is for people who want to feel like they are working out with minimal effort. It's kind of ridiculous. I tried this for a few weeks 4 times a week and saw/felt almost no benefit. Then I upped it to a 30 minute workout using the same set of exercises and saw quite a bit of progress.

That's really the difference. You need your heart-rate pumping for 30 minutes to really see benefits from this, not for 7 minutes. I doubt any "scientific" claims that 7 minutes a few times a week is all the exercise someone needs.

At the very least double it. Do 14 minutes. I remember trying this while out of shape (hadn't done any intense exercise in months) and with 7 minutes I barely broke a sweat. Unless you're morbidly obese you need to do more than this.

If you really want a god exercise buy some weights or go to the gym. Moving around really heavy objects for 30 - 45 minutes is the best bang for your buck workout you can get.

> The 7 minute workout is for people who want to feel like they are working out with minimal effort.

The 7 minute workout was misinterpreted in the mainstream press. The scientific claims specifically mention a very high intensity workout that most people actually cannot reach. You need to train to get to the level where 7 minute workout makes sense for you.

"Research has demonstrated that improvements can be made in VO2max and insulin sensitivity in as little as 4 minutes of total exercise time in an HICT session. However, it is to be noted that this result often requires working at intensities equivalent to greater than 100% of VO2max. Because most individuals may not be able to execute the program at an intensity significantly greater than 100% of their VO2max, following the established ACSM guidelines for high-intensity exercise of at least 20 minutes is recommended. This may require multiple repetitions (or circuits) of a multistation exercise circuit." http://journals.lww.com/acsm-healthfitness/Fulltext/2013/050...

Try to do the same intensity I do during 7-minute workout if you can't break a sweat ;-)

- 56 push ups - 44 abdominal crunches - 36 chair steps up - 35 squats - 56 triceps dips on chair - 30 lunges - 20 push ups with rotation

(all in 30 seconds)

I thought the point of this exercise was to slowly allow you to raise your intensity to have a real interval training, all while being constrained by time.

56 pushups in 30 seconds? It seems to me the only way to do that is to either a) do them with extremely bad form, b) not go down completely, c) both of those. People like eshlow (author of "Overcoming Gravity") at /r/bodyweightfitness recommend a tempo of 10x1: lowering yourself for one second, staying 0 seconds at the bottom, pushing up as hard and fast as possible (x = explode), and holding for one second at the top. Using this tempo, you can do a max of 15 per 30 seconds.

Yes, it's a different form than you described. I go all the way down and basically go extremely quickly up and down without slowing down the fall phase. My muscles are explosive, I am a good natural fit for tennis, squash, basketball, ice hockey, alpine skiing, sprints, etc. not for endurance (this needs a lot of work). Moreover, I have a very good skeletal maneuverability that doesn't inhibit my movements as is the case with many other muscular people. Also, it took me ~6 months to get to this level. YMMV

I'd like to see a video of your form while doing 56 pushups in 30 seconds.

> with 7 minutes I barely broke a sweat. Unless you're morbidly obese you need to do more than this

I'm a twig who eats averagely and does no exercise other than walking everywhere (around an hour a day) -- I break a sweat after ~3 minutes and collapse on the floor panting at the end of the 7 >_>

I'm pretty sure that it is helping, because now I can actually do the full 7 minutes, where a few months ago I would only manage ~20 seconds of activity out of each 30-second burst before I fell over from muscle pain.

Are you sure that the specific numbers of minutes are what's important? I am by no means an expert, but I was hoping that "push every group of muscles to their limit every day" would be enough...

It really seems like your complaint is more with the types of movements recommended vs. the duration.

At least.. it should be: I've seen and done many exhausting HIIT/Crossfit-style workouts that last only 7 minutes yet wipe out even the most athletic people.

E.g.: here's a 3 minute workout https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pz9pXeLsmQk

How much of this is boot overhead ? maybe with time people can reach 30min level of changes in a focused 7min.

Again, the only people 7 minutes of essentially cardio is going to benefit are people who are insanely out of shape. The second you're just in "ok" shape is the second 7 minutes is basically worthless to to you.

I really hate that this 7 minute workout thing is becoming a trend. It's misleading in its benefits. If everyone writing or talking about it wants to clarify and say it's only beneficial for people who are dangerously out of shape, fine, but otherwise it's stupid. Workout for 30 minutes. Please.

Well, I'm extremely out of shape, and I don't make time for workouts in my schedule.

However, my resistante is to get started ("boot time"), once I'm dressed for a workout (that is, not in a suit or jeans), 7 minutes or 14 or even maybe 30 is not that much of a difference.

Point taken. Why 30min though ? it's usually said that you'd need 45min to reach the deep fat burning. (from little experience, my body really reacted differently after 40minutes)

I just tossed out 30 because it's a nice number and seems reasonable. You are right however that 45 minutes is the standard. I think you'd actually see benefits from doing high intensity cardio for 30 minutes however. At the very least it's so much better than 7.

At the end of the day, if 7 minutes of cardio is all you can stand to do, you're screwed.

At the end of the day, if 7 minutes of cardio is all you can stand to do, you're screwed.

The patronising attitude isn't going to help anyone who has gotten that far out of shape.

Even if someone is sufficiently unfit that they can't do more than 7 minutes of cardio work in a session, they still have to start somewhere and build up. The alternative in most cases will be their fitness decaying even further.

Keep in mind that there are a lot of reasons people might be that unfit. Some will just be lazy. Others might be recovering from a serious injury or illness, and just being able to walk for five minutes to get to the shops unassisted is a big achievement.

If you do Tabata sprints, they will kill you in 4 minutes. So it really depends on how intense you can go instead of the time it takes.

People who are insanely out of shape might not even be able to do all of these exercises (particularly the tricep dip one).

I did the tricep dip fairly often (deep and slow) and saw no changes (except my hand burning). Weird.

Nothing beats working out to the 7 Minute Workout musical: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LezARmLDu6U

I prefer my 7 Minute Workout Bash-Script: https://github.com/vlaube-de/7min-workout

My reaction to this is similar to this one: http://norvig.com/21-days.html (Teach Yourself Programming in Ten Years)

I've been exercising regularly for a long time and know pretty well what my "equilibrium" exercise time is, and it's about 5 - 6 times longer than 7 minutes. If I thought it could be shorter, then I would make it shorter because my #1 goal is to minimize the number of minutes of my life I spend on exercise.

All I can say about this is that 7 minutes strains credulity and sounds like marketing nonsense to me. At a very minimum, I need to sustain an elevated heart rate for a few minutes to feel good.

If it makes you feel better, each hour you spend exercising extends your life by around 3.5 hours (net 2.5 after the hour you spent) on average. These are just rough numbers, backed up by the Framingham heart study and an analysis of the Framingham data by Jonker, et al.: http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/29/1/38.full.pdf They say 2.5 hours per week over a 75 year lifetime makes you live 3.5 years longer, and 2.5 hours per week over 75 years is around 1 year.

(Of course, you might get hit by a bus tomorrow, but that's true whether you exercise or not. I guess you should avoid exercising near traffic.)

1 of each 3 extra hours is sleep. Also, you have time for shows and change after exercise. It is close to a wash.

But I bet exerciser years are better than non exerciser years, in old age.

> each hour you spend exercising extends your life by around 3.5 hours [...] They say 2.5 hours per week over a 75 year lifetime makes you live 3.5 years longer, and 2.5 hours per week over 75 years is around 1 year.

That is significantly overstated. The study did not establish causation, only associations. The most that can be claimed is that A was predictor of B for group C.

If it makes you feel better, each hour you spend exercising extends your life by around 3.5 hours (net 2.5 after the hour you spent)

Doesn't that math make you immortal?

Exercise an hour, rest for 2.5, repeat forever ... (you also have to sleep, so exercise for 3 hours, sleep next 7.5).

Question is, would you rather have an hour in your prime, or 2.5 hours in retirement.

This is also why I smoke, I'd rather lose the shitty years at the end.

That's how it works, right?

My parents were heavy smokers. Their day to day lives were filled with a lot of coughing, even in their 30s.

Myself, I'm not overweight - I weigh about 60kg, and am 1.75m tall - but I don't exercise. I don't see that it's worth the amount of time it takes out of my day.

My perspective may change if I find myself physically challenged in anything I do. But that seems to be some way off just yet.

not sure if this is just a joke but if it's half in ernest, I've seen a few people die in their 50's from lung camcer. I think when you're in your fifties you'd still have 15 good years or so. Maybe more.

It really just depends what you're training for. In running, for example, Usain Bolt probably doesn't run more than about 15-20 miles per week, but Mo Farah does about 115-120. This "problem" is the same reason BMI is a stupid gauge of health ... unless you're in the fat part (no pun intended) of the bell curve. I'm primarily a runner and my daily runs are in the 50-60 minute range, with short speed workouts and longer, slower long runs, but I augment with bodyweight core & swimming during the week, too (and indoor cycling in the winter). But my goals are not at all the same as yours or anyone else's, so ymmv.

Why not make exercise more fun instead? Play a sport, bike instead of car, etc...

The difference between exercise/sports and training is the goal of getting the most amount of measurable impact towards a specific set of goals with the least amount of effort and time invested.

It may be the case that playing sports (particularly soccer) will yield some progress towards your targets, but that will be with greatly reduced efficiency than if you put focussed effort to specific goals.

I'm building a site like this at the moment and things like this made me happy we chose video and real humans - instead of vector images. Showing people how to exercise in 7 minutes is easy - but motivating them to exercise is a totally different thing.

I get that this is probably for people on the go, but at least having a voice telling you what you're doing and giving you tips would make this so much better.

Also, don't just say "science". Tell us what kind of "science" and link us to specific research that maybe we want to know about.

This is just the page for the exercise, the article (with link to the science) is here: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/

I should be able to do better than this. Presenting The Broscientific 7-Minute Workout:

A: 5x Back Squat 5x Weighted Chin-up or Barbell Row B: 5x Deadlift 5x Olympic Press

Repeat alternating. Do as many warm up singles as you can fit (max 5) ascending in weight before each heavy set. Increase weight on every exercise as often and as much as possible. Get or make some micro plates to extend linear progress when you can no longer sustain 5lb jumps. If you have a few minutes extra, throw in an extra set of as many reps as you can comfortably do with 70% of the working weight on each exercise. If you can't do these movements spend 7 minutes a day learning form and improving mobility until you can.

The workout that the New York Times to presenting is something that anybody can do even if you are on the road and don't have access to a gym. The workout that you're referring to, has significantly more overhead, requires a gym, and certainly takes more than seven minutes out of each morning. With that said, as a fan of starting strength, I highly approve of your workout.

Your workout costs money. The other workout is free.

True, but the other has no effect for people with an average fitness level. It lacks intensity.

People who work out less than 6 minutes per day are all below average fitness level.

Consider the audience. For an overweight person who only walks to their car and back the routine in the article could get them to a meager level of fitness. For someone who walks or bicycles for any of their transportation or for pleasure it won't have any effect. As a European this is most people I know.

The nyt article is pretty high intensity - walking alone (i speak as one who walks everywhere) doesn't get your heart rate racing unless you really put some effort into it, and certainly doesn't stress any muscle groups. Your average sedentary individual would not be able to complete the 7 minute workout. If they were signicantly overweight they would likely collapse 2 minutes into it.

The goal of this type of training is to yield the greatest amount of impact with the least amount of effort in the shortest amount of time.

Anybody who did the nyt 7 minute exercise at max intensity for a couple months is going to be in good shape. Do it everyday for 6 months and they will be in the 90th percentile of physical fitness in the United States for their age group.

Which I think is a pretty good return for 7 minutes out if your day with no equipment other than a chair.

It's actually pretty good for warming up and helps with back problems.

True. That's the price of pulling 300 pounds.

dont even know why you're downvoted. here, have a upvote.

Fitting all that into 7 minutes will likely lead to injury for someone who is in the audience for any kind of short N minute workout, IMO. I concur with your general sentiment and good intentions though. :)

Disclosure: at my peak I back squatted 350 and deadlifted 400.

Yes it would be a good idea to spend time reading and practicing technique instead of going heavy for a while. The general population might have trouble with this but I believe the people reading here can handle it.

This is a good start! When you say olympic press, you are referring to the clean and press, right? I'd try to fit bench press in there and maybe some hyperextensions in also.

I think there is one key that needs to be stressed to people starting to work out: anything* is better than nothing. You may not see great gains by doing only 5x5 dumbbell curls every day, but you will start to generally feel better.

* With good form. Bad form will do more harm than good (I know from experience, having pulled a back muscle trying to speed through a warm-up set of squats). Having someone to give you form advice is another important aspect.

Olympic press meaning an overhead press with significant layback. Pressing with layback involves enough chest to get you balanced development. It's also better for posture, joint health, abdominal and posterior chain strength, and requires one less piece of equipment than the bench press. As long as layback comes from the hips it's perfectly safe for your back. Working on hip flexor mobility should get most people to the point where they can perform it properly fairly quick.

At the risk of stating the obvious, good form implies you do not try to lift more than you can lift with good form.

Fitness programs founder on three points

1. Ceasing to do the workouts.

2. Overdoing it and injuring yourself. This includes: not having rest days, too heavy weights,excessively exhausting workouts.

3. Lack of nutritional support.

To anybody trying to get back in shape, I can't recommend Nerd Fitness (http://www.nerdfitness.com/) enough. I used it to get back in shape 2 or 3 years ago, it's very approachable even with no real fitness knowledge. I am not affiliated.

Bottom line though:

- Fix your diet (whatever works for you, for me it was getting rid of carbs),

- Make time for this and build up the routine (I get most of my workouts done in under 35 minutes all included, I do this at least 3 times a week),

- You don't need a gym; you can get dumbbells for cheap, but even without it there is a lot you can do (I haven't lifted anything in a year, doing mostly bodyweight).

I tried this about a year ago and blogged my results:


Are you still doing it? No offense but it doesn't seem to have had a tremendous effect besides making you feel better, which in and of itself may be totally worth it for 7 minutes of work anyway. Regardless, the only reason I say this is because I don't think that this is a good program, and I think the science around it is short sighted and not very well carried out.

The major problem is that the studies are not nearly long enough. The human body can adapt really well, and these exercises don't really provide any meaningful level of progression (besides just doing them more). As a user of this program continues, they will have to keep adding cycles, and eventually they'll just be doing it an hour every morning.

As a way to trick yourself into the habit of exercise I think that's great. But the concept that 7 minutes a day can really make you healthy is kind of absurd. There is no question it's better than nothing (especially for people who are already significantly overweight), but it's too bad it's not being sold as an intro to exercise program, rather than The Only Thing You Ever Have to Do Ever.

> As a way to trick yourself into the habit of exercise [...]

I heard something about this, only in the past few months, but I can't remember where. Apparently, the way to create habits is to trick yourself by doing something almost ridiculous or trivial. For example, say you want to start flossing regularly. For a lot of people, this is a tough thing to make a habit of. The suggestion is to just floss one tooth, once a day. Don't even try to floss two teeth the next day. Just keep flossing one tooth every day and try not to think about starting a flossing habit.

And then, one day, so the suggestion goes, you'll just go ahead and spontaneously floss all of your teeth and continue to do so in the days after that. You've tricked yourself into the habit, because you had no conscious resistance to committing to flossing one tooth; and in the meantime, by flossing that one tooth, your subconscious built the habit. Once the habit was firmly in place, your conscious brain no longer had any resistance to put up.

Something along those lines is supposed to work for exercise, and many other things as well.

I don't know if James Altucher is the originator of that thought line, but he mentions it in his book Choose Yourself. It's been such a long time since I read it. I actually did try the flossing one tooth- it worked for about 10 days before I fell back into my bad habit of a few times per month. (http://www.amazon.com/Choose-Yourself-James-Altucher/dp/1490...)

The 7 min workout definitely will not make you look like a cross-fit junkie, but who really needs to be that fit? For someone who doesn't work out at all, and sits in front of a screen for 8 hrs a day, 7 min a day is likely to add a few years to your life.

I've really enjoyed Mark Rippetoe's writing about the difference between Exercise and Training.

From the gloss for Practical Programming for Strength Training [1]: "Exercise is physical activity for its own sake, a workout done for the effect it produces today, during the workout or right after you're through. Training is physical activity done with a longer-term goal in mind, the constituent workouts of which are specifically designed to produce that goal."

He emphasizes that a realistic means of progression is one of the most important aspects of any training program.

Practical Programming and Starting Strength [2] (which is a better introduction to these ideas for novices) are together the best analytical discussion of physical training that I've seen.

[1] http://www.amazon.com/Practical-Programming-Strength-Trainin...

[2] http://www.amazon.com/Starting-Strength-3rd-Mark-Rippetoe/dp...

Yes, this is exactly what I'm getting at :) Have read all his stuff. Seems lots of HNers have. It's a highly analytical approach that tends to appeal to hackers I guess.

True, but I think you should consider another perspective.

For most, the problem is getting started and forming a habit. By the time 7 minutes a day gives you diminishing returns, you've probably got a good routine going. Once you have a good routine is very easy to increase the duration or intensity. So, in a sense, it doesn't make people healthy but it does get them on the right track.

You seem to get this, because you said you wouldn't mind so much if it was being sold as "an intro" instead of a "silver bullet." While it's technically true, it would probably do more harm than good. Seven minutes is something that just about everyone, including very unhealthy people, feel like they can achieve. Which do you think is more likely to get people interested?

* Get healthy with just 7-minutes exercise a day!

* Get healthy by increasing durations of exercise starting at 7-minutes a day!

Both have the same result in the end, but my guess is the first will attract more. So, all I'm saying is, I would rather get more people started and then let them figure it out once they've got a routine.

> You seem to get this, because you said you wouldn't mind so much if it was being sold as "an intro" instead of a "silver bullet." While it's technically true, it would probably do more harm than good. Seven minutes is something that just about everyone, including very unhealthy people, feel like they can achieve. Which do you think is more likely to get people interested?

I heavily disagree with this. People run these programs and do them as written and don't dig any deeper. They don't achieve results, and that leads them to develop (completely warranted) distrust for the fitness industry. This makes them feel like exercise only works for some people, and they must not be one of those people. People feel like their weight is genuinely uncontrollable.

On the other hand, a realistic approach gives them the tools they need when they are ready by starting out easy and gradually progressing.

I have yet another perspective. When I try something that sounds too good to be true, and that's how it turns out, I usually drop it rather than investing more in it.

And here's the comments on that article on HN: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6430619

"Sorry, Well Workouts requires iOS 7 or greater, the Android Chrome browser, or Internet Explorer 11."

So Android Firefox users aren't supposed to view their website?

A neat website, but where are the links to the "Science" ?

My thoughts exactly. There is zero science here.

Science is that if you work out all major groups of muscles with maximum intensity you use up all of the stored ATP energy and trigger anaerobic energy delivery mechanism which builds up lactic acid [0].

Do this for all major muscle groups and you get significantly raised metabolism throughout the day as your body deals with replenishing ATP, cleaning up lactic acid, and repairing small amount muscle micro tears.

[0] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_systems

12 exercises in 7 minutes seems a little rapid. I usually manage 4-5 in 30-45 minutes...

I guess if you're beginning from a very sedentary level, this is probably a great starting point. It exercises most major muscle groups and will at least activate them far more than just sitting in an office chair.

Link to the original research article from ACSM: http://journals.lww.com/acsm-healthfitness/Fulltext/2013/050...

I managed to develop a 5 minute workout that performs remarkable well for the time involved (it is not a pleasant 5 minutes though). The basis routine is 30 seconds absolutely flat out on an exercise bike cranked right up, then 30 seconds slow recovery. I do this first thing in the morning (before having a shower) and after fasting for at least 12 hours. I then don’t eat for 3 hours afterwards.

It works remarkable well to keep me fitish (basically fit enough to do all the other physical activities I want to do) and at keeping my weight down. I find that this intense exercise makes me feel sick afterwards. This takes away my hunger until a few hours later so it is not too difficult to avoid eating for the 3 hours.

Do you fast 12 hour straight or do you break every 3 hours? I'm thinking of fasting too to keep my weight down but don't know what routine to follow

Well the 12 hour fast is basically from dinner the night before until morning the next day. This fasting is easy as most of the time I am asleep :)

The 3 hour fast afterwards is remarkably easy. I start to get hungry around 9.30am to 10.00am (around 2.5 hours in), but as I am usually hard at work at this time it is not too hard to resist eating until 10.30am. Other than this I eat whatever I like when I like.

One of the good things of this program is I only need one shower and I can cool down under warm water saving even more time. Most short exercise programs are much longer once you add in all the ancillary activities like changing clothes and showering - mine really is 5 minutes only.

So I should do the 7 minute exercise before dinner or after dinner?

That's amazing. Why?

I am not sure of what “why" you are asking about, but my aim was to find the exercise routine that took the least amount of time and still achieved the desired result. 5 round of 30s flat out is enough to get my heart rate up to its maximum and this seems to be all you need to do to increase your fitness - at least to the moderate levels I want.

In regards the fasting and not eating afterwards there is some scientific literature that exercise after 12 hours of fasting followed by no eating for 3 does helps in weight loss. I can’t say if this is true or not, but doing intense exercise does reduce my appetite for quite a while afterwards. By doing this I can avoid eating for around 15 hours a day which doesn’t leave that much time for me to eat too much.

The old Canadian RAF exercise program 5BX worked reasonably well for me when I did it. I got as far as the highest level, "A" on Chart 5 I think. Chart 6 is marked as "only champion athletes can do this" and I couldn't even finish the lowest level on that chart no matter how hard I tried.

The most famous adherent is/was probably the writer Tom Clancy.

Since we're all tossing our favorite regimens into the ring, I've been using bodyweight training site http://fitloop.co (free site made by one of the members of r/bodyweightfitness) for 5 months now, and the progress has been pretty amazing. A good diet is important too, of course.

If I remember correctly from a BBC documentary it's important to have a warm up session first before you do an intense workout like this, especially when you're just starting out. You don't want to risk injuries. Be nice to your muscles, tensons and joints: damage can be permanent, I know from experience.

Part of the genius of this workout is that it's not throwing you into a position to injure yourself, all the vigorous motions are aerobic and the strenuous exercises are isometric.

So how do I start with the warm up at home? I did notice when doing squats, I could hear some random noise coming from my knees.

I wonder, what is the ratio of exercise programs articles vs. people who actually follow them?

Note that this "workout" isn't going to put on much (if any) muscle mass nor will it help you lose significant weight. Resistance training and diet is required for the former and diet is absolutely everything for the latter.

Whole lotta "I'm fit and this did nothing after 3 days. All I had to do was go to a gym and workout for an hour every day, and then I saw gains"

You're dubasses, all of you.

The true scientific one is called Body by Science [1]. If you have 100 minutes, invest watching this [2] from God himself (Doug McGuff M.D.).

P.S. The next The 21 Convention will be in January 2015 [3].

[1] http://www.bodybyscience.net/ [2] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2PdJFbjWHEU [3] http://www.the21convention.com/

Please note you are supposed to do the 7 minute workout 2-3 times.

Really? The original piece (which apparently was popular enough to get the NYT devs to make an app) pushed the premise that 7 minutes could produce "molecular changes within muscles comparable to those of several hours of running or bike riding"


> The exercises should be performed in rapid succession, allowing 30 seconds for each, while, throughout, the intensity hovers at about an 8 on a discomfort scale of 1 to 10, Mr. Jordan says. Those seven minutes should be, in a word, unpleasant. The upside is, after seven minutes, you’re done.

The article was updated today (which is where I saw the app link) (http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/10/24/the-advanced-7-minu...)...it talks about how the 7-minute workout is "not meant to be your sole exercise"...but that's out of concern that it "will become monotonous and demotivating"

The original study said the 7 minute routine should be repeated 2 to 3 times. It also listed a sample regimen which most people took too literally. You're supposed to vary the exercises and there are dozens of options. Johnson and Johnson have a really good app with lots of options.

People keep mentioning that the study says that the workout should be repeated 2-3 times but what it actually says is that the "Participants can repeat the 7-minute bout 2 to 3 times, depending on the amount of time they have." To me that implies that repeating 2-3 times is optional, and that once is enough to see results.

Also, as an aside, if you are repeating something 2-3 times, doesn't that mean you're doing it a total of 3-4 times?

Yes, this is correct. The study itself -- if not the NYT coverage of it -- mentions the workout is designed for people with sedentary lives and it should be repeated 2-3 times to see results in people in better physical condition.

what?! unless you're really in top shape and have done a lot of leg conditioning and weight lifting there is NO WAY that you can do a wall sit for 30 seconds straight!

most people, even in good shape (not overweight or obese) can only do 10-15 seconds before their quads burn into a cinder

try it! its a good exercise but 30 seconds? c'mon!

also, another reason why this suggested 30 seconds duration is bad is that it will mean that most people who do try to meet the unrealistic 30 second duration will collapse down as their legs give out and this is NOT what you want to happen because risk of injury from this exercise is greatly increased if you don't get out of the position by standing up

No. Someone who can hold a wall sit for 30 seconds is hardly in "top shape." The recommended ability to start the P90X workout program is at least 1 minute (and that is considered a bare minimum to be able to do the workouts), and my 54 year old mom did that on the first try.

If you are having a hard time with 30 seconds, I recommend scaling down the time, but working your way up as you get better. You can safely get out of the position by letting your butt go down to the ground, put a pillow/cushion underneath you if you are worried.

P.S. As a military academy graduate I can tell you that 30 seconds is chump change; 5+ minutes gets you into "top shape" territory where people are collapsing, and pretty much any freshman at West Point, Annapolis, or the AFA can do 3+ minutes.

I could do a wall sit for about 45 seconds before I ever did any leg work.

Yeah I have to concur here, this should be totally feasible for a beginner.

I can't tell if you're serious. I've done 10 minute wall sits when I was training. Anybody should be able to do 30 seconds.

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