Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Daily 7-Minute Workouts Shed 2kg Body Fat and ~3 cm Off Already Slim Waists in 6-Wk Study W/Out Dietary Changes!

It's absolutely possible to incorporate bars and everything else that happens to workout-compatible into your workouts.
I am not sure if you've heard about it: the American College of Sports Medicine has developed a "7-Minute Workout" as a convenient training method for the general population, a workout that's already incorporated in several fitness apps.

Previous studies of this body-weight based HIIT protocol have produced encouraging results (Klika 2013) and the workout can be adapted according to your clients' individual needs by modifying the exercise selection (including outdoor exercises such as the dips on the image to the right), the exercise order, the number of exercises (usually 9-12), the length (in s) of the individual exercise bouts, and the rest between exercise bouts which is usually set between 15-45s.
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I will provide details on how the aforementioned variables can be modified according to client needs. Before we discuss these details, I do yet want to highlight what a basic 7-minute workout template can do for young (18-30 years) healthy men and women (mean body fat for both sexes 24.1%; BMI 24.4 kg/m²).

All participants had to follow the same workout prescription for 6 weeks. That's 6 weeks of 7 workouts à 7 minutes per week - 6x49 minutes of exercise per week, 294 minutes for the whole study (Mattar 2017); all workouts with the same following exercise sequence:
  1. Figure 1: Overview of the exercise sequence the subjects had to perform daily for 7 weeks.
    Jumping jack
  2. Wall sit
  3. Push-up
  4. Abdominal crunch
  5. Step-up onto chair
  6. Squat
  7. Triceps dip on chair
  8. Plank
  9. High knees run in place
  10. Lunge
  11. Push-up and rotation
  12. Side plank
This workout is identical to the 12-station HICT program Klika et al. (2013) suggested back in the day. A workout of which they write that...
  • all exercises can be done with body weight and are easily implementable in any setting (e.g., home, office, hotel room, etc.) and  
  • the exercise order allows for a total body exercise to significantly increase the heart rate with
  • the lower, upper, and core exercises maintaining the heart rate while developing strength.
As suggested by Klika et al., all exercises were performed for 30 seconds, with 10 seconds of transition time between bouts. Accordingly, the total time for the entire circuit workout was in fact approximately 7 minutes, when the circuit was repeated 2 to 3 times.
Figure 2: Changes in relative (%) and absolute (kg) body fat over the six-week study period (Mattar 2017).
Roughly 7 minutes that were, as the data from segmental body fat analysis (Tanita BC-418 | yes, not optimal, but better than a standard scale) and measuring tapes show (Figure 2), highly productive - and that without dieting, supplements, dietary changes and what not, the subjects lost an average 2kg of body fat (without inter-sex differences by the way) and must have gained .

What is a bit odd is that the waist circumference had reduced by 3.6 cm after 3 weeks? At the end of the study period, however, the reduction ended up being a 36% smaller - an albeit non-significant difference for which there is furthermore no good reasons to assume that it was related to dietary changes or exercise-non-adherence. After all, both body fat weight and percentage decreased (see Figure 2).

The workout that works... but needs tweaking in the long run

The authors ascribe the beneficial effects on body fat to a combination of increased lean mass and improved mitochondrial fatty acid oxidation. Two factors, of which we know that they add to the general metabolic benefits of losing body fat, in general, and belly fat, in particularly - even in already normal-weight subjects.
Resistance training bands are probably the best adjunct to the workout, but if you have something to attach a TRX system, too, another recently published study suggests: you can use that as well | read more.
What we must not forget, though, is that a simply body-weight workout will - in the long run - necessarily lose its efficacy, as its practitioners adapt to the initially unaccustomed loads. Luckily, there are options to trigger progress without simply adding volume to the workout and thus ruin the beauty of its (7-minutes) brevity:
  • the exercise selection may be changed and more intense body weight and/or resistance band (optionally dumbbell) exercises may be incorporated into the template
  • the exercise order could be modified in ways that facilitate higher heart rates even in more trained individuals by e.g. inserting a set of burpees after every X exercises
  • the number of exercises and/or the duration of bouts could be increased/decreased to (a) gear the workout more to VO2- or strength gains
  • the inter-bout rest periods which can be shortened to keep the heart rate and thus cardiovascular stimulus elevated as subjects adapt (this would also allow for increases the number of exercises or the duration of bouts without compromising the beauty of having to train for only 7 minutes)
To maximize fat loss and/or muscle gains or battle insulin resistance or high triglycerides additional dietary changes will be absolutely essential, though - with some keywords being: energy deficit (fat loss), sufficient protein (1.5-2g/kg for gains), carbohydrate control (not necessarily low carb | improve insulin sensitivity and triglycerides).
Study shows: Within certain limits, resistance training bands can fully replace the gym equipment | more.
Bottom line: Considering the fact that time and access to facility constraints are the #1 obstacles to regular exercise even for people who are generally willing to work out, the high-intensity circuit training that was previously described by Klika et al (2013) and adopted in normal-weight, healthy individuals by Mattar et al. (2017), recently, seems ideal.

For an investment of only 7 minutes per day, this workout delivers numerous health benefits and that in less time than more traditionally recommended programs which usually require extra-equipment or endless hours of 'cardio'.

In the long run, however, the program will need tweaking and a transition to (at least partly) weighted exercises. The ease, duration, and mobility of the workout do yet not have to be affected by these changes - with resistance training bands, of which I've only recently pointed out that they can almost fully replace a gym if used properly | Comment!
References:
  • Klika, B., & Jordan, C. (2013). High-intensity circuit training using body weight: Maximum results with minimal investment. ACSM's Health & Fitness Journal, 17(3), 8-13.
  • Knight, E., Stuckey, M. I., Prapavessis, H., & Petrella, R. J. (2015). Public health guidelines for physical activity: is there an app for that? A review of android and apple app stores. JMIR mHealth and uHealth, 3(2).
  • Mattar, L. E., Farran, N. H., & Bakhour, D. A. (2017). Effect of 7-minute workout on weight and body composition. The Journal of sports medicine and physical fitness.