Category Archives: workouts

The Scientific 7-Minute Workout : Not Really

It is NOT really a 7 minute workout! The original article which appeared in The American College of Sports Medicine Journalstated for most people the circuit program should be repeated for 2 or 3 times (totaling 21 minutes) for maximum benefits. I guess titling the article “The Scientific 21-Minute Workout” wouldn’t sell as many newspapers.

“…following the established ACSM guidelines for high-intensity exercise of at least 20 minutes is recommended (3). This may require multiple repetitions (or circuits) of a multistation exercise circuit.”

I have a few comments and issues with the article that appeared in the NYTimes on May 9th 2013:

  1. In order to receive the cardio and insulin sensitivity benefits one would need to do this workout at 100% of Vo2 Max….not likely for an average person. Working out for 7 minutes with body weight isn’t going to make a sizable difference in individual’s health or fitness level.  Especially if the rest of the day they do what most American’s do: sit and remain sedentary.
  2.  Not all exercises are created equally and there are many in this routine that will do little in   regards to increasing energy expenditure and cardiopulmonary benefits.  The crunch, plank and side plank are low intensity exercises with little strength and cardio benefits.
  3. The triceps dips exercise is a contraindicated movement for many people with shoulder instability, pain or heavy body weight.  Optimum extension of the average shoulder is 20 degrees yet when performing the exercise one’s body-weight might take them into 90 degrees of extension which might cause inflammation of the shoulder capsule and surrounding soft tissue.  Perhaps a close hand ‘diamond’ push-up would be a better substitute.
  4.  Strength increases in this workout are severely limited to one’s body-weight and lack of progressive overload.  In theory as one progressed in this routine they would lose weight and the exercises would become easier and easier which would create a plateau.
  5. According to the US Department of Health we need at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week (or 75 minutes of intense exercise) in order to improve your health.
  6. Science has been pretty clear in showing a causation with the more moderate activity one gets the better the mental health benefits .  So if you are looking to decrease depression or have a better temper you need to participate in more than 20 minutes of moderate exercise per week.
  7. This plan calls for little variation and thus is more predisposed to increase joint wearing, exercise stagnation, boredom and quick plateaus.
  8. A cookie cutter approach is never a good idea for a diverse population unless you want to get sub-par results or produce injuries.  Your workout should take into consideration your goals, contraindications, fitness level, age, risk factors, health and diet.  Anything short of this is irresponsible at best and injurious at its worse.

Please don’t get me wrong, the 7-minute workout undeniably has some benefits, but just as many limitations.  There is nothing wrong with the workout for the untrained person, and it can be a great starting solution for anyone looking for a quick training session.  Furthermore it could stand in as a effective workout to maintain your current fitness levels when time is tight or on vacation. Over the long haul it is not a well designed program for someone looking to maximize fat loss, lean muscle gains and increase strength.  It isn’t going to transform anyone from couch potato to elite athlete, but if it gets the sedentary people in our society more fit then its a win win for us all and our health care system.  Seven minutes is better than nothing! 

Doug Joachim – NYC Personal trainer
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Warm Up for Maximum Fat Burning

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Do you warm up prior to exercise?  Be honest. Walking out of the locker room and onto the gym floor does not count. Do you spend 5 to 15 minutes slowly revving your body up?  If I had to guess, I’d say most people don’t bother to warm up.  Showing up to the gym is half the battle.  The other half requires some strategic planning if you want to get the most out of your training sessions.  There are a lot of benefits to warming up but perhaps the least known is its ability to prepare your body for fat burning.

Picture this:  You get out of bed, eat breakfast and go the gym.  You forgo a warm-up and jump right into a set of squats.  Your body says, “Holy cow, what the heck are you doing?!”.  In this alarm state, your brain chooses to go with the most readily available energy source, sugar.  The more gradually you bring up your body temperature and heart rate the greater amounts of fat will be used as fuel.  Asking the body to perform at a high rate without properly warming up will increase the likelihood you’ll get most of your energy from sugars.

When you quickly enter the anaerobic zone (high intensity where the body produces energy without oxygen) your fast twitch muscle fibers preferentially drink up all the sugar.  I can assure you it isn’t sugar stored around your waistline and butt!  The body keeps sugar readily available for emergency use like this and fight or flight responses.  On the other hand, your fat stores are a little less easy to utilize.  The fat that is not immediately utilized is put away under lock and key for long term storage…an evolutionary vestige of forestalling starvation.  It takes about 5 to 15 minutes for your body to mobilize its stored fat.  This is where the warm up comes in. If you slowly ease into the training session your body will sense a non-emergency status and start converting fat into free fatty acids that can be used as fuel.   By the time you begin your workout in earnest, your body will be a fat burning machine.

Slowly preparing your body for a workout will not only help prevent injury but get you to burn more fat.  Isn’t it worth the extra 5 to 15 minutes to put your body into an optimum fat burning state?


2. Maffetone, Phil. In Fitness and Health. HalWalter, 2009.

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Exercise v. Diet

Personal training nycTwo health related facts you may not know and I probably shouldn’t be telling you:

1-  Diets are a faster and easier (which is of course a subjective term)  way to lose weight than exercise alone. 

2-  Research has shown that some forms of exercise tends to make people hungrier.  And as you know it is real easy to negate those 300 calories you burned on the treadmill with a one yummy cookie.  Moreover, excessive cardiovascular work  (or too intense cardio) and/or workouts exceeding 60 minutes has been shown to lower fat burning hormone levels, making it harder to lose adipose. 

Did you ever notice that lots of people who workout on a regular basis never seem to change their body?  Here are some reasons why:

-bad eating habits
-lack of motivation
-incorrect training progressions
-inconsistent workout regimen
-improper or little cross-training
-high stress
-lack of sleep
-hormonal imbalances
-genetic predisposition to carry extra fat
-sedentary lifestyle

Most people workout to get lean and to feel better (and obviously to stay/be healthy).  But why exercise at all if it’s not really going to help with weight loss, and possibly leave you disappointed? 

I have been working out for over a quarter century and some days I’d love to stop.   Here are a few scientifically valid justifications to continue:


  • -Exercise releases some “feel good hormones” like cannabinoids (yup, those) and endorphins
  • -Research has shown exercise improves cognitive brain functions and increases neurogenesis (growth of brain cells)
  • -In studies daily exercise has been shown to perform as well and better than antidepressant medication
  • -Exercise is cathartic and helps relive stress (be decreasing cortisol levels)  and improves sleep (increases serotonin)
  • -Resistance training increases lean muscle mass and strength (who knows when you may need to lunge out of a burning building!)
  • -Workouts can immediately improve how you regulate blood sugar levels (insulin) and increase your energy
  • -Exercise is an integral part of a healthy life and combats arthritis,  cv diseases, osteoporosis, some cancers and lots more.
  • -Even exercise without weight loss is correlated to reductions in stomach fat
  • -And if there is a “guilty hormone”, exercise impedes it so I can feel unsullied when I  occasionally eat gelato and cookies!

Unfortunately we can’t rely on exercise alone for weight loss but a polygamous marriage between a healthy diet, smart exercise and stress reduction will do wonders for your body and brain.  



1. Grundy, S.M., G. Blackburn, M. Higgins, R. Lauer, M. Perri, D. Ryan. Roundtable Consensus Statement: Physical activity in the prevention and treatment of obesity and its comorbidities. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc. 31: S502-S508, 1999.

2. Ross, R., J.A. Freeman, and I. Janssen. Exercise alone is an effective strategy for reducing obesity and related comorbidities. Exerc. Sport Sci. Rev. 28: 165-170, 2000.

3. Hagan, R.D., S.J. Upton, L. Wong, and J. Whittam. The effects of aerobic conditioning and/or caloric restriction in overweight men and women. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc. 18:87-94, 1986.


Doug Joachim – NYC
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