Ok, kids, rally around, because I’ve got a real barn-burner of a workout for you this week. Note: This routine is forbidden for absolute beginners.
Table of Contents
7.5 Minute Fat-Burning Workout
No newbie’s allowed – you’ve got to have a basic competence level in fitness to play this game (but don’t despair! We have plenty of resources for the neophyte – a great place to start is with our Foundations of Fat Loss and Weight Training 101 articles).
On with the show!
You know the drill, folks – first the science, then the workout (all disinterested parties can skip the heady stuff and scroll to the end of the article for the workout).
An informal survey of the clientele Mike and I have worked with over the years reveals that the numero uno reason most people don’t exercise is time – as in, “I don’t have enough time in the day to spend 5 minutes using the bathroom.”
To each his own elimination habits, I guess.
Well, certainly to the harried, busy individual with nary a moment to spend, spending an hour every day at the gym is downright impossible.
But certainly anyone can carve out 7.5 minutes in their day to complete their quota of sufficiently rigorous fat-burning exercise (except our aforementioned bathroom time-challenged client).
High-Intensity Interval Training
Thank Dr. Izumi Tabata of the National Institutes of Fitness and Sport in Tokyo for this workout. In 1996, Dr. Tabata published a groundbreaking study that showed the effectiveness (and superiority) of high-intensity interval training.
By working his athlete-subjects intensely for 20 second spurts and allowing them a 10 second rest period, Dr. Tabata was able to squeeze incredible improvements in both aerobics and anaerobic fitness (28% and 14%, respectively) from already conditioned athletes.
Not bad for four minutes of workout time (yes, four minutes).
Of course, Dr. Tabata’s work has been expanded upon in the last decade and it’s now well established in exercise science that brief, intense workouts pack a bigger punch than their longer, less intense counterparts (not to mention that they take a whole lot less time as well).
So if Dr. Tabata’s research suggests that a four minute workout is all it takes to deliver solid results, why does this workout take 7 and a half minutes? For two highly compelling reasons:
1. Dr. Tabata “killed” his athletes. Their prescribed workloads were 170% of their max (and I don’t know about you, but I certainly wouldn’t be looking forward to a workout that required I perform at nearly double my work capacity).
It is reported in the study text that the athletes literally ended up on the floor after each bout of data collection.
2. See #1.
To make this workout fall back into the realm of reality (and to make it useable with clients), Mike and I adapted Dr. Tabata’s intervals and scaled the workloads.
Add a bit of progressive strength training to the mix and you’ve got:
The “Tabata Push-Pull” Workout
The Basics. We use Dr. Tabata’s interval format of 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off.
In other words, go all-out (or close to it) for 20 seconds, then rest for 10 seconds. Pick two complementary exercises that require very little change/set up between them, and perform alternating intervals of each for 7 rounds, or until you’re “shot.”
“Hey, that’s only 7 minutes.”
The extra 30 seconds? Use them before the intervals for a quick warmup – some bodyweight squats and/or pushups work well.
Exercises In This Workout
This workout works well in many different permutations, but we’ve found the Tabata format works best with exercises of opposing functions (hence, the workout’s moniker).
I’ve compiled four of our favorite combinations here:
Dumbbell Squat/Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift
Some performance notes:
1. Take it easy on weight, especially if you’re doing this for the first time. A weight that feels ridiculously easy during the second interval will have you on the floor by minute 7.
2. Try to keep a steady work rate and max out on reps – push yourself. Remember, Dr. Tabata’s subjects worked at 170% of their maxes.
While you shouldn’t push yourself nearly that hard, you should look to push yourself past your perceived limits – you’ve got goals to achieve, and you’ll only get out what you put into the exercise.
3. While it’s far from necessary, it helps to have a workout partner to act as both a motivator and a bean counter.
Keeping track of reps gets tough once fatigue sets in, but is doable (after all, you’ve got 10 seconds to write down reps in your workout log between work intervals).
Benchmarks. How do we judge progression on this exercise? After all, it’s gotta be measurable if we’re to hold ourselves accountable to our goals.
A rough guideline that works reasonably well is Total Tonnage – simply multiply the weight you used by the total number of reps you performed.
Ex. Mike chooses the Dumbbell Squat/DB Romanian Deadlift combo and picks up the 35 pounders.
Rd 1: 10/10
Rd 2: 10/10
Rd 3: 10/8
Rd 4: 9/7
Rd 5: 6/8
Rd 6: 7/6
Rd 7: 6/5
Total: 58/54 – 112 total reps with 70 pounds
His Total Tonnage for that workout would be 7840 (112 X 70).
To record progression, simply try increasing Total Tonnage.
Important: Compare apples to apples! In other words, don’t compare Total Tonnage for a Squat/Deadlift workout with Total Tonnage for a Dip/Pullup workout – Total Tonnage.
Comparisons are valid for like workouts only.
Okay, your excuses about not having enough time to get in a good fat-burning workout?
Immediately canceled. (Tsoii!) And don’t say I didn’t warn you.
For a thorough program that includes all the high intensity cardio you could possibly handle, and more, take a look at our Dirty Little Book of Dieting– everything you need to quickly build a lean, healthy, energetic body.
– Eugene Thong CSCS