Photo: Jacob Lund (Shutterstock)
Ultra-short training protocols typically have a life cycle like this: First, a researcher asks himself a question that an incredibly short training session could answer. Then they do a study that shows that people improved some aspect of their fitness while doing so. The New York Times writes about it next. And last but not least, it is disseminated on Youtube channels and shared among people who feel that it is a good workout on its own. Think about that Seven minute workout, Or from HIIT more general.
The newest lion cub in this circle of life was just born, and it’s a four-second training I read about in (surprise). The New York Times. And I think it’s time we sat down for a little intervention.
Nobody does a four-second workout right
The shorter a workout gets, the more people think, “Oh hey, I could fit this in!”
But the difficulty of getting yourself to do a workout doesn’t have much to do with the time it takes. I mean, of course, 30 minutes is easier than 90. But is 20 really less of a hindrance than 30? Is the overall experience of a 10-minute workout (including changing clothes and warm-up) different from a 20-minute workout? I would argue that it is not.
And when the time is shortened, the type of exercise changes drastically. Researchers often point out that their test subjects must work incredibly hard to get the laboratory protocol right; Most people who train alone just don’t get there unless they are trained athletes.
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Also, we don’t have the same setup. Tabatas (20 seconds hard, 10 seconds break) and Wingate sprints (30 seconds hard, four minutes break) should be performed on a bicycle ergometer with the resistance set by the researcher who is with you in the laboratory. The four second workout is performed on one A special kind of bike with a sales pitch where the four-second workout is seen as the main benefit of the bike. You’re unlikely to get anywhere near the same workout doing burpees in your living room or tapping the resistance buttons on the bike at the gym.
As we discussed earlier in connection with the HIIT trend, the things people do when they think they are doing a super short, super efficient workout is way lower than they intended. These workouts also tend to combine different types of exercises (strength, cardio, etc.) to such an extent that you can’t really see the benefits of either of them.
So, can you do a four-second workout on your own, such as repeatedly sprinting up a hill? Maybe some people can. But if you do the prescribed number of laps and add the necessary rest, you are at a 15-minute workout anyway.
Short workouts shouldn’t be your entire routine
Let’s talk about another popular type of short workout. The “Graeing the Groove” approach means the division of a large volume of work into one day. You’ll be doing a series of pull-ups once an hour, maybe every hour – and it’s true that if you do this day in and day out, you’ll have an impressive number of pull-ups under your belt.
But what good would it do you to only do pull-ups? This is a great approach to improving your pull-ups outside of normal workouts. it is not a substitute for a more general exercise program. If that’s all you do, you are missing out on leg strength, push strength, cardio fitness, and more. You need strength and cardio to be a healthy, fit person.
Remember, the exercise guidelines recommend that we all get it at least 75 to 150 minutes of activity per weekthat weight training doesn’t count. You can run for 150 minutes, jog for 75 minutes, or come up with your own mix of activities to keep you occupied for that long. If you want to use 45 of those minutes on a handful of 15-minute sessions, that’s fine, but the rest won’t let you off the hook.
Minimalist workouts are not a good option for most of us
Super short workouts make sense for two people:
1. Those who would otherwise do absolutely nothing
2. Those who already have a strong base of strength and aerobic fitness and only need a little break.
If you’re in the first group, congratulations on starting your fitness journey! Better to walk a block than sit on the couch. Doing 10 squats is better than zero. Chugging up the stairs a few times, even if you only spend a few minutes total, is an absolute improvement over doing nothing.
But then take the next step in your fitness journey by doing more.
Likewise, the strength and conditioning world is full of stories of accomplished athletes who won medals and set personal records after spending a few months on a minimalist routine. But these people weren’t just beginners who started their sporting careers like this; they already had a tremendous fitness base, and their bodies could take advantage of the extra rest and specialization that minimalist training can provide.
How to Know Which Super Short Workouts Might Help You
I’m not saying that no one should ever do a quick workout, just that we have to think about what we are doing and why.
First, do you fall into either of the above two categories – the totally inexperienced and the extremely savvy? Go for it and just use your best judgment.
For the rest of us, super-short workouts can still be an option on top of the rest of the routines. If you want to improve a particular lift or skill, it can be helpful to practice it frequently (such as greasing the groove) in addition to your normal strength training.
If you do a lot of cardio, a short interval session or two can be a good addition. You don’t need a special protocol developed in a laboratory; The tried and tested routines developed by athletes and coaches are probably the smarter choice. We have an overview of speedwork for runners here; this is a good start.
But how short do we talk?
How short can a workout be and still be effective? It all depends on what else you’re doing, like how Food alone is not “healthy” or “unhealthy”, but must be considered in the context of your overall diet.
I would say if you are looking at a workout that lasts less than 20 minutes, you should be wondering what this workout will add to your life and if it represents something that could be more effective. For the most part, you’d probably be more satisfied with the results of 30 minutes of normal cardio exercise than 10 minutes of puke-worthy intervals, and that definitely beats 10 minutes of what is meant to be harsh but ends up being simple cardio.
The most important question to ask yourself at this soul-seeking moment is whether you are simply shrinking from hard work. Hard work and consistency are the essential components of success in fitness, whether you’re trying to win competitions or just being a strong, strong, and all-round fit person. You improve by finding ways to do more safely and sustainably, not by looking for excuses to do less.