I know I am not unique in having a gross shortfall in discretionary time. It appears there is a never-ending list of appointments and things to do and not nearly enough time for self-care. Tim Ferris, who wrote The 4-Hour Body, asks, “What if we could find the Minimal Effective Dose (MED) for activities of daily living so that we could free up time to do the things we really want to do?” I agree. Who doesn’t want more time in their day?
So, what would an MED mean for fitness? When it comes to fitness, it seems that an hour-long class at the gym or repeated lengthy bouts on your elliptical are what we are told it takes to get fit. But what if I told you there are other ways to be fit, and they might be more effective, make you smarter, and help you live longer?
How do these short bursts of exercise work? Short-burst workouts are intended to be highly versatile for your busy schedule. Ideally, you perform these burst workouts whenever you have a few free minutes during your day.
What Are The Benefits of a Five-Minute Burst Workout?
Improved athletic capacity: Burst or high-intensity workouts increase athletic output by building endurance and strength in a different way than slow, steady workouts.
Improved glucose metabolism: Our ability to regulate our glucose levels improves significantly with high-intensity workouts.
Heightened resting metabolic rate or afterburn: Although it may not appear you have burned many calories during a burst session, your ability to burn more calories steadily throughout the rest of the day will be markedly improved over traditional cardio.
Faster and more efficient: Because the intensity is heightened, there is no need, nor is it safe, to perform extended versions of burst workouts. By their very nature they are designed to be short and sweet.
Better brain function: Brain structure and cognition have been shown to improve with intense burst-type exercise. Even better, the best improvements are seen in areas of the brain where age-related decline tends to occur.
Boost in human growth hormone and fat burning: HGH is going to elevate after a burst exercise session to restore lost glycogen. Fat will then be burned as a result of elevated HGH. Although we aren’t in “fat burning” mode during burst exercise, the fat burning that occurs after the workout, during recovery, is of far greater benefit.
Improved longevity: When you perform burst exercise you get an increase in anti-aging and anabolic hormones. These hormones are essential for healing and slowing the aging process.
What Are The Rules of The Burst Workout Game?
- Always be safe and know your limits.
- If you are not sweating and panting by the end of the five minutes, you have done something grievously wrong.
- Don’t cheat. Go the full interval.
- Make sure to get warmed up. Walking briskly or some gentle dynamic stretching is very effective.
- Stretch after your burst. These circuits are very challenging and stretching can make a big difference between possessing calves like painful rocks or feeling like a million dollars.
- If you are a beginner, start slowly. These individual bursts build on each other. Go at a pace that allows you to safely execute the whole five-minute circuit.
Five Five-Minute Burst Workouts to do in The Comfort of Your Own Home
KITCHEN: Push a kitchen chair against a door or wall so that it is secure. Start with 30 seconds of step-ups on the chair. Perform these as intensely as you can muster. Next, turn around, facing away from the chair. Put your hands on the chair with your legs straight out in front of you. Perform 30 seconds of triceps dips. Continue facing away from the chair. Place the top of your foot on the chair so you are in a lunge position with your back leg elevated onto the chair. Perform single-leg squats with one leg extended for 30 seconds. Switch sides. Repeat circuit again. For the fifth and final minute do box jumps (jump-ups) onto the chair for one minute.
BEDROOM: This is a core series. What better place to take care of those love handles than in the bedroom, where they are seen a little more frequently? You only need a tiny space to perform this circuit. Start in a side-plank position. Slowly touch the downside hip to the floor and come back up again. Repeat until your 30 seconds are up (side-plank with hip touches). Roll forward into a plank position and bring your right knee between your arms. Gently tap the inside of each elbow for 15 seconds and then change knees (plank with knee touches to inside of elbows). Turn over onto your back and perform the bicycle abdominal exercise. Do this by touching the right knee to the left elbow and then switch. Perform these for 30 seconds. Use control and keep your core engaged the whole time. Finally, stand up quickly and do the high-knees exercise for 30 seconds by bringing each knee up to your chest separately in a vigorous, exaggerated running motion. Repeat this circuit two times.
STAIRS: Sprint up and down your stairs for one minute. Do 20 jumping jacks. Sprint up and down the stairs again for one minute. Follow with 10 push-ups. Repeat the stair sprints, alternating the push-ups and jumping jacks in between sprints. Do a total of four 1-minute sprints.
FAMILY ROOM: In this workout, we are going to do 20-second bursts of effort with 10-second rests. Start with 20 seconds of vigorous mountain climbers by getting into a plank position and “running .” Get your knees as close to the space inside your arms as possible. Rest for 10 seconds. Stand and get into a squat position. Jump up and then back down into a squat position. Don’t let your butt drop past your knees during these squat jumps. Perform with intensity for 20 seconds. Rest for 10 seconds. From a standing position, bend over and place your hands on the floor in front of you. Perform a modified inchworm by walking your arms out until your body is in a plank position. Briskly walk the arms back into your starting position and stand up. Repeat this modified inchworm for 30 seconds, keeping the core engaged. Take a 10-second rest and then head to the coffee table for incline push-ups. Place your hands on the coffee table or couch so you are in an incline plank position. Holding your core tight, perform incline push-ups for 20 seconds. Modify as needed. Finally, after your last 10-second rest, get into a side plank position. If you are able, raise your top leg and arm so that you are in the shape of a star, for side star plank. Hold for 20 seconds. Only do one side per circuit and then switch the next time through. Rest for 10 seconds. Go through the circuit two times for a total of five minutes.
Now that you know the many benefits to short burst-style workouts and how easy they are to incorporate into your day, I can’t wait for you to try them. Remember to start easy and build your intensity as you get used to each exercise. Pay special attention to form and maintaining control of your body. If you would like additional information on the benefits of burst workouts for body and brain, follow up with the resources listed below.