Four minutes to workout

By Richard Greene | Published Thursday, April 1, 2010

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Midway through the 1990s comedy “There’s Something about Mary,” Ben Stiller’s character decides to pick up a hitchhiker, who rambles on about his plan to help people get fit and make a fortune with “Seven-Minute Abs.”

It made for a funny scene, especially when a skeptical Stiller points out that someone may invent a six-minute abs workout.

Like Stiller, I was a bit skeptical when contacted by Decatur native Joey Christian about the “four-minute workout.” As someone who runs for at least 30 minutes three times per week, I thought “what can you actually do in four minutes?”

Usually four minutes into a run or workout at the gym I’ve barely broken a sweat. So instead of quickly discounting the four-minute plan, I decided to take a test drive and see what it was about.

Before meeting Christian, I had a little knowledge about workouts that were built on similar principles. I’ve heard fitness experts and trainers in recent years talk about the benefits of burst training: workouts that rely on high intensity exercises at short intervals like sprints or lifting heavy weights.

As a distance runner who loves to pound the pavement for four to five mile runs that may take 40 minutes, I hate to admit it that I have learned through speed work and hill training that I could get the same and even more results from a shorter workout.

When I met Christian, he told me his background and how this workout helped him lose 34 pounds and get him fit enough to run his first half-marathon. Then he took me back to see the $15,000 machine that provides the four-minute workout.

It turned out that the four minutes was for either the upper or lower part of the body. An additional four minutes was needed to work out the other portion, making for an eight-minute total body workout or the need to work out a couple extra days per week at four minutes.

After a brief demonstration, I was turned loose to try the upper-body workout. It involves a motion similar to a rowing machine that automatically adjusts tension to match your effort and performance.

A minute in, numbers pop up on a monitor telling you how you are doing. I was pretty satisfied to see I was working out at an optimum level. By the third minute my pace waned, but I was able to carry on.

At the end of the four minutes I was sweating, and my heart was definitely pumping. I could also feel a good pull in my abdominal and back muscles.

After a two-minute rest and swig of water, I decided to take on the lower-body workout, which is very similar to an elliptical or step machine. I’ve never been a big fan of elliptical machines. Because of my short legs, I’ve always felt unbalanced on them. This one was no different to me.

I fought through the four minutes and got a workout. My effort wasn’t as high as the upper-body workout but still above 100 percent. At the end, I was dripping in sweat, and my heart was beating fast.

My legs weren’t totally dead from the four minutes because after a brief chat with Christian, I was able to jog back the few blocks to the office.

To get the full measure of any workout I believe you have to wait until the next day to see how you feel. The next day, I have to admit I could tell that I worked out some muscles that I hadn’t in a while. From the upper-body workout, I could feel it in my back and abs.

Overall, I could see a lot of merit for the four-minute workout and how helpful it can be for a lot of people. It’s perfect for the person coming off the couch and trying get back in shape.

It’s not a big time commitment each day, and they will see some results rather quickly. They may not lose weight, but they will find they will become more toned and have more energy. It will also help them form a routine that includes exercise.

I enjoyed the challenge of the four-minute workout, and while I still have a long way to get back to some of my own personal fitness goals, it’s just not my personal preference. I’ve just never been a guy who likes to be married to a machine. I’d rather be out on the streets or in the gym for my 30 minutes or an hour to clear my head.

As I’ve always told people, the most important part of exercise is finding something you enjoy. You’ll be more apt to stay with it and more importantly, stay moving.

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