Forget weights — the 7-minute workout builds strength and boosts metabolism in 12 moves

Woman performing a crunch on her yoga mat with hands behind her head
(Image credit: Shutterstock images/ Standret)

The 7-minute workout dates back to 2013, created by none other than the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) Health and Fitness Journal. So, science backs it, right? But 10 years later, in a world of TikTok workout trends and celeb regimes, does it still hold up?

The ACSM team combined 12 bodyweight aerobic, endurance and resistance exercises into one seven-minute high-intensity circuit training (HICT) workout, which can be repeated two to three times for maximum results. Sure, seven minutes is pretty efficient, but we all want to know if it works. 

We spoke to Bupa Health Clinics physiotherapist Tom Harrison to discuss the 7-minute workout and S.I.T. routines (sprint interval training, which this workout is commonly compared with). Grab one of the best yoga mats for your classes, and read on to find out whether the 7-minute workout could build strength, burn calories and boost your metabolic health. 

What is the 7-minute workout? 

The 7-minute workout includes 12 bodyweight exercises and a 30-second work 10-second rest format. During the 30 seconds of work, you should aim for maximal capacity and achieve as many reps as possible.

Each exercise targets your major muscle groups and splits the upper and lower body and core so that muscle groups get time to recover as you alternate. You can achieve an intense full-body workout in just seven high-intensity minutes using one wall, a chair and your body weight.

Since its inception, many variations have floated on social media, but we’ve included the OG version below. It’s worth noting that the authors recommend several rounds, which means it’s technically not a seven-minute routine — pretty sneaky from the ACSM team, we think — although you can stick to the seven-minute time cap, which is packed to maximize the short working window. 

The 7-minute workout 

Here are the original 12 exercises used for the 7-minute workout. You’ll only need one chair, a wall and your body weight.

  • Jumping jacks
  • Wall sit
  • Push-ups
  • Ab crunches
  • Step-ups on a chair
  • Squats
  • Tricep dips on a chair
  • Plank
  • High knees
  • Lunges
  • Push-up rotations 
  • Side planks

Follow the video to perfect your form and check each exercise if you fancy trying it out. For anyone new to any exercises, always check in with a qualified personal trainer before beginning a new regime.  

What is a S.I.T. routine?

If you type ‘7-minute workout’ into Google, you might find the term ‘S.I.T. routine’ used, too. We turned to physio Harrison for some answers.

“S.I.T. stands for ‘sprint interval training,’” Harrison explains. “It’s a type of high-intensity interval training created specifically to condition athletic performance of elite athletes.” Exercisers work at maximum capacity in short bursts, aiming for the heart rate to reach 100%. Unlike other HIIT exercises, the rest between each set is longer to give the heart a chance to recover. 

Sets usually last around 30 seconds, followed by a recovery of up to five minutes, then repeated between four and six times. For example, a cyclist might introduce 30-second max sprints during training sessions, and like the 7-minute workout, it has proven efficient and effective for performance.

However, Harrison warns that this intensity isn’t for everyone. “S.I.T. can be dangerous if you’re of average fitness. Most people would find the level of stamina and discipline difficult to maintain,” he says. “Always seek professional guidance when changing your exercise routine, especially if you have health concerns or have suffered from musculoskeletal injuries in the past.”

S.I.T. vs the 7-minute workout 

There are similarities, but Harrison concludes it’s not the same. “S.I.T. and the 7-minute workout have a few key differences, mainly relating to how long they can be sustained for, based on the energy system used to carry them out,” he explains.

“S.I.T. includes all-out maximal exertion over 30-second sets. This intense exercise goes into anaerobic resources a lot quicker, meaning the body produces movement without using oxygen. This form of exercise is not possible to sustain for long periods. When the set is over, you take active or passive recovery,” he says.

The 7-minute workout uses the same ideas but isn’t as intense and uses the aerobic systems more, meaning it can be sustained longer. Exercises are also split into four regions: cardio, lower body, upper body and core.

Does the 7-minute workout work? 

The workout combines bodyweight, aerobic and anaerobic training and some components of S.I.T. — all boasting many benefits. However, one workout session won’t change your life. You need to exercise regularly and factor in sleep, hormones, stress and diet if your goal is to lose weight, build muscle or improve overall fitness and energy levels.

That aside, some research suggests short workouts under 10 minutes could still be effective. And despite divided opinions around the 7-minute workout, a 2016 study found it produced ‘slight weight loss’ and decreased fat mass with no change in diet, which was significant compared with a control group.

The workout is also based on known scientific research around the effectiveness of aerobic and anaerobic exercise, which studies show can strengthen your heart, improve circulation, aid weight loss and boost mental well-being.

Moreover, we know that high-intensity circuit training can help build muscle strength and endurance, improve aerobic capacity and aid weight loss, especially when combined with compound exercises that recruit large muscle groups compared with steady-state training.

High-intensity exercise also taps into your body’s ability to tear through calories during and after workouts, called the EPOC process (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption) — the amount of oxygen consumed post-workout to rebalance the body. However, the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research questions whether exercisers could truly reach high-intensity efforts in such a short window, which has been widely debated ever since.

More from Tom's Guide

For some, seven minutes just isn’t enough to work up a sweat or hit the desired intensity. If you don’t think the 7-minute workout is for you, check out these workouts below.

Sam Hopes
Senior Staff Writer - Fitness

Sam Hopes is a level III fitness trainer, level II reiki practitioner, and senior fitness writer at Future PLC, the publisher of Tom's Guide. She is also about to undertake her Yoga For Athletes training course. Having trained to work with mind and body, Sam is a big advocate of using mindfulness techniques in sport and fitness, and their impact on performance. She’s also passionate about the fundamentals of training and building sustainable training methods.  When she's not writing up her experiences with the latest fitness tech and workouts, you’ll find her writing about nutrition, sleep, recovery, and wellness.