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7 Minute ScienceThe science behind brevity trainingby Jon Benson, Author of 7 Minute Muscle
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A funny thing happened on the way to the promo...
(I always wanted to start an article like that.)
A few months ago I released a book whose title was more reminiscent of a line out of "There's Something About Mary" than a serious work on fitness. "7 Minute Muscle" -- yep, it's getting more and more difficult to distinguish fact from parody.
Here's the real irony: Of the 27 testimonials I've received so far that I deem worthy of publishing on the web, over a dozen were from fitness professionals. I'm not talking about "doctors" with a gut as large as their paycheck. I'm speaking of men and women with both academic and real-world experience in the fitness and bodybuilding world.
There were exceptions of course. My friend John Berardi, while saying some nice things about the work, couldn't endorse it due to the emphasis on shorter training sessions. That's cool. Everyone has a different approach. But the overwhelming number of folks with consonants behind their names -- those who read the book and applied the principles -- had wonderful things to say.
There's a reason for that: The workout protocol is based on the science of hypertrophy as well as psychophysiology, the study of the mind/body connection.
I will delve into the mental aspects of the protocols in a later article. For now, since most of you are experienced, educated and (dare I say it) hard-core, let's delve into the meat.
7 Minute Muscle is primarily a density-based training system. It demands varying rep ranges done within specific time periods. The protocol factors six of the primary variables of hypertrophy, or muscle growth: Intensity, Load, Volume, Density, Time and Force. (Time includes rest intervals as well as the time required to perform a given task.)
A layman's take on one of the basic laws of physics states that time and energy are interrelated. Doing the same amount of work in less time demands more energy, which translates into more power. While power is a factor in training, our interest is focused on forcing muscle growth and adaptation. This is also an element of time and energy. More energy expended in less time = more power.
If you break down the typical 3-4 set bench press routine, with reps starting at 12 and ending in the 4-6 range, with longer rest intervals between heavier sets, you'll find that the aggregate weight lifted is "less" than a protocol like 7 Minute Muscle, which uses 'less' weight (easier on the joints) but demands more work in less time. In other words, X amount of repetitions done with Y amount of weight in just 5 minutes (phase 1 of our two-phase protocol) ends up being greater than your typical 3-4 set protocol, despite the fact that more weight is used in the latter.
Other routines, of course, utilize this factor of density. Vince Gironda's infamous 8 sets of 8, EDT and so-forth. 7 Minute Muscle goes a bit further by varying rest, load factors and repetition range. Reps will vary from as low as one rep to as much as ten, and all of this is at the trainee's discretion. They have only one objective: Increase the aggregate repetition count from one training session to the next. Since time is limited (broken down into two phases: A Power Phase of no more than 5 repetitions and a Mass Phase of no more than 10 repetitions) the trainee is given a system that more accurately measure the seventh and most crucial factor of hypertrophy: Progression.
More work in less time. Variable repetition ranges. Variable rest intervals. And all in seven minutes (for beginners.) Intermediate and advanced-level trainees are given 14 and 21-minute protocols if they wish to implement them. I myself rarely go beyond 14 minutes, as that is all that's required to stimulate muscle growth.
I will cover health factors, cardiovascular work, ab training, and the science of mind and body in future articles. For now, give 7 Minute Muscle a shot. There's nothing funny about it, except for the fact that you'll be laughing all the way home from the gym as you finished your killer workout while your buddies were still warming up.
Jon Benson is the author of four best-selling fitness and nutrition books: Fit Over 40, Simply Eat, The Every Other Day Diet and 7 Minute Muscle, as well as the year-long M-Power Audio Series. You can read more about 7 Minute Muscle...