QuickGym-The Four Minute Whole Body Workout
The QuickGym! Get all the exercise you need in 4 minutes a day! Sound like a ludicrous fitness industry claim? Perhaps, but studies exist to back it up. Even before the whole Tabata craze there were several papers that proved four minutes of intense exercise was enough to cause significant improvements to your health. Today, this exercise protocol is repeated, packaged and commercialized, but no one does it as boldly as the manufacturers of the QuickGym.
Not familiar with QuickGym? It is a $14,000 + piece of shiny, sculptured chrome metal that is supposed to deliver the best workout of your life; in only four minutes a day. That is, 4 minutes for the upper body and 4 minutes for your lower body. The key is in the constant tension it creates whether the user is pushing or pulling. For the upper body, you sit and push the horizontal bar forward against tension. When you reach full extension, you pull (row) back against tension. The back of the machine is like a high stair-stepping machine. The user holds onto (and presumably pulls and pushes against) a set of horizontal bars while ‘stepping’ through a full range of motion. The harder the effort, the higher the resistance. As the trainee gets tired, the resistance lets up.
Why 4 Minutes?
Why only four minutes? What does the QuickGym and the Tabata team have against longer workouts? According to the manufacturers of this machine, lack of motivation is the biggest factor people cite for quitting an exercise program. If they only have to suffer for 4 minutes a day, no mental fortitude is needed. Anyone can last four minutes without getting bored!
Another reason for the 4 minute time frame is a lack of time. Many people in today’s society are so busy that they can’t find time to hit the gym, walk, or play sports for 30 minutes a few times a week. Whatever the reason, fast and effective workouts attract attention.
4 Minutes is also the time period Dr. Tabata and his team used to test their athletes and measure their VO2 max., or maximum oxygen uptake over this period. The exact protocol used was maximum possible intensity on a stationary bicycle for 20 seconds, followed by 10 seconds of rest, repeated 8 times. The results showed a significant increase in the athletes’ VO2 maximum.
QuickGym cites several scientific studies to back up their claims. It should be noted that a couple of these experiments were executed with healthy, but untrained test subjects. This means they did not engage in a regular exercise program. It also means that in the time frame the study was conducted, (a few weeks) the greatest physiological adaptations are expected to take place, regardless of the exercise protocol.
Still, this same high intensity training was effective for increasing VO2 max in trained athletes in the Tabata study. The question is, will one continue to experience positive results using the same exercises with the same time period on a regular basis? Probably not. Physiology requires that we increase one of three factors: Intensity, resistance or volume. Fortunately, this is easy to accomplish with the Quickgym or any other equipment, including your own bodyweight.
The QuickGym is a magnificent piece of equipment, and I think the makers should be proud of what they have created. It speaks to the integrity of their product and the company that they have been around for 20 years. Still, it costs over $14,000 dollars! So how can this equipment be emulated at home using affordable equipment?
Sure you can duplicate the protocol; take any exercise, squats for instance, and do them for four minutes of 20 seconds of all-out work/10 seconds rest. But what about the constant tension? This isotonic element is much harder to achieve. I considered some ideas:
-Tie elastic workout bands to hands and ankles and perform various exercises.
-Use a ‘sprint trainer’ that comes with ankle and wrist cuffs.
-Wear a weighted vest, ankle and wrist weights. Then perform various bodyweight exercises such as bear crawls, tiger crawls, crab crawls, mountain climbers, etc.
I even considered anchoring resistance bands to the ceiling and floor and performing pushing and pulling exercises. None of this has quite the same effect as the QuickGym. In all of these exercises, it is just too difficult to find equal tension in the eccentric (negative) portion of the exercise; although crawling backwards and forwards is a brutal close call, especially with extra weight.
Free weights may be the best way to emphasize eccentric and concentric resistance without a QuickGym. This is because the trainee can start off with as much weight as they need, and lower it as slow as they need to. With this in mind, here are a couple of great 4 minute free weight workouts you might want to try:
*Barbell Squats: Lower the body to parallel over 3-4 seconds. From the full squat, press the barbell up to full extension over 3-4 seconds. With the weight extended overhead, squat back up to standing (3-4 seconds.) Lower the barbell back behind the head using the same cadence. Repeat. Try doing this as one rep for every 16-20 seconds, then rest for 10 with the barbell on your shoulders, standing. Repeat 8 times or for four minutes.
*Double Kettlebell or dumbbell clean and press; or barbell clean and press: Done with good form, this is a great conditioning exercise that also builds power and strength. Do as many reps in 20 seconds as possible, but following this format:
-Clean weight to shoulders and catch in full squat. Do not perform a jerk. Instead, press the weight up using a 3 second up and down cadence. Lower under control to shoulders instead of dropping, then lower under control to floor and repeat.
The Final Word
Although the above exercises are done in the spirit of the Tabata protocol, the slow cadence is unlikely to get your heart pumping hard enough to get the same benefits of this study. Do them faster, and you are not going to work your muscles as hard. In fact, none of these exercises comes close to the relentless grind of the QuickGym. Perhaps the Concept Rower rowing machine is the closest contender.
Of course, if you have the $14K to spend, you can try the QuickGym yourself. Better yet, take advantage of their 30 day free trial. Then you can decide if it will really save you thousands of dollars and endless hours of exercise over your lifetime.
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