Working Your Hardest for 60 Seconds

Written by ustin Walls on . Posted in Health & Wellness

A book was published earlier this year by Dr. Martin Gibala, titled “The One Minute Workout,” in which he demonstrated how sedentary people were able to derive 150 minutes of endurance exercise in 80 percent less time each week. Dr. Gibala conducted his study at McMaster University to come to this conclusion. Interestingly, a similar study was conducted by Dr. Raymond Wu and led to the publication of his book of the same name, as well as a website,, where he offers eight free exercises plus premium sections with different levels of services.


Both of these workouts combine two minutes of moderate exertion followed by 20 seconds of hard exertion, repeating the cycle of 2-20-2-20-2-20-2 over the course of nine minutes. The “one minute” workout is the three intervals of hard exertion for twenty seconds spaced two minutes apart. The theory is that the one minute of exertion creates the metabolic equivalent of 45 minutes of moderate to intense endurance training by creating a similar demand on the muscles to replenish energy.

Here are a few examples of how to accomplish this workout:

While on your stationary bike, set the timer for two minutes and pedal at about 80 revolutions per minute (rpm) for two minutes. Then increase the resistance on your bike as high as you can while maintaining the 80 rpm for 20 seconds. Reduce to your starting rate and repeat the cycle to complete three hard exertion cycles of 20 seconds each.

Put on your running shoes and grab a timer. Walk for two minutes. Run as fast as you can for 20 seconds. Walk another two minutes and repeat the cycle to completion. This works best on a track to keep your elevation consistent for the full workout.

Do light jumping jacks for two minutes. Then go crazy: Cram as many jumping jacks as you can in 20 seconds. Relax your jumping jack rate for another two minutes.

There are tons of ways to vary this workout. The best part is that you likely won’t need any special equipment. However, if you’re not seeing results after 12 weeks, there is a very good reason why. The scientific definition of “hard exertion” approaches 80 percent of your heart rate reserve, meaning that your body is working three times as hard to manage all of the energy consumption in the cells. Heart rate reserve (HRR) is the difference between resting heart rate (RHR) and maximal heart rate (MHR). Defined mathematically, that would be HRR=RHR-MHR where MHR=220-Age.

Once you measure your HRR, you will be able to ascertain if you are working hard enough in your 20 second exertion. You can calculate the range of “hard exertion” by calculating 60 percent of HRR and then 80 percent of HRR. Add the 60 percent HRR to your RHR to calculate the lower threshold of your “hard exertion” HR, and then add 80 percent HRR to your RHR to calculate the upper threshold of your “hard exertion” HR. Measure your pulse after each 20 second interval to determine if you are exerting yourself enough during that interval. If your heart rate falls between the thresholds, then you are following the protocol of the one minute workout.

By Justin Walls

 Justin Walls is a certified personal trainer (American College of Sports Medicine), specializing in youth fitness, senior fitness, myofascial release techniques, joint pain/arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, aqua fitness, running, and walking. He also has expertise in lifestyle/health management and meal planning, and a background in psychology. Learn more at Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  or call 240-630-0298.