Review of “The One-Minute Workout”

Reading Martin Gibala’s, Ph.D., “The One-Minute Workout: Science Shows a Way to Get Fit That’s Smarter, Faster, Shorter” (written with Christopher Shulgan) feels a bit like interval training itself–which is the book’s main focus. You warmup easily with a nice introduction to interval training, but shortly thereafter there’s a plateau (a reader’s wall, if you will) that you need to push through to reveal the fitness wisdom within.

“The One-Minute Workout” does a great job of explaining interval training but after a few chapters the point is more than clear and becomes a bit belabored: Interval training is the safest and most efficient exercise for the time-constrained individual. As recommend by public health guidelines, the average person should get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week. That’s a little under three episodes of “Stranger Things” with much less edge-of-your-seat suspense and more “why are you like this” frustration. Another way to put it is that 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week might not be fun or interesting for most people (it certainly doesn’t work for me).

On the flip-side is sprint interval training, which is exercising at your max in an extremely short period of time. With this added exertion comes more risk, but the reward may be gained in a shorter amount of time. Where’s the Goldilocks, the just-right for working out in a time-efficient way?

Dr. Gibala contends that interval training is what you’re looking for.

With interval training, you work out for a lesser amount of time by alternating periods of intense exercise and recovery. This keeps the workout more interesting, pushes you further as you burn more calories during the sprints, and saves you time. It sounds great, and from my experience, it is. You see and feel the benefits sooner than moderate regular exercise, and the workout itself is overall a more fun time.

But while the above is less elegant than the book, it is the nuts and bolts of interval training. “The One-Minute Workout,” however, provides an in-depth history of the exercise phenomenon. While it may be interesting for academics and those curious about exercise physiology and kinesiology, with an admittedly teasing title like “The One-Minute Workout,” all the background information feels overwhelming to the average person looking to become fit and get into shape in a time efficient manner. Because of this, I am confused as to who the audience is for the book. My guess is that it is for the average person looking to develop their fitness routine without necessarily having a background in the scientific field of it. I shouldn’t be guessing, though. That confusion, combined with a lack of structured and detailed education regarding physiology and kinesiology, alienated me for a few chapters after the stellar introduction.

Read in parts or as a textbook on interval training, however, “The One-Minute Workout” excels. Racing through it like a sprint will leave you exhausted and perhaps not as enthused to try interval training upon turning the final page. After the sprint of a few chapters worth of scientific data and research, though, you feel the relief of some fantastic material. The back half of “The One-Minute Workout” illustrates the workouts scientifically proven to increase your fitness, as well as offer a sprint chapter regarding nutrition. These three chapters more than make up for the slower incline leading into the book’s main course and truly offers great information for everyone from the couch potato looking to get up and run Forrest-Gump style, to the athlete that aspires to be Usain Bolt.