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Strong in Five Minutes

Is it possible to gain strength by exercising only 5 minutes, three days per week? Dr. Chris Sciamanna, a primary care doctor and exercise researcher at Penn State, thinks so. Dr. Sciamanna writes, “During the pandemic, when my gym closed, I had to figure out how to do strength training at home. I started doing push-ups and squats each day, but after a few months, my arms were actually getting smaller. After reviewing the research, I saw that the studies all said you could get stronger in just a few minutes using exercises that worked multiple muscles.” Sciamanna goes on to say that he was unhappy with the equipment available for purchase. As most fitness equipment took up a whole room, he decided to make his own. Ultimately, he designed a bag that could be loaded with small bags of sand so that weight could easily be adjusted. “I realized that I’d made the only home gym designed to give you a full-body, free weight strength workout in just 5 minutes.” Dr. Sciamanna decided to call his program Faster Workouts.

The Faster Workouts program includes exercises like deadlifts, squats, rows, and swings. The entire workout lasts just 5 minutes. Sciamanna uses one simple rule – when you can perform ten repetitions of an exercise, add 2.5 pounds. Over the course of 6 months, Sciamanna, who is in his 50s, worked his way up to doing push-ups with 80 pounds on his back and using the same weight for bicep curls. He writes, “I’m done in just 5 minutes and, no matter how hard I try, I can’t come up with an excuse not to do a 5-minute workout. I figured I wasn’t the only one who might want to get stronger in just 5 minutes with a compact home gym, so here it is.”

His involvement with strength training began in the first week of college. “Guys on my floor were going to the weight room, so I decided to tag along.” Initially, he wasn’t sure why he stuck with it, but over time he got hooked on the progress, he was making. “Every month, I could do something that I had never done before. Even though it didn’t really matter – it sure felt like it did. It just felt great to be strong.” During his residency in Internal Medicine, he became fascinated with why people didn’t take better care of themselves. So, after his residency, he decided he would try to learn more about ways to get people to take better care of themselves. This pursuit led him to Johns Hopkins, where he performed research in public health.

Among the research, Sciamanna cites to support his methods is a 2017 meta-analysis by Grant Ralston et al. published in the Journal of Sports Medicine. In the study, Ralston and his colleagues determined that relatively higher intensity exercise was more effective than very light resistance training, even for beginners. So, put away those 1 lb weights that you can curl for days and strive for a weight that you can lift for no more than ten repetitions. Then, add a small amount of weight when you are able. “I started Faster Workouts because I started to realize that, though exercise is as strong as a drug, the business of exercise is very different. If you create an amazing exercise program, even if you prove that it cures cancer, because you can’t really patent exercise programs – it is very unlikely that the public will ever get access to your program. So I decided to start Faster Workouts to bring to the public what I thought was the best idea I’ve ever seen in exercise, that workouts as short as 5 minutes, three times a week, can build strength, fitness, and – for older adults – the freedom to do whatever you want.” For more information about Faster Workouts, Dr. Sciamanna can be reached at

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