We Tried the "600 Calories in 60 Minutes" Workout TikTok Is Obsessed With

Jeanette Jenkins definitely designed a scorcher. But why is America's youth so crazy for it?

April 23, 2020 7:49 am
tik tok workout

Welcome to The Workout From Home Diaries. Throughout our national self-isolation period, we’ll be sharing single-exercise deep dives, offbeat belly-busters and general get-off-the-couch inspiration that doesn’t require a visit to your (now-shuttered) local gym.

I’d gotten really good at ignoring TikTok.

I’m a mid-’90s baby, either a young millennial or an old Gen Zer, depending on who you ask, but the editorial office at InsideHook likes to joke that I possess the pop culture awareness and tech literacy of a Baby Boomer. They’re probably right; in the pre-WFH era, I’d often have to quietly Google some name or show everyone was chumming about in real time. The only thing worse — exactly how I’d search the topic. I never learned how to type properly, so I poke at the computer like a drunk chimpanzee ordering an Uber.

A public refusal to educate myself on everyone’s favorite video app, then, kind of fit my brand. But then the last two months arrived. The quarantine brought TikTok to the fore, highlighting its usual penchant for silliness, alongside a surprising ability to educate; when America’s 20-somethings were called home, suburban dads were conscripted, knees be damned, to make the country laugh. As COVID-19 continued to erode any sense of normalcy, TikTok’s 1.5 billion users — 60% of which are aged 16 to 24 — could rely on advice from credible medical professionals, and even follow the World Health Organization.

Writing off TikTok is a bit like standing on a beach and shouting at an incoming tsunami. It isn’t uncommon for a social media platform to sparkle, shine, then fizzle out, so of course it’s possible that TikTok won’t be here in five years. But it’s utterly unavoidable at the moment, and clearly determined to progress beyond its status as “that dancing app.” TikTok is that dancing app, yes, but simultaneously that funny video app, and that online challenge app. The last moniker has even brought the service to a new frontier: fitness inspiration. Instagram is still the ultimate social media kingmaker for training (roughly 25% of the app is butts in yoga pants, according to a recent eye test) but lately, TikTok users have been alerting followers whenever they’re “trying out” a “fitness trend.”

The latest craze: a video that’s nearly two-and-a-half years old. The tags #600calories and #JeanetteJenkins currently have 417K and 280K views a piece on TikTok, as users have scrambled to try their hand at a scorcher generally referred to as the “600 calories in 60 minutes challenge.” It’s a cardio-sculpting kickboxing workout from Jeannette Jenkins, founder of Hollywood Trainer Club, who’s coached a wide range of celebs over the years, from Terrell Owens to Pink. The video now sits at over 15 million views — with an additional million since last week — and all the top comments are some variation on “Lol who’s here from that one random TikTok?” or “Anyone else doing this because they’re in quarantine?”

It’s difficult to pinpoint an exact reason for the workout’s popularity. This is probably the most important age in at-home fitness since the workout videotape revolution in the ’80s. Everyone wants you to workout during quarantine, and even apps of nationwide gym franchises have struggled to cut through the noise. What’s so special, then, about a single video from 2017? Well, for starters — language matters. Jenkins actually burns 678 calories by the end of the video, but “600 in 60” sounds better. It’s easy to remember and it sounds like a guarantee. Gen Z, the plucky, squinty-eyed cohort that it is, has appeared to enjoy putting the regimen to the test. And so far, it’s passed. TikTok users uploading videos of this workout often punctuate their posts with a snapshot of a wearable that says “613 calories burned.”

The intimidation barrier, meanwhile, is super low. As opposed to Instagram, where workouts are performed effortlessly in ultra-cool rooms with cinderblock walls and floor-to-ceiling windows, TikTok users stumble around messy bedrooms and don’t mind admitting when Jenkins’s workout is kicking their ass. It creates a community in a casual, almost accidental way; a workout that most would be terrified to attempt in front of friends, let alone strangers, transmutes into a “challenge.” It’s something to do, something to share. In an age that vacillates between boredom and heartbreak, the trend, test or challenge — whatever you want to call it — almost sneaks up on TikTok users. Before they can even tell what they’re participating in (a workout, again, from three Thanksgivings ago) they’ve suddenly completed a devastating full-body workout. In a way, it’s beautiful.

I joined that community this weekend. No, I didn’t make a TikTok. Baby steps! But I completed Jeanette Jenkins’s “600 in 60” workout. I burned 538 calories by the end of the hour and thoroughly enjoy-hated the workout. (The best workouts should draw a little bit of ire.) To quote Jenkins herself, it’s “no joke.” The warm-up alone took 12 minutes, and had me out of breath. Including sections called “metabolic boost,” it’s a high-octane circuit of constant movement — kicks, jumping jacks, volleyball shuffle-and-blocks, mountain climbers, high knees, and burpees. There’s some mat work interspersed throughout, a couple yoga poses, and a crucial core yeller at the end. The regimen also features some movements you probably weren’t practicing at your gym before the quarantine began, like side-kicks (don’t snap the knee!) and plyometric lunge jumps.

In short, it’s a great way to get your heart rate up, burn calories, and move the body in complex, challenging ways. I fully endorse it as a novel one-off, or a consistent, once-a-week option for building strength and endurance. Jenkins explains and encourages proper form all the way through, while a fellow trainer performs modified versions of each move, so it’s easy to follow along. It’s funny; if I had to recommend a quick, effective workout video for the tight-quartered TikTokker to try out, I’d point to something like this. Of course, they probably got to it well before I did.

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