by Mike Westerdal

Review of Shin Ohtake's Max Workouts Program

Shin Ohtake is a Tokyo-born trainer who developed the MAX Workouts Program, which he bills as “the ultimate mash-up of high intensity interval training, circuit training and strength training.” In my experience the best, most effective workout routines are the simplest ones. They don’t require fancy, expensive equipment and are built around compound exercises that maximize recruitment of multiple muscle groups-and from that perspective the MAX Workouts Program is a winner.

Shin’s program is built on a foundation of three elements: quality, intensity and power. By focusing on these components, his program “cuts out the fluff” and allows you to achieve more in less time. Here’s what Shin means:

  • Quality: Make the most of your time spent working out-make sure that your time at the gym counts-quality over quantity
  • Intensity: Push yourself hard, and each week up the weight, reduce the rest time between sets or increase the speed of the workout
  • Power: Consistently improve your strength, speed and endurance

Review of Shin Ohtake's Max Workouts Program

The MAX Workouts includes four levels-one, two, three and four, each of which lasts for three weeks, making it a 90-day program. Three weeks is about the time it takes for your body to get used to a routine, which is about when you begin to see “diminishing returns,” or in other words, your gains become smaller and smaller.

The training schedule calls for three 20-30 minute sessions per week with interval cardio workouts performed on alternating days. Because the training sessions are short and very intense, there’s no time for chit chat with your gym buddies. I should mention that when Shin is talking about intense workouts, he really means intense. In fact, his definition of an intense workout is a lot different from the majority of gym-goers I’ve run across.

The MAX Workouts exercises are straightforward and simple. Shin focuses on compound movements largely built around four key exercises: squat, deadlift, press-up and pull-up. I like the fact that the exercise descriptions also explain how to do the barbell exercises with dumbbells so the routines can easily be adapted to a home gym. At all levels, each training session includes 3-4 different exercises.

Each exercise is performed sequentially, with no rest period in between them. When you complete all of the exercises, you’ve done one “round,” after which you take a one-minute break. In weeks two and three, you increase the weight and also decrease the rest time between rounds-you’re allowed 45 seconds in week 2 and 30 seconds in week 3. After 3 weeks, you move on to the next level. In selecting weights, Shin emphasizes choosing a starting weight that is sufficiently challenging-but you should still be able to do 8-10 reps. Weights are progressively increased each week.

Below is a sample (level 1) workout:

Exercise: Back Squats

  • Repetitions: 8-10
  • Load: 75-115 pounds (men) and 35-75 pounds (women)

Exercise: Dumbbell Push Press

  • Repetitions: 8-10
  • Load: 15-30 pounds (men) and 7.5-15 pounds (women)

Exercise: Jumping Pull-Ups

  • Repetitions: 12-20
  • Rest period between rounds: 1 minute (week 1), 45 seconds (week 2) and 30 (week 3)
  • Rounds per training session: 6-8 (this should take 20-30 minutes)

All workouts should be preceded by a “dynamic warm-up,” which is 5 exercises, each of which should be repeated 2-3 times before starting the intense training. Each workout also includes an optional abdominals/core conditioning component. The training schedule calls for 3 sessions per week.

Interval cardio training is performed on the alternating days, with one day of rest per week. And like the weight training component of the MAX Workouts Program, the cardio is intense. Shin is a believer in the “Tabata” method, which is built on the belief that short duration, very high intensity interval cardio training is more effective than moderate cardio performed for longer periods.

Shin provides six different interval cardio workouts-each of which includes from 20 seconds to 1 minute of 70% – 90% maximum effort cardio followed by 10 seconds to 1 minute of low intensity cardio. Depending on the time and intensity, each low/high intensity interval is repeated from 4 to 24 times.

Overall, I really like the MAX Workouts Program. Shin’s approach is both solid and sensible. It’s not however, for the unmotivated or the undisciplined. The program requires a high degree of commitment, so if you think you’re up to the challenge and are looking for something different, I think you’ll like the results.

Shin Ohtake is the author of the world-famous fitness program, MAX Workouts. To learn more about how you can get ultra lean and toned with shorter workouts, visit