In an era when weight-loss schemes come in some downright unbelievable forms (have you heard of the ice-cream cleanse or the werewolf diet?), fitness experts have rightly grown wary of any trend with a catchy name that promises to shape your body. Thus, word of a new exercise program dubbed the "Konami code workout" draws immediate suspicion. But there's some good news for old-school video game buffs: This one may actually help you build muscle and endurance. Be warned, however--it's tough.
The brainchild of Steve Kamb of Nerd Fitness, the Konami code workout is "based on the best and greatest video game code ever created" (although I'm sure some gamers might debate that statement). It's the code for extra lives in the Konami game "Contra," which originally came out for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES).
For those who've never played this game (or never cheated), the code goes as follows: up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, start (as in the Start button).
So how does this translate to a workout? Actually, it's quite clever. The routine starts with two pull-ups, or alternatively, two dumbbell or body-weight rows. Then go "down" for two push-ups of any style. The "left, right, left, right" translates to four lunges using alternate legs, followed by one burpee for "B." The grand finale is an air squat for "A," and apparently no move represents the "start."
Kamb recommends repeating the series for five to 10 minutes--or even 20 "if you're crazy"--although only highly fit people will be able to accomplish this. This intense exercise style is similar to Crossfit and other extreme workout plans, which can be highly taxing on your body.
Should You Try the Konami Code Workout?
Only if you're already in good shape. The routine will certainly help you gain strength, tone your muscles and boost stamina and balance. That said, it's very easy to strain a muscle or even cause more serious injury if you're body isn't up to the task.
Even if you are in good shape, it's important not to push too hard with such extreme exercise. If you ignore signals such as pain and fatigue, you may set yourself up for a dangerous condition called rhabdomyolysis (or rhabdo), in which your muscles begin to break down. The particles enter your bloodstream and eventually your kidneys, where they can turn toxic and cause kidney failure.
Signs of rhabdo include severe pain or swelling in the muscles a day or two after your workout. Urine tends to also turn dark. To help avoid this potentially fatal condition, stop exercising when you feel exhausted, and drink plenty of water before, during and after workouts.
These risks aside, fit people may very well benefit from trying a round or two of the Konami code workout. If your body doesn't feel too strained, go ahead and try a full five or 10 minutes. The bottom line is that any workout gimmick that makes training more enjoyable may help you get the exercise you need to stay healthy--and most people suffer from too little exercise, not too much.
Nina Kate is a certified fitness nutrition specialist through the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM). She also studied journalism at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and has contributed to numerous major publications as a freelance writer. Nina thrives on sharing nutrition and fitness knowledge to help readers lead healthy, active lives. Visit her wellness blog at BodyFlourish.com.