Hence, its name: O 15 - Only 15 minutes.
"This is not a gimmick but a different way to train," Barretta says. "There's a reason why it's fast. Ten minutes into it, and you're ready to drop."
Distilled to its essence, O 15 is about posture and breathing. It's a form of isometric exercise (you contract your muscles without moving them) designed to produce maximum lactic-acid burn in the shortest time. In fact, the original name of the regimen was the "Burn Workout."
"It elevates the heart rate and encourages more muscles to fire," Barretta contends. "You can create the same pump from static positioning by changing the emphasis from moving the joints to moving the blood through breathing."
The other day, I pedaled down South Broad Street to the DeMarino Chiropractic Center, where Barretta, a former personal trainer, administers the O 15 workouts in a small room with a mirror and a specially designed clock. Attached to the wall was a contraption made of various PVC pipes and joints. As torture devices go, it was too plastic to be considered medieval, but its name was formidable.
"I call it the Crippler," Barretta said. "It's designed to destroy."
The game soul who had shown up to undergo some destruction for the sake of demonstration was Anthony Iacaruso, 48, a heating and air conditioning mechanic from Sewell. He's been doing the O 15 workouts three times a week since September, he said, and the results have been noticeable and pleasing. A stocky, barrel-chested man, he has lost 15 pounds, dropped a belt size and experienced an improved sense of well-being.
"It's affected my posture, and I'm walking a lot straighter," Iacaruso said. "During the day, I don't get tired and I feel more alert." An avid mountain biker, he now has more stamina and is able to complete his customary four-mile circuit with relative ease.
A standard exercise for developing the muscles in the front of the thighs is the wall chair. You stand with your back against a wall and slowly slide downward until your legs form a 90-degree angle. Then you hold that chairlike position until your quads are aflame.
The O 15 workout uses the same basic concept but takes it up a notch with the Crippler (a.k.a. the Total Body Flexor), which forces the body into a posture that guarantees maximum exertion, muscle-cell recruitment, lactic-acid buildup and, to use a four-letter word favored by Barretta, pain.
Barretta coached Iacaruso into the proper posture: heels elevated, chest out, shoulder blades back and against the wall, pelvis dropped and tilted so that the small of the back also contacts the wall. With his hands, Iacaruso pressed against the ends of a PVC pipe about the length of a yardstick, held chest-high, and slowly began lowering his torso until his legs were bent at nearly 90 degrees. Barretta, meanwhile, watching the clock, monitored his client's breathing, repeatedly instructing Iacaruso to suck in a huge draught of air for five seconds, then to blow it all out five seconds later "like a locomotive."
As the seconds ticked down to a minute, Iacaruso was showing the strain. His breathing quickened, his limbs began shaking.
He repeated the exercise two more times, with only 15-second breaks in between, then did three sets while holding dumbbells out to his side (lateral raises), and three more sets while curling dumbbells.
"It's all hard-core stuff," Barretta said. "It's all about the angles."
The workout was over in about 10 minutes. Iacaruso, winded, his brow beaded with sweat, was savoring the post-exercise euphoria. "I know I'm doing my body good," he declared.
Barretta trains about 35 clients, including a local butcher, an Augustinian priest, and several radio and TV personalities, such as Comcast SportsNet's Michael Barkann and NBC10 anchor Lori Wilson. ("It's the most effective workout for aerobic conditioning," Wilson told me. "I'm not a runner, and it enabled me to complete a half-marathon.") Erstwhile Eagles Jeremiah Trotter and Jon Runyan have felt the O 15 burn, Barretta says, and he treated me to a short trial that set my quaking quads ablaze in no time.
Barretta wasn't kidding when he promised, "You will feel your muscles deaden like they're filled with cement. It temporarily paralyzes you with lactic acid so you can't move."
Theoretically, it's all in the service of a worthy goal.
"If you can hold the posture and breathe deeply and correctly," Barretta asserted, "you'll develop your core and get thinner and stronger. It's all about breaking the muscles down and allowing them to recover."
about O 15: www.O15workout.com.
"Well Being" appears every other week, alternating with Sandy Bauers' "GreenSpace" column. Contact Art Carey at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his recent columns at www.philly.com/wellbeing.