It would be great if we could all spend a full hour in the gym each day. Then again, it would be great if our bosses would stop with the last-minute assignments, if there was no rush-hour traffic, and if you didn’t just waste 15 minutes of your potential gym time playing on your phone. That’s why we like to turn to 20-minute workouts when it seems like there’s just not enough time in the day.
The American Heart Association and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services both recommend Americans get at least 30 minutes of exercise five times a week. But the truth is that 20-minutes workouts can be just as good—especially if you really turn up the intensity.
“If you’re going to gain any recognizable training benefit, short workouts have to be hard workouts, and really short workouts have to be really hard,” says Chad Timmerman, a USA Cycling Level 1 certified coach with more than 25 years of racing experience.
Get ready to hurt. These seven 20-minute workouts will burn calories, build muscle, and eliminate any excuses about being too busy to get in shape.
Most Effective 20-Minute Workouts to Build Muscle and Burn Fat
1. The NFL Strength Workout
Former New York Jets player Marc Megna says that if you want to maximize your workout time, one of the best things you can do is constantly switch between muscle groups so you’re always working and never resting between sets. This also keeps your heart rate high, meaning you burn more calories from start to finish.
Do this workout in its assigned order. “The movements flow from higher speed and complexity to lower, since as fatigue sets in we cannot move as quickly or maintain technique,” Megna says. It’s also a great workout for gauging your overall fitness — note how many rounds you can do of each circuit and try and beat it next time.
- Foam Roll: Spend just a couple minutes loosening up your muscles on a foam roller. Focus on your glutes, back, quads, hamstrings and adductors.
- Spiderman With Rotation: Start in a push-up position. Bring your right foot up beside the right hand. Straighten your legs, then drop the left knee onto the ground and rotate your right hand and palm up towards the ceiling. (Here’s a quick video.) Do five on each side.
- Supine Body Row: Set a barbell in a squat rack at about hip height. Set a bench a few feet away from the bar. Put your feet on the bench and face the bar — you should be looking up at the ceiling with your hands shoulder width apart on the bar. Keeping your core engaged, pull your chest up to the bar. Repeat five times.
- Hands Under Feet Squat: Bend over and place your fingers under toes and your arms inside your knees. Start in a squat, then push your chest out and your hips up to stretch the hamstrings (but keep your fingers under your toes). Repeat four more times.
- Lateral Lunge: Start with your feet together. Take a big step out to one side, lunging as you stretch into it. Make sure to sit back on your heels and keep your back flat and your chest as tall as possible. Repeat five times on each side.
- Push-Ups: Do five reps, focusing on keeping your body in a straight line as you press up from the floor.
1. Medicine Ball Circuit
Perform as many rounds as possible in 5 minutes.
- Wall Chest Pass: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, throw the ball at the wall at the chest level. Catch it, and immediately throw it again. Do five throws.
- Lunge to Wall Side Pass: Stand with your right side facing the wall. Holding the ball on your left, lunge back with your right foot. Throw the ball across your body and against the wall. Catch it and repeat. Do five then switch sides.
- Overhead Slams: Start up on your toes. Hinge at the waist, pushing your hips back, and slam the ball into the ground as hard as you can. Engage your abs to really drive the ball with force. Repeat for five reps.
- Facing Wall Side Pass: Stand facing a wall with your feet shoulder width apart. Start with the ball on your left side and throw it across your body and against the wall. Catch it and repeat. Do five on one side then switch.
- Squat Jump: Start in a squat position holding the medicine ball at chest level. Jump up five times, landing back in the squat position after each jump.
2. Strength Circuit
Perform as many rounds as possible in 6 minutes.
- Russian Kettlebell Swing: Do 10, driving with your hips to swing the kettlebell to shoulder height.
- Dumbbell Reverse Lunge: Start with your feet shoulder-width apart. Hold a dumbbell in each hand. Take a big step back and drop your back knee towards the ground; your front shin should be vertical at the bottom position. Do six on each leg.
- Chin-Up: Start in a full hang (elbows extended) then pull until your sternum is touching the bar. If you can’t do these unaided, use a resistance band under your feet and looped around the bar. Do six.
- Barbell Roll-Out: Kneel in front of a barbell loaded with two 45-pound plates. Place your hands on the bar and slowly roll it away from you, squeezing the glutes to ensure your back is protected. Roll back to the starting position and repeat five more times.
- Split Stance Single-Arm Overhead Press: Stand with your right leg slightly behind your left. Hold a kettlebell at shoulder height in your right hand. Push the kettle bell up, then return it to the starting position. Do six on each arm, also switching your leg position.
3. Grind Circuit
Perform as many rounds as possible in six minutes.
- Bodyweight Squat: Push your hips back and lower, getting your butt as close to the floor as possible. Do 20 reps.
- Supine Body Row: 15 reps.
- Bodyweight Hip Press: Lying on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor, push your hips up to towards the ceiling. Make sure to squeeze the glutes and push through the heels. Do 20 reps.
- Pushups: Do 15 reps.
- Mountain Climbers: In a push-up position, keep your back flat and pump your legs as if running in place. Do 20 reps.
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