Can You Benefit from 20 Minute Workouts?
Most busy adults struggle to find time to exercise, and balancing your family and work life leaves little room for a workout. However, research suggests that if you can find time for just 20 minutes of exercise, you can positively impact your overall health. The key is to be very purposeful with the formats you choose, and thankfully there are many quick workout options that can yield big results.
Your first step is to decide what your main fitness goals are, and from there choose a routine that targets your goals. Exercise has so many different benefits, it can help you with the physical body, and with the mind. It lowers blood pressure, controls glucose, builds endurance, and strengthens muscles. However, it also improves the quality of your sleep, aids in digestion, and helps produce endorphins that help improve your mood.
If you are beginning your fitness journey, just get up and get moving. You can walk, run, bicycle, swim, etc., but the duration needs to be 20 minutes long. Any exercise you do at this point will lead you to a healthier lifestyle. As your endurance improves, you can move onto more targeted workouts. Also, as you grow stronger, you may be inclined to put more rigor into your exercise routines. But don’t pressure yourself at the beginning, ease into the workouts, and be more concerned with getting into the habit of daily movement.
What is the Best 20 Minute Workout?
Once you have decided on your fitness goals, whatever they may be (i.e. losing weight, improving flexibility, cardiovascular activity) then you can start to individualize your workouts. If you are past the beginner stage, and ready to train for your goals, an effective 20 minute workout should contain vigorous activity. What that means is that during your workout you go as hard as you can for the 20 minutes you have. It’s best to aim for 3 days a week of intense 20 minute workouts. Below is a list of different workouts to try, one that promotes endurance, one that focuses on strength, and one that targets your core.
20 minute Running Workout
This quick but intense workout will help you be able to run faster and longer, so when the day comes when you have time or the inclination to participate in a longer jog you will be ready. It is not really for beginners but if you can comfortably run a 5K, you should be safe to give it a try. Be sure to focus on your form. Also, there is no equipment necessary, so you can do this at the gym or at home or outside.
- Warm-up: 5 minutes of walking briskly or jogging in place. Follow that with 1 minute of slow walking to recover.
- Workout: Run 10x 1-minute intervals of strong effort jogging. Give yourself 20 seconds of walking after each interval to recover. On a scale of 1-10, aim for the intensity of at least an 8.
- Cool Down: Use your remaining time to walk or jog slowly to ensure that you properly cool down.
Strength Circuit (20 minutes)
This is a hard but short workout. It is an effective workout because you constantly switch between muscle groups, and you never stop moving once you start. This circuit will help you rev up your metabolism and torch calories. Note: you will need equipment for this one, so it’s best to do it at the gym. You will need: a foam roller, a medicine ball, a kettlebell, 2 dumbbells, a loaded barbell, and a chin-up bar.
Use a foam roller to target any tight muscles (glutes, quads, hamstrings, adductors). Spend about 2 minutes with the foam roller.
- Basic Squat: Squats help build heat and strength in your muscles and are very user-friendly. Just make sure to pay attention to form. Range of motion is the key to effectiveness in squats.
- From a standing position, bring your feet to hip-width distance apart. Make sure your hips, knees and toes all face the same direction.
- Start to bend your knees and send your booty back, as if you were about to sit in a chair. Send all your weight into your heels. Keep your knees behind your toes. Rise back up and repeat 15x
- Lateral Lunges: Start with feet together, then widely step your leg out to the right and bend into your right knee. Come back to center and widely step your leg to the left and bend into your left knee. Keep your spine tall and all your weight into your heels. Do 10x on each side.
- Pushups: Do about 5x but make sure you keep good form. Position your hands shoulder-width apart and when you start to lower to the floor and bend your elbows, the key is to keep your elbows at a 45 degree angle.
- Runners Lunge with Rotation: Start on hands and knees. Bring your right foot forward, and both hands to the inside of your front foot. Your back knee can stay down or you can lift your left leg up from the ground. Press your left heel away from you and hold the position for 5 deep breaths. Keep your left hand grounded and lift your right arm open for a twist. Hold the position for 5 deep breaths. Then, repeat on the left side for the same amount of time.
Medicine Ball Circuit (5 min)
- Chest Pass with Medicine Ball: Start by facing towards a wall, stand with feet hip-width apart, and keep a slight bend to your knees. Throw the ball at the wall (aim for chest level) and catch the ball when it bounces back. Immediately throw the ball and catch again, no breaks! Do this for 1 minute.
- Lunge with a side pass: Start with your right side facing the wall and hold the ball in your left hand. Step right foot back into a lunge. Throw the ball across your body to the wall. Catch and repeat for a minute, or about 5x. Switch sides and repeat for another minute.
- Squat with Ball: Start with knees bent in a squat position, and hold the ball in front of your chest. Jump up and down and land in a squat. At least 6x.
- Overhead Throw: Hold the ball in your hands, come up to your toes, and fold forward at your waist. Make sure to send your hips back as throw the ball to the ground with force. Do at least 6x.
Kettlebell Circuit (5 min)
(you will also need a dumbbell, a chin bar, and a barbell)
- Russian Kettlebell Swing: The idea here is to do these with good form. Place your feet shoulder-width apart, and bring the kettlebell about a foot in front of you on the ground. Bend forward and take hold of kettlebell with both hands. Your palms should face your body, and try to get your torso parallel to the floor. Engage your core before starting and maintain this form throughout the circuit. Lift the kettlebell off the floor and let it swing between your legs. Keep your knees bent and spine and neck straight. You want to do at least 10x, and use your hips to drive the kettlebell to shoulder height.
- Reverse Lunge: Feet begin at shoulder-width apart. Hold a dumbbell in each hand. Step a leg back and bend your knee down towards the ground, it doesn’t have to touch all the way. Do about 6x, then switch sides and repeat.
- Overhead Press with Kettlebell: Place your right leg slightly behind your left leg. Hold the kettlebell in your right hand and hold at shoulder height. Lift the kettlebell to the ceiling by straightening your right arm, then return to shoulder height. Do 6x on each arm.
- Chin-ups: You need to locate a chin-up bar, which is a horizontal bar you can find in any gym. Start in a full hang with the elbows extended. Next, pull your sternum up to the bar. Do 6x.
- Roll-Out: Kneel in front of a loaded barbell (play around with the right weight for you) and place hands on bar. Slowly as you can roll the bar away from you, then roll back to the starting position. Repeat 6x.
Let it Burn Circuit (5 minutes)
- Squats, Squats and more Squats: Push your hips back, bend your knees, and lower your butt down as close to the floor as you can get. 20x
- Push-ups: 15x Pay attention to your form!
- Mountain Climbers: From a push-up position, pump your legs as if you were running. 20x.
- Hip Flexor Stretch: Lay down on your back. Bend your knees and keep your feet at hip width apart. Press down into your feet and lift hips up to the ceiling and then down again to the floor. Engage your glutes here. 20x
- Hip Flexor Stretch with Single Leg Raise: Stay on your back, keep your knees bent. Press down into feet and lift hips off the ground. Press down into your right foot and lift your left foot up by straightening your left leg. Continue to lift hips up and down for 30 seconds. Switch sides and repeat for another 30 seconds.
20 Minute Core Workout
People tend to think of just abdominal’s as the “core”, but the core muscles wrap around the whole trunk of your body, stretching from the pelvis to the back and hips. This workout targets all the major core muscles, including the pelvic floor, the transverse abdominal, the erector spinae muscles, and the obliques.
You can perform this workout in 2 ways:
- Straight Sets: Do the required reps of each circuit and leave about 30 seconds or so in between each circuit to rest.
- Circuit Style: Complete each exercise with suggested reps, one after the other with little or no time to rest between circuits. After you complete all circuits, go back and repeat 1-2 times.
This one engages all major muscles of your core. The idea is to make your body still like a plank. At first hold the posture for as long as you can without lowering down. When you do need to come out, lower your knees, rest and go again. Eventually, work your way up to holding for 60 seconds without resting.
Start down on the floor in a hands and knees position. Come down to your forearms and keep them parallel. Next step your feet back, straightening your legs. Be sure to stay up on your toes, and keep your hips low. The shape of this posture should look like a straight board.
This one works your obliques, and helps strengthen the side of your hips. Just like in Forearm Plank, the idea is to eventually hold this posture for 60 seconds.
Start from a push-up position, and from there roll the heels of your feet over to the right, and stack your feet and legs. At first, you can also stagger your feet, (bring top foot over bottom foot, and down to the floor for more support). Keep right hand pushed firmly down into the ground, and reach your left arm to the ceiling. Hold 30 seconds, then roll over to the left and repeat for 30 seconds.
Start on your hands and knees, in a tabletop position. You want a nice neutral spine here, so stack your shoulders over your wrists and your hips over your knees.
Straighten your right leg behind you and lift your foot off of the ground. Reach your left hand forward, with the thumb facing up, as if you were about to shake someone’s hand. Press your right heel away from you, and reach left fingers forward. Hold 30 seconds. Then repeat the same actions on the other side, with left leg back and right arm forward. Hold another 30 seconds.
This exercise strengthens the entire back of your body. In yoga, this pose is called Locust. Try to work up to at least 5x where you hold the posture for about 15 seconds.
Start in a prone position (on your belly). Forehead is to the ground, and arms rest by your side with the palms of your hands facing down to the floor. Lift your forehead, chin and chest off of the floor first.
Then lift your arms and legs. Reach your fingers and toes away from you and squeeze your shoulder blades in towards each other. Your chest should be slightly lifted and your gaze is down to the floor and just a little forward so you don’t strain your neck. Do 5x and hold 15 seconds.
This is a classic move that targets your abdominals and obliques. To begin, do 10 to 25x and as you get stronger increases the reps. Tip: Go SLOW here, anyone can do these movements fast with no attention to form, but when you go slow, you will reap the benefits of this exercise.
Start on your back, and bend your knees, keeping your feet flat to the ground. Interlace your fingers behind your head, but avoid cranking your neck! Carefully lift your feet off the floor, keep a bend in your knees, and bring your shins parallel to the floor. Gently press your low back into the ground and lift your shoulders off the floor.
Bend your right knee into your chest, and straighten your left leg (don’t collapse the left leg to the floor, it hovers about 2 inches above the ground) and as you do this twist towards your right leg and bring your elbow towards your right knee. Then, switch sides and repeat until you have completed the reps.
This is a great exercise to stretch the front side of your body, but also to strengthen your back chain muscles. The goal is to hold for 60 seconds.
Start on your back. Bend your knees and bring your feet flat, to about hip-width apart. Rest your hands by your side. Press into your feet and lift your hips. Hold for up to 60 seconds without lowering your hips or glutes.
I am a devoted mother, wife and yogi with a passion for fitness and writing. I am a certified and registered 500 hour yoga teacher and have been teaching since 2013. When I am not teaching yoga or spending time with my family, you can find me somewhere on a hiking trail in the mountains of Southern Colorado or walking my dog Queenie.