When your schedule is crammed with appointments and your to-do list is endless, sneaking off for an hour-long workout can feel like an impossible task.
Instead of skipping your workouts altogether, shorten them.
If it’s done right, a 20-minute workout can be an effective way to stay fit when exercise is the last thing on your mind.
Read on to learn how.
Benefits of a 20-Minute Workout
Longer workouts are great for shedding fat, building muscle, and reaching next-level strength and fitness. That’s why you’ll find them in many programs on BODi — like 21 Day Fix, 10 Rounds, and 6 Weeks of THE WORK.
But a 20-minute workout can be incredibly effective, too.
Here are some key benefits of short-and-sweet workouts.
“When it comes to losing fat, building endurance, and elevating cardiovascular fitness, density is more important than duration,” says Trevor Thieme, C.S.C.S..
“That’s why a 20-minute workout that keeps the intensity high and rest periods short can deliver the same — or even better — results as a lower intensity workout that’s two or three times as long,” Thieme adds.
“Shorter, more concise workouts are easier to fit into hectic schedules,” notes Jack McNamara, M.S.c., C.S.C.S., a clinical exercise physiologist and NASM-certified personal trainer in London, England.
Easier to Stick To
No matter what else you have going on in your life, 20-minute workouts could be all you need to build a healthy routine and stick with it.
After all, it’s tough to skip a workout that takes less time than most Zoom meetings.
Looking for a super-effective 20-minute workout?
Every routine in this 4-week program caps at 20 minutes, and Super Trainer Jennifer Jacobs maximizes your time with workouts that hit multiple muscle groups every day.
How to Get the Most Out of a Quick Workout
If you only have 20 minutes to exercise, here are a few tips for maximizing your time.
1. Give it everything you’ve got
“You want to keep the intensity high to crank up your heart rate, elevate your metabolism, and kick your calorie-burning into high gear,” Thieme says.
“You’ll know you hit the sweet spot if you finish your workout feeling sweaty and challenged, but also motivated and energized,” Thieme adds.
Feel spent and defeated? You probably went too hard. Dial it back a bit next time.
2. Try HIIT
High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is a great way to maximize the benefits of a short workout if you’ve been exercising for a while (beginners should work their way up it).
HIIT can be performed with strength exercises or with traditional cardio options such as biking, rowing, or running.
Alternate short bursts (10 seconds to 2 minutes) of exercise at all-out intensity with equal to shorter periods of rest or low-intensity exercise.
Push hard during those work intervals — you shouldn’t be able to speak even in short sentences.
3. Use combination exercises
Combination exercises merge at least two different exercises into one fluid, complex move. The key is to choose exercises that target opposing body parts so that one can take a breather while the other one works.
“Combining two exercises forces your heart to work harder, which is a great way to boost the intensity and sneak in some extra cardiovascular training,” McNamara says.
And let’s not forget, targeting more body parts at once means more calories burned and more muscles worked, which can ultimately result in more muscle overall.
Try these two combination exercises:
- Reverse Lunge to Shoulder Press: “This move builds shoulder strength and helps fix muscle imbalances [in the lower body] by working one leg at a time,” McNamara says. “It also demands a lot of muscle engagement and coordination throughout the whole body.”
- Romanian Deadlift to Bent-Over Row: This move targets multiple muscles in your posterior chain — from your hamstrings and glutes to your lats and traps — for greater back-body strength and power, McNamara says.