If you have to choose between doing something quickly and doing it right, what do you opt for? Answer: Both, especially when it comes to your workout. Research shows that people who work out in brief bursts—even as small as 10 minutes—throughout the day get many of the same health benefits as those who work out for longer stretches of time—as long as those mini workouts add up to the recommended 150 minutes of exercise a week.
So where do you start? Grab your Fitbit tracker, turn on exercise mode, and go. Twenty minutes may be a sweet spot. One study found that a 20-minute workout can improve cardiorespiratory endurance and burn as many as 360 calories (a 30-minute jog, comparatively, burns about 223).
Below, two fitness experts share the workouts they’d recommend for when you have 20 minutes or less to target your upper body, give your legs a one-two punch, or carve your core.
20-Minute Workout for Your Upper Body
“My favorite workout format when I’m trying to be efficient is an EMOM (every minute on the minute),” says Lindsey Corak, group training coordinator at Life Time Athletic MetroWest in Boston. “EMOM is a type of interval workout where you perform a specific exercise at the start of every minute.”
Because you have one minute to complete a designated amount of reps—and your rest period is whatever time is left over after you do—it helps set a pace and increases calorie burn, she explains. For a 20-minute upper-body EMOM, Corak recommends incorporating two push movements, two pull movements, and cardio, which will help you avoid muscle fatigue.
20-Minute Arm Workout:
Repeat 4 times for a total of 20 minutes
20-Minute Workout for Your Lower Body
If you’re going for economy in your workout, lower body is where it’s at. Lindsey Corak, group training coordinator at Life Time Athletic MetroWest in Boston, designed this calorie-torching lower-body Tabata workout with a 1:1 ratio for beginners.
An interval-style training, Tabata basically means a set period of work followed by a set period of rest. “In the time of work, you want to perform as many reps as possible,” says Corak. “I’ve found that people love this format because they feel like they are working for their rest period, so it keeps them motivated.” For more of a challenge, follow the routine below but with 40 seconds of work and 20 seconds of rest.
20-Minute Lower Body Workout:
Repeat 5 times, resting 30 seconds between sets.
10-Minute Workout for Your Core
“If you want to see results with your ab and core work, you’re going to have to push past the burn,” says Jon Perrine, owner of Victory Performance Training in St. Charles, Missouri. One great exercise for building abdominal muscle is the jackknife crunch, he says, which hits the full range of muscles in the midsection.
For these, begin by lying on the floor with your legs straight out, arms extended over your head—your body should be in a straight line. Perform a crunch, lifting both your arms and legs off the floor, and touching your arms to your shins. You’ll look like a pocket knife folding and unfolding if you’re performing it correctly.
Follow the jackknife up with a one-minute plank to engage your core muscles even more.
10-Minute Core Workout:
Repeat 4 times, resting 30 seconds between sets.
1 minute: Jackknife crunches
1 minute: Plank
This article is not intended to substitute for informed medical advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.