It’s one of those days again: You’ve got a busier than normal work schedule ahead of you, a holiday party after that and then, well, the day’s over. Normally, you’d be able to find 45 minutes to an hour to spend in the gym, but not today. So what do you do?
Have a quickie. We’re not talking about that kind of quickie (though the cardio benefits should not be overlooked). We’re suggesting you get in and out of the gym quicker than ever — and still get a great pump — with one of the following 20-minutes-or-less workouts. They may not be the best muscle-building workouts you’ve ever had, but they’ll tide your muscles over until you’ve got more time for a full workout.
Tough But Timely Upper-Body Workout
Being short on time doesn’t have to mean going light. But if you want to throw around some real weight, you’ll have to limit the number of exercises you do. This upper-body blast sticks to basic movements that will hit maximal muscle fibers in a short amount of time. And if you have a few more minutes before it’s time to leave, include a few supersets for arms.
How to do it: Perform all exercises as straight sets. Rest one minute between all sets.
Upper-Body Dumbbell-Only Circuit
One of the best ways to maximize training efficiency is to minimize the amount of time you spend walking from one exercise to the next. In this workout, you won’t move from the dumbbell rack. Plus, it’s a circuit, which means you’ll be lifting more than you’re resting.
How to do it: Perform the three exercises back-to-back-to-back with minimal rest. After completing all three exercises (one circuit), rest one minute. Complete as many circuits as possible in 20 minutes.
Full-Body Timed Workout
To make sure you don’t run late, you’ll do each exercise in this workout for a specified amount of time, not sets and reps. Machine exercises were chosen to avoid time spent racking free weights. Machines also use fewer stabilizing muscles, which helps overload the target muscles that much more.
How to do it: For each exercise, choose a weight that causes you to fail at 10 to 12 reps and do as many reps as possible in four minutes, resting when necessary. Rest one minute between each exercise.
Quick and Dirty Chest Workout
Two pressing moves, some dumbbell flyes and cable crossovers — with a set of push-ups to failure after each exercise — will have your pecs feeling like you spent a lot longer than 20 minutes training them. Your chest will be hit from all angles — and with high and low reps — for pure exhaustion.
How to do it: Rest one minute between sets of incline presses and Hammer Strength presses, and increase weight each set. Rest only 30 seconds between sets of flyes and crossovers. Rest one minute after sets of push-ups.
20-Minute Arm Blast
It doesn’t take long to get a great arm pump, one that will lead to bigger guns in the near future. In this workout, you’ll hit two big moves with straight sets before graduating to supersets to finish things off.
How to do it: Rest one minute between straight sets of close-grip bench presses and barbell curls as well as between supersets. On dumbbell curls and extensions, perform reps with both arms simultaneously to speed things along.
Fast and Furious Fat-Burning Intervals
Twenty minutes is certainly enough time to get your cardio in, but low-intensity, steady-state cardio won’t induce nearly the fat-burning effect that high-intensity interval training will. This short but intense workout allows you to combine weight training and cardio to get leaner in no time.
Choose one of the following: a lifting exercise like power cleans, dumbbell snatches, step-ups or jump squats (using light weight); a calisthenic exercise like jumping jacks, burpees or jumping rope; or a plyometric move like box jumps.
Warm-Up: two to three low-rep sets
Alternate between 30 seconds worth of reps and 30 seconds of rest for 15 minutes
Cool-down (low intensity): two to three minutes of walking or jogging
So maybe you have even less than 20 minutes to spare but still want to get some kind of workout — anything — accomplished. Try this 10-minute midsection meltdown, which can be done either at the gym or at home.