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15-minute workout: couple working out at home

Five 15-Minute Workouts That Are Actually Worth Doing

In a perfect world you’re always able to carve out 30 to 60 minutes for your daily sweat, but sometimes life just doesn’t allow for thorough workouts. Being short on time doesn’t mean you should throw in the towel on exercise altogether, however.

If you have 15 minutes, you can get a decent workout in, revving your heart rate and making your muscles burn. You just have to be smart about how you use those minutes. Here, fitness professionals share five ways to get moving when you’re crunched for time that’ll leave you sweaty and satisfied.

Option 1: Classic Bodyweight AMRAP

“When you’re short on time, it’s best to keep it simple and do exercises that don’t require much warming up so you can get right to work,” says trainer Kate Meier, C.P.T., senior editor at Garage Gym Reviews and USA weightlifting and CrossFit Level 1 certified coach. “It’s also best to use as little equipment as possible in order to save time on prep and clean up and maximize your time by fitting in as much actual work as possible. A good method for this is to do ‘as many reps or rounds as possible.’ This is known as an ‘AMRAP’ workout, in which you work for a specific time and try to get in as many rounds as you can.” 

When Meier has just 15 minutes, she goes for a “classic” AMRAP that includes: 

  • 5 pullups (any style, including jumping, band-assisted, negatives, kipping, or traditional)
  • 10 pushups (any style, including knee or modified pushups using a wall or elevated surface)
  • 15 air squats

Simply continue rotating through these three exercises for the full duration of the 15 minutes, resting as little as possible. “This is a full-body workout that will build strength and endurance in the upper and lower body. If you’re able to move at a good pace, it will also get your heart rate up much higher than you expect,” she explains. 

Option 2: Stationary Bike Tabatas 

Another way to get the most out of your shorter workout routines is to increase the intensity level of your cardio. Since you won’t be sweating it out for 30 or more minutes, you should be able to increase your effort for the shorter-duration routine. 

“When I’m short on time but still want to break a sweat, my favorite workout is a Tabata workout,” says Katie Pierson, certified Spinning instructor and personal trainer, writer for Girl Bike Love. “A Tabata workout consists of 20-second intervals of work followed by 10 seconds of rest. This combo is repeated eight times, so each Tabata lasts four minutes.”

Since you’re only working for 20 seconds at a time, the goal is to go all-out.

While there are lots of Tabata workouts you can try using bodyweight exercises, weights, or running, Pierson recommends trying it out on a stationary bike if you want to focus on cardio. This workout involves three rounds of Tabata intervals, with one full minute of rest in between each. If possible, warm up for a couple of minutes before beginning. If you don’t have time to warm up, work at a lower level of exertion for the first Tabata before pushing yourself in the other rounds.

Round 1: Seated Run/Sprint

  • 20 seconds: Cadence 90-100
  • 10 seconds: Rest
  • 20 seconds: Cadence 100-110
  • 10 seconds: Rest
  • 20 seconds: Cadence 90-100
  • 10 seconds: Rest
  • 20 seconds: Cadence 100-110
  • 10 seconds: Rest
  • 20 seconds: Cadence 90-100
  • 10 seconds: Rest
  • 20 seconds: Cadence 100-110
  • 10 seconds: Rest
  • 20 seconds: Cadence 90-100
  • 10 seconds: Rest
  • 20 seconds: Cadence 100-110
  • 10 seconds: Rest

Round 2: Heavy Resistance Climb

  • 20 seconds: Cadence 60-80, seated climb
  • 10 seconds: Rest
  • 20 seconds: Cadence 70-80, standing climb
  • 10 seconds: Rest
  • 20 seconds: Cadence 60-80, seated climb
  • 10 seconds: Rest
  • 20 seconds: Cadence 70-80, standing climb
  • 10 seconds: Rest
  • 20 seconds: Cadence 60-80, seated climb
  • 10 seconds: Rest
  • 20 seconds: Cadence 70-80, standing climb
  • 10 seconds: Rest
  • 20 seconds: Cadence 60-80, seated climb
  • 10 seconds: Rest
  • 20 seconds: Cadence 70-80, standing climb
  • 10 seconds: Rest

Round 3: Sprint-Climb Combo

  • 20 seconds: Cadence 100-110, seated sprint
  • 10 seconds: Rest
  • 20 seconds: Cadence 70-80, standing climb
  • 10 seconds: Rest
  • 20 seconds: Cadence 100-110, seated sprint
  • 10 seconds: Rest
  • 20 seconds: Cadence 70-80, standing climb
  • 10 seconds: Rest
  • 20 seconds: Cadence 100-110, seated sprint
  • 10 seconds: Rest
  • 20 seconds: Cadence 70-80, standing climb
  • 10 seconds: Rest
  • 20 seconds: Cadence 100-110, seated sprint
  • 10 seconds: Rest
  • 20 seconds: Cadence 70-80, standing climb
  • 10 seconds: Rest

Option 3: Grab a kettlebell and get swinging

If there’s one piece of equipment that really delivers when you want to strength train and only have 15 minutes, it’s a kettlebell. “I love the kettlebell,” says Dan Leary, certified StrongFirst SFG2 Kettlebell Instructor, Advanced USAW Olympic Weightlifting Coach, and owner of Northwest Athletic Performance. “They are compact and there are a lot of exercises you can do with them.” 

And to perform his favorite 15-minute workouts? You don’t even need to know how to do that many kettlebell exercises, as so many of them are designed to hit all the major muscle groups while also increasing your heart rate for a cardio-strength double-whammy. 

Read More: 6 Exercise Moves That Double As Cardio And Strength Training

If you’ve got a moderate or heavy bell around, set a timer for 15 minutes and do the prescribed amount of one of the following moves every minute, on the minute. (This is known as an “EMOM.”)

The swing workout is particularly good for getting your heartrate up, while the Turkish getup option will help with flexibility, mobility, and strength. Once you’ve completed your reps, rest for the remainder of the minute.

Option 4: 3×5 Bodyweight Circuit

Like many of the other trainers, trainer Matt Scarfo, C.P.T., also looks to high-intensity interval training when he’s short on time. “I often look to HIIT workouts to get the most stimulus with limited rest. Doing a quick and intense HIIT workout means you can get in full-body development, with plenty of heart-pumping cardio,” he says. “This method of working out also triggers the ‘afterburn effect,’ raising how many calories you burn after you exercise.” (You can read more about the afterburn effect here.)

Scarfo personally likes doing a three-by-five circuit workout for his HIIT. “This involves three sets of five exercises. Simply do each exercise for 45 seconds and rest for 15 seconds in between,” he explains. Move through three rounds of the following movements and you’ll have hit 15 minutes:

  • 45 seconds: Reverse lunges
  • 15 seconds: Rest
  • 45 seconds: Pushups
  • 15 seconds: Rest,
  • 45 seconds: Mountain climbers
  • 15 seconds: Rest
  • 45 seconds: Jump squats
  • 15 seconds: Rest
  • 45 seconds: Plank up-downs
  • 15 seconds: Rest

Option 5: Jump It Out

Jumping rope is on par with running as far as challenge and intensity go, but it’s easier on the joints and incredibly convenient. “When I’m short on time, I really enjoy doing jump rope,” says trainer Jesse Feder, C.P.T., R.D., of StrengthWarehouse USA. “You only need a little space and a rope, which makes it easy to do almost anywhere.” 

His go-to routine is very simple. He just performs five rounds of: 

  • 2 minutes: Jumping rope at RPE (rate of perceived exertion) 5 (moderate intensity)
  • 1 minute: Rest

The Bottom Line

The beauty of quickie workouts is that they tend to be simple and straightforward. They often require little equipment (or none at all) and involve the types of standard exercises you’ve likely been performing for years. And if you’re committed to really working hard, you really can move the needle on your fitness.

That said, if you’re low on energy, a 15-minute walk outside can help reduce stress and clear your head, so it really is always worth it to get moving—even if it doesn’t involve buckets of sweat or burning muscles. You don’t have to have an uninterrupted hour dedicated to exercise in order to reap the benefits of a daily workout!

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