Do family gatherings, work deadlines, and last-minute gift-wrapping put a damper on your gym plans every December? Join the not-so-fun holiday party. The struggle is very real for many fitness fanatics this time of year.
If you’re the type who doesn’t feel complete until you’ve gotten in some exercise each day, we have good news: You actually only need a few minutes for an effective sweat.
“It’s absolutely possible to get in a good workout in a short period of time,” says exercise physiologist and personal trainer Sharon Gam, Ph.D., C.S.C.S. “Your body responds to the challenge of a workout, not the amount of time you spend on it.”
Here’s how to make quick workouts work for you, plus a few tried-and-true go-to’s for when you’re crunched for time.
Quick Workouts Can Be Beneficial
In case you’re skeptical about swapping your usual long gym sessions for quick workouts, know this: “Research has shown that even short bursts of activity can improve fitness and health markers like cholesterol and blood pressure,” says Gam. In fact, one 2019 review published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise linked exercising for just 10 minutes a day with reduced risk of all-cause mortality.
That said, shorter workouts aren’t just superior to no workouts; they can actually be superior to longer workouts, too. “Shorter workouts can actually be more optimal than long workouts because they allow you to reach a higher intensity,” explains CrossFit co-founder and founder of Manifest, Lauren Jenai.
Read More: Should You Be Doing HIIT Workouts?
During shorter workouts, you can work at an intensity you couldn’t maintain for a long period of time. The perks of going hard? Everything from improved waist circumference and lower body fat percentage to lower resting heart rate, research suggests.
3 Tips For Effective Quick Workouts
Whether you decide to try one of the below trainer-approved workouts or scour the internet (or your brain) for another quick sweat, keep the below tips in mind. They’ll help you get the most bang for your buck—and keep you injury-free.
1. Focus On Form
How you move is more important than how long you move for, whether you exercise for 20 seconds, two minutes, or two hours. “Never sacrifice form for the sake of getting your workout finished faster,” says Jenai. “Any time saved due to poor form is not worth the increased risk of injury.”
2. Value Variety
Even if your workouts are shorter in length, make sure to mix up the movement patterns you use, says Jenai. “Our bodies adapt to exercises we consistently do, which is great because we become more efficient at the movements, but it also means that they begin to yield lesser results.” Essentially, variety reduces your risk of plateauing.
In addition to earning you the best overall results, incorporating a variety of exercises helps prevent muscular imbalances, Gam says. If, for example, you incorporate pushups into your workout every single day but never do pullups or rows, then your pushing muscles become much stronger than your pulling muscles, which research shows can increase injury risk and worsen posture.
Make sure your routine incorporates pushing, pulling, squatting, hinging, and core exercises.
3. Understand Your Intent
For most short workouts, intensity is the name of the game. On some days, though, your goal may simply be to move, work on your range of motion, or get outside for some vitamin D.
Gam’s recommendation: Know what you’re trying to get out of your workout before you begin and proceed accordingly. For example, if it’s to ramp up intensity, push yourself hard from start to finish.
5 Quick Workouts For A Solid Sweat This Season
Need some inspiration on how to spend your precious minutes? Here are five quick workouts the pros recommend (and rely on!) this time of year.
1. 10-Minute Run
Duration: As long as you have
Equipment needed: Running shoes
Got a handful of minutes to spare? Own a pair of running sneaks? Perfect, you’ve got everything you need to hit the pavement (or trail or tread).
Generally speaking, “running is a great way to improve your cardiovascular health and get many of the other amazing physical and mental benefits of exercise,” says Gam. And short runs are no exception. “Even a hard 10-minute run can provide a great cardiovascular challenge,” she suggests.
Your move: “After a short warm-up, run as hard as you can for as much time as you have,” she suggests. Aim to push at between 80 and 90 percent of your maximum effort.
2. Full-body AMRAP
Duration: 15 minutes
Equipment needed: Pullup bar or a weighted object
If you’ve ever stepped into a CrossFit or bootcamp class, you’re probably familiar with the term “AMRAP.” An acronym for “as many reps as possible,” AMRAP-style workouts entail cycling through a series of movements over and over again for a designated period of time. This structure, Gam explains, encourages people to move as fast as possible, which helps them keep up the intensity until the timer runs out.
Got 15 minutes? Gam suggests trying the below AMRAP to build full-body muscular endurance. It works all the major muscle groups, but none of the movements are so taxing that you’ll need to take a long breather before continuing. As a result, you keep your heart rate high.
Set a Timer For 15 Minutes And Cycle Through:
- 10 pushups
- 5 pullups
- 15 squats
- 20 glute bridges
- 15 V-ups
If you can’t complete five pullups with sound form, use a resistance band for assistance. “Or, you can try pull-up negatives, which involve jumping to get your chin above the bar then slowly lowering yourself down,” Gam suggests. If you don’t have access to a pullup bar you can swap pullups with bent-over rows using a heavy backpack, which strengthen the same muscles.
3. Burpee Tabata
Duration: 4 minutes
Equipment needed: None
Tabata is a specific kind of internal training that involves completing eight rounds of 20 seconds of work followed by 10 seconds of rest. “These four minutes of work will leave you feeling challenged,” says Jenai.
Tabata workouts have been proven to increase cardiovascular function, burn body fat, and develop strength, she says. Indeed, one 2019 The Journal Of Physiological Sciences study suggests that tabata is one of the most effective high-intensity workout structures out there.
Almost any exercise can be executed in a tabata style: “Burpees, air squats, pushups, pullups, walking lunges, situps, and more can all be used,” says Jenai. That said, if your tabata will be your only movement for the day, pick a full-body movement like burpees, which strengthen all your muscles head-to-toe, as well as your heart, she explains.
4. Lower-Body EMOM
Duration: 16 minutes
Equipment needed: None
EMOM (“every minute, on the minute”) workouts involve completing a designated number of reps of a movement at the top of every minute—and resting for the remainder—for a set period of time. This structure encourages people to keep up the pace without getting bored, says strength and conditioning coach Shelby Stover, C.S.C.S., founder of Fit As A Mama Bear.
As with AMRAPs, almost any movement can be put into EMOMs. For a no-equipment leg day option, Stover recommends the following 16-minute EMOM, which involves cycling through four movements four times.
Set A Timer For 16 Minutes And Move Through:
- 16 curtsy lunges
- 10 plank shoulder taps
- 15 squat jumps
- 20 side-lying hip raises
So, at the top of the first minute, you’ll do your lunges. At the top of the second, hit those plank shoulder taps. Get the picture?
“When you’re short on time and don’t have equipment, this fast workout will help you work up a sweat and strengthen all your lower body and midline muscles,” says Stover. In other words: No squat rack, no problem!
5. “Fran” CrossFit WOD
Duration: less than 10 minutes
Equipment needed: Pullup bar, barbell or dumbbells
Don’t let its simplicity fool you; this popular CrossFit workout has a reputation for being particularly spicy. All you have to do: Complete the designated reps of thrusters (a.k.a squat-to-presses) and pullups broken down below—and do it as quickly as possible.
Though the workout takes less than 10 minutes in total, it’s intense—and tests your full-body strength and cardiovascular capacity, according to Jenai. Time yourself to track your improvement each time you complete this one.
For time, complete:
- 21 Thrusters
- 21 Pullups
- 15 Thrusters
- 15 Pullups
- 9 Thrusters
- 9 Pullups
If you have a pullup bar and a barbell or dumbbells to use for the thrusters, get to it. Just be sure to pick a weight you know you can do 21 straight thrusters with, says Jenai.
If pullups aren’t in the cards, do bent-over rows (either with weights or a heavy object) instead. You could even do your thrusters with a heavy backpack.