Ever wonder if it’s worth getting into your gym clothes when you only have 20 minutes to spare? It is! Though quick workouts can sometimes feel unimportant, short bouts of exercise can effectively burn calories, engage your muscles and boost your energy—and strength training is no exception. It’s all about making the most of the time you have by choosing moves that target different muscle groups and challenge you from the start.
We’ve rounded up a set of strength exercises—almost all of which don’t require equipment—that you can do at the gym, at home or even in your office. Follow the suggested amount of reps to complete a productive 20-minute routine…then pat yourself on the back for making the most of this short break in your day.
Why We Love This Move: This exercise is not only great for your glutes and legs, but it also targets the often-neglected inner thighs.
How to Do It: Stand with your feet together, your shoulders down and your arms at your sides. Step your left foot back a couple of feet, planting the ball of your foot on the floor. Lower your body down until your right thigh is parallel to the floor and your left knee lightly taps the floor. Push back up to your starting position and repeat 10 to 12 times. Switch legs.
Be careful not to…let your weight settle on the ball of your front foot. Press into your front heel and keep the heel of your back foot lifted off the ground throughout the exercise.
Why We Love This Move: Because you’re balancing on a ball, your body is challenged a bit more than with a standard push-up.
How to Do It: Settle your belly on the top of a Physioball and place your hands, palms flat, down on the floor. Walk your hands out until you’re in a plank position with the ball now under your shins and your hands under your shoulders. Engage your core as you bend your elbows and lower your chest until your upper arms are parallel to the floor. Push back up. Repeat 10 times; complete two sets.
To make this exercise easier, roll out to your thighs instead of your shins.
Be careful not to…lose your balance. While the ball makes it tricky to remain stable, it’s important to keep that straight line so your upper body muscles are worked evenly.
Side Leg Lift
Why We Love This Move: It works your entire lower body, including your gluteal muscles, hips, quads and hamstrings.
How to Do It: Stand with a small step stool or the bottom of a staircase to your right side. Place your right foot up on the step and press down into your sole as you lift your left leg up and out to the side. Then lower back to your starting position. Perform two to three sets of 15 repetitions on each side.
Be careful not to…let the knee of the leg that’s on the step move. Remain in control and avoid injury by keeping that knee pointed forward.
Why We Love This Move: It gives attention to your external obliques (the muscles on the side of your waistline), an area sometimes ignored during other core-strengthening exercises.
How to Do It: Lie on one side with both legs extended so your body is in a straight line. Stack your feet. Bend your bottom elbow and prop yourself up, keeping your forearm on the floor. Engage your abdominals as you press into that bottom forearm to lift your hips and knees off the floor, keeping your head and spine aligned. Your other arm can be extended toward the ceiling or remain by your side. Hold for 20 seconds (or longer) and return to your starting position. Rest for 30 seconds and repeat two more times before switching sides.
Be careful not to…disengage your abdominals. Contracting those muscles helps you lift your hips and remain balanced.
Why We Love This Move: It’s a simple exercise that strengthens the muscles (and burns fat) in the back of your arms.
How to Do It: Start by sitting on a chair with your feet flat on the floor. Grasp the front edge of the chair with both hands as you move your butt forward until it’s suspended in front of the seat. Bend your elbows and lower your glutes toward the floor (without touching it), and then return to your suspended starting position.
To simplify this move, dip your glutes halfway down. And to increase the challenge, place your feet further forward, or extend your legs out in front of you so only your heels are on the ground. Repeat 15 times, completing two to three sets.
Be careful not to…lose control of your elbow movement. When your elbows bend straight behind you while you lower your glutes, you’re fully engaging the tricep muscles.