The 20-minute work out

Exercising every day may seem a bit daunting, but if the time commitment is small it will be a lot easier than you think. A daily routine also comes with the benefit of starting a good habit, and that will make it easier to continue your exercise routine as time goes on. 

This sample routine is for those days when time is short but you still want to have an awesome workout. The limited duration of this plan involves many exercise techniques to quickly fatigue the muscles such as ‘tri-sets’ and ‘super-sets’. 

This high-intensity routine is centered on building muscle and strength while introducing a muscular endurance component. The good news is that 20 minutes is all you need to get in and out of the gym. 

While it is not recommended that you perform this routine daily, it has been created specifically for those who are time poor. There should never be an excuse to not workout and eliminating time as a factor is one step in the right direction. So those of you that can make time, try this routine and use this only on time-limited days. 

For those of you that don’t have an hour block to exercise, this routine will provide the best effort for the time allowed. 

Principles of 20-minute training 

  • Type: weightlifting 
  • Time: 20 minutes 
  • Reps: 10-12 
  • Sets: 2-3 
  • Rest period (between sets): 30 seconds 
  • Rest period (between same muscles trained): 2-3 Days 
  • Training days per week: 3 days 
  • Intensity: high 
  • Weight load: moderate-high 

A few terms you should know 

Supersets 

For those of you who don’t recognise the term ‘super-setting’, it simply means to perform one exercise then go right to the next exercise without a break. For example, you perform a set of bicep curls and when finished you immediately perform a set of triceps press downs. 

Tri-sets 

The same principles apply as with super-setting except that instead of two exercises involved there are now three. From the example above, you would perform a set of bicep curls, then tricep press downs, then a set of hammer curls right after that. 

Why the 20-minute training routine works 

Moderate weight loads are lifted and without rest in many instances to create a high-intensity workout due to the time frame of the training. This allows your body to get the best workout available in this short time. 

Major muscle groups are trained first. These are trained primarily with compound exercises which require more time and energy while also producing the most muscle build potential. Smaller isolated exercises follow for maximal muscle fatiguing and growth while usually being super-setted. 

Small recovery periods: small recovery periods means less time in the gym and more high intensity muscle building action in the gym. This is the basis behind this workout and is the key to saving both your time and building muscle. 30 second breaks sets is all the recovery time you get between sets. 

Increased muscular endurance: When you start doing this routine you will find it will leave you out of breath. Over time you will increase your ability to exercise harder and with shorter rest periods. 

Burn more fat: you will be constantly moving with this routine as you build muscle and burn fat. It works all components of fitness and you should be out of breath and sweating by the end of 20 minutes. If not, you didn’t work intensely enough. 

The 20-minute training workout routine 

Note: if you find that you cannot recover in time for the next workout, try exercising every three days instead of every other. You will still get three workouts a week with that extra rest day needed. 

Monday: full body workout 

  • Squats (3 sets X 10 reps) 
  • Super-sets with bench press (3 sets X 10 reps) 
  • Lunges (3 sets X 12 reps) 
  • Tri-set with pull-ups (3 sets X 12 reps) 
  • Tri-set with leg press (3 sets X 12 reps) 
  • Dumbbell bicep curls (3 sets X 10 reps) 
  • Super-sets with tricep dips (3 sets X 10 reps) 

Tuesday: rest day 

Wednesday: full body 

  • Squats (3 sets X 10 reps) 
  • Super-sets with bench press (3 sets X 10 reps) 
  • Lunges (3 sets X 12 reps) 
  • Tri-set with pull-ups (3 sets X 12 reps) 
  • Tri-set with leg press (3 sets X 12 reps) 
  • Dumbbell bicep curls (3 sets X 10 reps) 
  • Super-sets with tricep dips (3 sets X 10 reps) 

Thursday: rest day 

Friday: full body 

  • Squats (3 sets X 10 reps) 
  • Super-sets with bench press (3 sets X 10 reps) 
  • Lunges (3 sets X 12 reps) 
  • Tri-set with pull-ups (3 sets X 12 reps) 
  • Tri-set with leg press (3 sets X 12 reps) 
  • Dumbbell bicep curls (3 sets X 10 reps) 
  • Super-sets with tricep dips (3 sets X 10 reps) 
  • Saturday: rest day 
  • Sunday: rest day 

Each set of exercises for a given day targets your chosen muscle group and incorporates cardio as well. The goal is to keep moving with very short breaks for the full 20 minutes. This will keep your heart rate up while you’re doing exercises like push-ups, which aren’t designated as cardio exercises. In many cases you’ll also get cardio-specific exercises like interval sprints to pair with the work you’re doing on your arms, legs and core. 

Some exercises will take on both at the same time naturally, and some routines will incorporate a little bit of everything so you’re not completely ignoring any muscle group. 

You can choose any combination of exercises from each group to make up your 20 minutes. Some involve a single activity, others have multiple choices. What you choose should vary over time – your body gets stale if you do the same thing every day – and how many reps you can fit in depends on the rest intervals you need.