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Crunched for time? Try these 5, 10, 20 and 30-minute workouts for busy days

Squeeze the most effective workout possible into whatever time frame your schedule allows with these routines.
Image: Woman at gym
Only have ten minutes to exercise? That's plenty of time for a short routine to build muscle and core strength. EmirMemedovski / Getty Images

Time is one of the biggest barriers to working out on a regular basis. It's a busy world we live in, and while a lot of us start out with good intentions, the day zooms past and before we know it, it's time for bed, and we just never get around to that workout.

However, consistency is key when it comes to creating an effective exercise routine that generates results. That means it’s better to squeeze in a five- or ten-minute workout daily than go all out with an hour workout every week or so.

But if you only have a few minutes, what is the most effective way to spend your time sweating? We’ve broken it down into four different time-based workouts — 5, 10, 20 and 30 minutes — so that you can fit the most effective workout possible into whatever time frame your schedule allows.

1. 5-minute workout

If you only have a few minutes in the middle of the day or in the evenings, try this quick routine that can be done on a yoga mat without any equipment at all. It’ll stretch and strengthen your body at the same time.

Side lunge with a twist

Work your lower body as you lengthen and stretch your upper body with this exercise. Step your left foot back into a lunge, bending the right knee. Keep the left leg straight, and reach the left hand down to the ground. Twist your spine to the right as you reach your right arm up towards the sky. Try to maintain a straight line from your left hand and shoulder all the way up to your right hand and right shoulder. Hold for a few breaths, and then switch sides.

Knee lift into cat & cow

From your hands and knees, bring your shoulders over your wrists and knees underneath your hips. Pull your naval in towards your spine, and lift your knees about 1 inch off of the ground. Feel your core activated! Hold this for 5 breaths, and then release the knees onto the mat. Arch your back and lift your head and tailbone up towards the ceiling to stretch the chest. Then exhale and round the back. Move through cat and cow 5 times, and then repeat the core strengthener with the knees off of the ground. Repeat this 4 times total.

Core crunch

Lying on the mat, lift your knees up to a tabletop position and place your hands behind your head. Crunch your knees and elbows towards each other, hold for 5 seconds, then lower to the starting position. Repeat this 15 times.

2. 10-minute strength training workout

Ready to squeeze in some strength training from the comfort of your home? All you need is a pair of 5-lb dumbbells, a wall and ten spare minutes! These workout moves will help you build muscle and strength in your body and your core. You can perform this workout every other day to allow your body to rest and repair in between workouts.

Wall push-ups

Stand facing the wall with your feet about 3 feet away from the wall. Place your hands on the wall as high as your chest and as wide as your shoulders. Then, bend your elbows out to the sides to bring your chest closer to the wall, and then press the arms straight to work the chest and upper body. The further back you walk your feet, the harder this is. Do 10 push-ups here.

Wall squats

Turn around so that your back is facing the wall. Walk your feet 2 feet in front of the wall and keep your back flat against the wall. Lower your body into a squat, bending the knees into a 90-degree angle. Make sure that your knees stay over your ankles and don’t go past your toes. Then press down through your heels as you push up to standing. Repeat this 10 times.

Back lunge with criss-cross abs

Holding onto a 5-lb dumbbell, step your left leg back into a lunge. Lower the left knee towards the ground, keeping the right knee at a right angle directly above you ankle. Reach the weight up high. Then, bring the left knee in towards your chest as you bring the weight down towards your chest into a crunch. Then resume the starting position. Repeat this 10 times, then switch sides.

Wide leg squat tap & reach with weight

Open the legs wider than the hips, and hold the weight in both hands at your chest. Bend the knees and reach the glutes back as you reach the weight down to tap the ground. Then stand up by pressing down through your heels, and reach the weight up towards your chest and then overhead. Repeat this 10 times to work your lower body and upper body at the same time.

V-arm exercise

Stand with your feet hip-distance apart and your knees softly bent. Hold a 5-lb dumbbell in each hand with your arms at your sides, palms facing each other and the arms in line with your legs. Reach the arms up and out into a “V” position just as high as your shoulders, and then lower them back down to your legs. Repeat this 10 times. Make sure to keep your abs engaged and your back straight.

W-arm exercise

Holding the dumbbells, stand with your feet hip-distance apart and keep your knees soft. Reach the arms up above your shoulders but keep the palms facing each other. From here, reach the weights out and up on a diagonal over your head and wider than your shoulders. Then bring them back to the starting position. Repeat this 10 times.

3. 20-minute cardio and strength training workout

Do the 10-minute strength training workout followed by 10 minutes of cardio.

For cardio, if you’re looking to reduce stress and not push yourself too hard, go at a steady pace. If you’re looking to boost your metabolism and burn fat, then intervals are the way to go! Simply alternate between 1 minute moderate speed and 1 minute fast speed. You can get your cardio in with any of the following movements:

  • Walking, marching or jogging in place
  • Jumping jacks
  • Treadmill
  • Elliptical
  • Stationary bike
  • Rowing machine

Pick what’s best for you on any given day — or mix and match different activities to hit your ten minutes!

4. 30-minute cardio and strength training workout

Combine the above 20-minute workout with the 5-minute mini workout. Then, at the end, add these five moves:

Plank holds (60 seconds)

Come into a plank position on the mat by walking your hands forward so that your shoulders are directly over your wrists. Reach your heels towards the back of the room and the crown of your head towards the front of the room. Pull your naval in towards your spine to keep your back flat. Hold this for one minute, breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth.

Criss cross planks (60 seconds)

From the plank position, bring your right knee across your body towards your left elbow, and then place it back down. Then lift your left knee and bring it across your body towards right elbow. Alternate right and left for a minute.

10-second lower lifts (10 reps)

Lying down on your back, reach your legs up straight towards the ceiling. Pull your naval in towards the spine and lower the legs down a few feet. Squeeze your inner thighs together and hold this lowered position for 10 seconds. Make sure that your low back stays pressed into the ground — you know you’ve gone too far if it arches! After 10 seconds, bring the legs back up to the starting position. Repeat this for 10 repetitions.

Criss cross single leg stretch (60 seconds)

Lying on your back, lift the legs up towards the ceiling into the starting position. Place your hands behind your head with the elbows open wide. Curl your head, neck and chest off the ground with your abdominals engaged. Lower the left leg down to a 45-degree angle, and curl up so that your left elbow reaches towards your right straight leg. Bring the left leg up to center and lower the right leg as you cross your body to the opposite side, reaching your right elbow towards your straight left leg. Alternate right and left for 60 seconds.

Knee hug (5 deep breaths)

Stretch the muscles of your back by hugging your knees into your chest. Allow your knees to rest on your chest, and relax your head and neck down on the mat. Hold this as you breathe in through your nose and out through your nose. Release, relax and feel proud of yourself for completing this full body 30-minute workout!


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