If you only have 20 minutes to exercise, you have more than enough time to perform a workout that keeps you in shape by burning calories, building muscle and improving your stamina and endurance. The key to creating short workouts that provide the most benefit is to vary your movements and heart rate during your routines. With or without equipment, 20-minute workouts can be highly effective for staying in shape.
Start by raising your heart rate gradually before you begin your workout. Walk in place, raising your knees high and swinging your arms to stretch your muscles and elevate your metabolism. A good 20-minute workout for beginners should consist of moderately intense activity, similar to the pace of a brisk walk. Walk outdoors or on a treadmill at 3 mph, pedal a bike indoors or swim laps in a pool. Whether you use exercise machines like an elliptical, rowing machine, exercise bike or treadmill or walk, swim, skate or dance, avoid leaving both feet at once and creating high-impact exercises.
Add one-minute bursts of higher intensity movements every five minutes, but keep your overall exercise at a pace that lets you keep going without having to take a break. Don’t do the same workout each day, so you can challenge different muscles and get more benefit. Take a few minutes to slow down and lower your heart rate at the end of your workout and stretch.
Combine cardio and resistance for the best 20-minute workout possible. Add dumbbells to aerobic dancing, increase the incline on a treadmill or raise the resistance on an elliptical, rowing machine or exercise bike. Add one-minute sprints every five minutes while performing cardio workouts.
Create a circuit-training routine with dumbbells, resistance bands or bodyweight exercises, changing exercises every two minutes. Take a 30-second break between exercises and choose exercises that work your arms, legs, shoulders, back and core. Use about one-third of the maximum weight you can lift or use a lower resistance setting on machines.
Leave five minutes for a cooldown and stretch to decrease muscle pain and stiffness later.
If you’re in top shape, stay that way with sprint and endurance training. Perform sprints using weights, exercise equipment or running, raising your heart rate to close to your maximum for two minutes. Take a 3-second break and perform another high-intensity burst of activity.
To maintain muscular endurance, use about half the maximum weight you can normally move to perform exercises like: curls, presses, squats, lunges, deadlifts, flyes, rows and kickbacks. Dumbbells, kettlebells, resistance bands and weight machines are good choices for this type of circuit training. You can also try pushups, dips, pullups, chinups, burpees, crunches, bicycle kicks, hip raises and situps.
Before you begin any exercise program, visit with your doctor, coach or a personal trainer. Sprint training is not for everyone, and even a few short sprints during a beginner workout should be approved by a health professional. Based on your age and physical condition, the amount of impact during exercises or repetitive movements on a machine your body can take and will vary.