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The 20-Minute Mind/Body Workout

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Workout 1

Crazy busy? Us too. That's why we were ecstatic when trainer Annette Lang, a FITNESS advisory board member, designed this quickie workout that can help you get stronger, leaner, and totally energized in only 20 minutes a day. The key is consistency: Each day for 20 days, you'll pick a strength workout, a cardio routine, or a series of relaxation and stretching exercises. In less than three weeks, you'll see (and feel) major changes in your body and your energy level; best of all, you'll actually want to work out.

See the moves! Check out the 20-minute miracle workout in our free exercise video channel.

Get video demonstrations of exercises in the 20-Minute Mind/Body Workout

How it works: Each day, pick from one of five series options: upper-body strength, lower-body strength, core strength, cardio, or relaxation. Do at least three different series each week. Schedule your cardio on two nonconsecutive days.

What you'll need: A set of 5- to 10-pound dumbbells (if the exercise feels easy after 20 reps, bump up the weight) and a weight bench or large sofa cushion for strength workouts.

Push-Up

Workout 1: Upper-Body Strength Circuit: Push-Up

Targets arms, chest, core

  • Begin in a modified push-up position — wrists on floor below shoulders, abs engaged, knees on floor.
  • Bend elbows 90 degrees, bringing chest just above the floor; keep hips lifted, shoulders down and head in line with spine.
  • Push back up to start and repeat. (If this feels too easy, do a full push-up.)
  • Do 15 to 20 reps.

Challenge yourself: Do walking push-ups, lifting up one hand and moving it a few inches to the side; follow with the other hand; go back and forth for a total of 12 reps.

Standing Row

Workout 1: Upper-Body Strength Circuit: Standing Row

Targets arms, back

  • Stand with feet hip-width apart and knees slightly bent, arms extended, holding dumbbells with palms facing each other (not shown).
  • Lean forward about 45 degrees from hips. Bend elbows 90 degrees and pull them up toward ceiling, keeping arms close to sides.
  • Do 15 to 20 reps.

Challenge yourself: Do the move as above, but alternate arms.

Overhead Press with Dumbbells

Workout 1: Upper-Body Strength Circuit: Overhead Press with Dumbbells

Targets shoulders, arms

  • Stand with elbows bent 90 degrees at shoulder level, holding weights, palms facing forward.
  • Slowly extend arms and press weights together overhead; lower to starting position and repeat.
  • Do 15 to 20 reps.

Challenge yourself: Begin by doing a biceps curl, then rotate arms so palms face forward, and do an overhead press.

Pull-Over with Dumbbells

Workout 1: Upper-Body Strength Circuit: Pull-Over with Dumbbells

Targets arms, chest, back

  • Lie faceup on a bench or on a large sofa cushion placed on the floor, arms extended above chest, holding a dumbbell with both hands.
  • Slowly lower weight behind head, keeping arms straight and elbows close to ears.
  • Return to center and repeat. Do 15 to 20 reps.

Challenge yourself: Lift legs toward chest and keep them raised to work your core.

Workout 2: Forward Lunge

Workout 2: Lower-Body Strength Circuit: Forward Lunge with Dumbbells

Targets legs, butt

  • Stand with feet hip-width apart, arms at sides holding dumbbells.
  • Lunge forward with right leg, bending both knees at 90 degrees; keep right knee aligned over ankle and keep torso tall.
  • Stand up, stepping right foot back to starting position.
  • Repeat, this time lunging forward with left leg. Do 8 to 10 reps per side.

Challenge yourself: As you step forward, rotate trunk to the same direction as front leg (so twist toward right as you step forward with right leg).

Dumbbell Squat

Workout 2: Lower-Body Strength Circuit: Dumbbell Squat

Targets legs, butt

  • Stand with feet hip- or shoulder- width apart, arms at sides holding dumbbells.
  • Squat down, shifting butt back as if sitting in a chair, keeping body weight over heels (don't let knees go past toes).
  • Return to standing and repeat. Do 15 to 20 reps.

Challenge yourself: Do the move as above without the weights, but as you stand, jump up explosively, then immediately squat down again.

Diagonal Lunge with Dumbbells

Workout 2: Lower-Body Strength Circuit: Diagonal Lunge with Dumbbells

Targets legs, butt

  • Stand with feet hip-width apart, holding weights at sides.
  • Pretend you're standing in the center of a clock. Step right foot out and a little behind you to five o'clock, bending both knees; keep left knee over ankle.
  • Return to center and repeat. Do 8 to 10 reps; then repeat on opposite side, stepping left leg out to seven o'clock.

Challenge yourself: After lunging to the right side, lift right knee in front of you and balance on left leg for 2 to 3 seconds; repeat.

Deadlift

Workout 2: Lower-Body Strength Circuit: Deadlift

Targets glutes and hamstrings

  • Stand with feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent, holding weights in front of thighs with palms facing body.
  • Hinging forward from your hips, slowly lower weights toward your shins, shifting your hips back.
  • Keep your abs firm and your head in line with your spine.
  • Return to standing and repeat. Do 15 to 20 reps.

Challenge yourself: Do the move while balancing on one leg; switch legs after 8 to 10 reps.

Workout 3: Crab Walk

Workout 3: Core Exercises: Crab Walk

Targets shoulders, chest, core

  • Begin in a full push-up position, wrists under shoulders and legs extended, abs engaged.
  • Walk hands and feet out a few feet to the right side, then walk back. Keep abs engaged and head in line with spine.
  • Repeat 3 to 5 times back and forth.

Challenge yourself: Walk hands and feet a few feet to the right, then lift left hand off the floor, rotating body to the left. Keep hips and legs stacked as you reach left hand toward ceiling. Return to full push-up position and repeat on right side, reaching right hand toward ceiling. Walk back to start and repeat.

Prone Plank

Workout 3: Core Exercises: Prone Plank

Targets shoulders, arms, chest, core

  1. Remain in full push-up position, palms on floor under shoulders and legs extended behind you.
  2. Keeping abs engaged and head in line with spine, hold for 30 seconds, building up to 1 minute.

Challenge yourself: Do the move with your forearms on the floor.

Cobra

Workout 3: Core Exercises: Cobra

Targets lower back

  • Lie facedown on floor with your elbows bent and palms down near your chest, arms close to sides.
  • Lift your upper body off the floor, pulling your shoulder blades down and together as you reach your chest up and forward.
  • Hold for 2 counts, lower, and repeat. Do 15 to 20 reps.

Challenge yourself: Lift both your thighs and upper body off the floor.

Opposite Arm/Leg Raise

Workout 3: Core Exercises: Opposite Arm/Leg Raise

Targets core

  • Get on all fours with knees aligned under hips and wrists under shoulders.
  • Lift right arm to shoulder height and left leg to hip height; hold for 2 counts, reaching forward with your fingers and back with your heel, then lower.
  • Repeat on opposite side. Do 15 to 20 reps.

Challenge yourself: Touch elbow to opposite knee as you pull your arm and leg in.

Workout 4: Option 1: Speed

Workout 4: Cardio Option 1: Speed Intervals

You can do this workout with virtually any cardio activity, either at the gym or on your own. Use your rate of perceived exertion, or RPE (how challenging the exercise feels on a scale of 1 to 10).

0-5 minutes: Warm up, gradually increasing intensity (RPE 4).

5-6 minutes: Increase effort level until you're somewhat breathless (RPE 7 to 8).

6-7 minutes: Reduce intensity and catch your breath (RPE 5).

7-19 minutes: Repeat minutes 5 to 7, alternating 1 minute of high effort with 1 minute of moderate intensity six more times.

19-20 minutes: Cool down, reducing intensity (RPE 4).

Option 2: Resistance Pyramid

Workout 4: Cardio Option 2: Resistance Pyramid

This workout is best done on a cardio machine like an elliptical trainer, treadmill, stairclimber, or stationary bike. Each minute builds in intensity until you reach a peak about halfway through.

  • Start off fairly easily for 2 minutes, then increase the resistance (incline on a treadmill, or resistance on a bike or elliptical) by 1 level each minute, until you get to 12 minutes or until you are unable to keep up the effort.
  • Lower the resistance or incline by 1 level each minute until you get to 20 minutes.

Workout 5: Relaxation

Workout 5: Relaxation

You'd think relaxing would be second nature, but the fact is most of us are just too darn keyed up to wind down. That's why we asked Annette Lang to develop these "active" relaxation exercises. "Relaxation helps you regroup and recover," she explains. These moves also improve flexibility and help prevent injury — especially if you sit in front of a computer most of the day.

Belly breathing: Sit up tall in a chair (or lie down with your knees bent, feet on the floor), placing both hands on your belly. Inhale through your nose, feeling your belly gently expand as it fills with air, then gently pull it in as you exhale through your mouth. Repeat 20 times.

Seated twist: Sit tall on a chair. Place your right ankle on your left thigh and gently turn toward the right. Hold there for 5 full breaths, deepening the stretch with each exhalation. To increase the stretch, gently pull your right knee toward your chest. Do the exercise 5 times on each side.

Side stretch: Lie faceup with knees bent and feet on the floor. Cross right thigh over left, allowing both legs to gradually fall to the right; you should feel the stretch along your left side. Hold there for 5 breaths, deepening the stretch with each exhalation. Return to center and repeat, switching legs. Do the stretch 5 times on each side.

Back and neck stretch: Sit up tall in a chair. Lower your right ear toward your right shoulder, feeling a stretch on the left side of your neck and upper back. Hold for 5 full breaths. To increase the stretch, place your right hand on the top of your head and gently pull down.

Mindful meditation: Sit quietly with your eyes closed. Be aware of thoughts that come and go, but try to keep your mind calm the entire time — don't let anything linger in there for too long. Remain seated like this for at least 5 minutes.

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