Have you ever wondered how long you need to work out for to get results? Well, the good news for you is that its not all that long. Enter the perfect short workout

Hi, my name is Hunter, and I am a recovering meathead.

For the longest time, I trained in the gym 5-6 times per week for a minimum of 60 minutes per session. I guzzled protein shakes, wore singlets, and made sure to consume 200 grams of protein per day, every single day.

And I was pretty cool

Or maybe I mean moronic?

Yeah, definitely moronic…

See, I honestly thought that to maximize the results of your training, you needed to exercise hard all the time. That your sessions had to be long and grueling. That if you didn’t leave the gym in a pool of sweat and muscle spasms, it was a wasted workout.

Read: moron.

Why am I telling you all of this.

Well, I guess the first thing is to demonstrate that people can change.

I mean, kind of, anyway.

You see, I no longer train quite so long in the gym (or so often, for that matter). I eat a little less protein, and heaps more veggies. My protein shake intake is markedly less.

Oh, and save my singlets for festival season only now.

But the main reason I am telling you this is to outline something that I have learnt over the last few years.

Your training sessions do not have to last an hour to be effective.

I honestly used to think that if I couldn’t get into the gym for at least an hour, then there was no point going at all. I believed that for a workout to elicit any sort of training effect, it needed to break you down so that you could be built back up again.

Which couldn’t be further from the truth.


How long do you need to work out for?

I have since come to realize that doing something is always better than doing nothing.

I now know that you can make some serious change in as little as 20 minutes (or even less) if you do it right.

When implemented effectively, a short workout can give you the opportunity to improve technique, stress your aerobic system, and even increase your strength.

The trick is to prioritizing what you do in that 20 minutes to meet your individual goals and your individual needs.


The Perfect Short workout.

With all this in mind, I have put together a couple of really quick workouts that will take you 20 minutes to complete. Each of these are tailored to a specific training goal, and are easily adaptable. This means that you can make them suit your individual capabilities and preferences.

Seriously, what more could you want?


The Perfect Short Workout for Strength

This one is great.

To start, you are going to choose three exercises from the table below (one lower body exercise, one upper body pressing exercise, and one upper body rowing exercise).

Lower Body Exercises Upper Body Pressing Upper Body Rowing
  • Trap bar deadlift
  • Front squat
  • Back squat
  • Barbell deadlift
  • Goblet Squat
  • Kettlebell deadlift
  • Bench press
  • Push up
  • Overhead press
  • Seated shoulder press
  • Incline press
  • Push press
  • Chin ups
  • Inverted row
  • TRX row
  • Seated cable row
  • Bent over row
  • Pull ups

You are then going to perform those exercises using a moderately heavy weight for five repetitions each, in circuit style fashion for a grand total of 20 minutes. Within this, make sure you take 20-30 seconds rest between each exercise.

For example, I might choose to do a barbell deadlift, weighted push ups, and pull ups.

My session would then look something like this.

  • Deadlift x 5 repetitions
  • 30 seconds rest
  • Weighed push up x 5 repetitions
  • 30 seconds rest
  • Pull Up x 5 repetitions
  • 30 seconds rest

I would then try and perform as many rounds as I possible could in 20 minutes.



The Perfect Short Workout for Technique

If there is an exercise that you have been working on for a while (and really want to get better at), then this is for you.

Simply choose that specific exercise, and perform 10 repetitions using a light weight. The take 30-40 seconds to do some gentle core work.

Then repeat this entire process for a total of 20 minutes.

Say hypothetically I wanted to improve my front squat, my workout might look like this:

  • Front squat (light weight) x 10 repetitions
  • Very gentle fitball roll outs x 30 seconds

I would then repeat this for 20 minutes, trying to get in as many rounds as i could in that time.


The Perfect Short Workout for Aerobic Fitness

I have written about the merits of high intensity interval training (or HIIT for you cool kids) in the past, so I wont go into too much detail here.

What I do want to discuss is the fact that it allows you to get in a super effective aerobic workout in a very short amount of time.

In fact, a performing a simple 20 minute interval workout twice per week has been shown to cause comparable improvements in health and fitness to a couple of hours of low intensity cardio.

In short, it works.

Now, one of my favorite protocols is super simple and super effective — although I must admit, its can be a bit of challenge (in a good way, of course…).

Pick your favorite form of torture piece of equipment and simply go at around 80% of your max speed for a whole 60 seconds.  After that 60 seconds is up, go at a nice leisurely pace for another 60 seconds.

Repeat 10 times, for a grand total of 20 minutes.

As a bonus, you could do this on a rower, a bike, a treadmill, or even with some battle ropes

See? Simple.



The Perfect Short Workout for Mobility

Last but not least, we are going to go over a nice short workout that prioritizes mobility.

Like the strength circuit, you are simply going to choose three exercises from the table below (two lower body mobility exercises, and one upper body mobility exercise).

Lower Body Exercise 1 Lower Body Exercise 2 Upper Body Exercise
  • TRX squat
  • Deep goblet squat
  • Lateral TRX lunge
  • Cossack squat
  • Bulgarian split squat (deep)
  • Split squat with front foot elevated
  • Reverse Lunge with front foot elevated
  • Side lying thoracic rotation
  • Yoga push up
  • Single arm cable row with rotation

You are then going to perform these movements with a very light weight (or even using your body weight) for 12 repetitions each back to back in a circuit style fashion for a grand total of… you guessed it… 20 minutes!

For example, I might choose to do a Cossack squat, a Deep Bulgarian Split Squat, and some Side lying thoracic rotations.

Then my session would then look something like this.

  • Deep Cossack squat x 12 repetitions
  • Deep Bulgarian split squat x 12 repetitions per side
  • Side lying thoracic rotations x 12 repetitions per side

I would then try and perform as many rounds as I possible could in that 20 minute bout.

The important thing to remember here is that every single rep needs to be of a high quality. It should be slow and controlled, and each subsequent set you should be aiming to achieve more range of motion than you did for the set that came before it.

As a result, at the end of the circuit you should be blowing a bit, and feel nice and mobile.

This is the perfect workout to burn some energy and improve your movement capabilities.


Take Home Message

Your workout doesn’t have to last hours on end to be effective. In fact, you can see some serious results from your training in as little as 20 minutes.

So next time you are short on time, give one of these guys a go and let me know what you think.

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