If you only had 20 minutes to work out what would you do? Run on the treadmill? Stretch for 10 minutes then hit the leg press? Wonder around aimlessly then try that weird looking YouTube exercise you saw at work? The following exercises hit all the major muscle groups and provide a great bang for your buck. They would also make a great foundation for most people’s exercise program.
Deadlifts: Deadlifts are a great total body exercise. Although the name may sound intimidating it is actually a movement most people do every day. The deadlift recruits many of the body’s largest muscles of the hips and legs and also challenges the core and upper body to remain stable under stress.
How to: Using a kettlebell or dumbbell stand over top of the weight. Start by bending at hips and knees to lower and grab the weight with both arms. Without allowing lower back to round, pull torso back and up, thrust hips forward, and stand up with the kettlebell or dumbbell. Squeeze glutes as you perform the movement.
Goblet squats: This is an excellent exercise to strength the glutes, quads and core; while at the same time increase hip mobility. By holding the weight in front of your body, it forces you into proper position, which also reduces the risk of squatting. This is a more natural movement pattern, compared to back loaded squats, and easier for people to learn the squat movement.
How to: Stand with your legs about shoulder-width apart, with your toes pointed slightly outward. Grab a dumbbell or kettlebell and hold it against your chest. With a kettlebell, hold the handle, but with a dumbbell just hold it vertical by the one end. Squat down with the goal of having your elbows, which are pointed downward because you’re cradling the bell, slide past the inside of your knees. Then squeeze your glutes and quads to standing position.
Pull-ups: While this exercise targets the latissimus dorsi muscle along with many other assisting muscles of the back, it really is a total body exercise. Everything from grip strength and even the core have to work hard to hold the body in place with the powerful muscles of the back and arms create force. A band or training partner help can be added to assist with the exercise.
How to: Grab the bar with a shoulder-width, overhand grip. Hang at arm’s length. You should return to this position each time you lower your body back down. Perform a chin-up by taking 1 second to pull your chest to the bar. As you pull your body up, stick your chest out, squeeze your shoulder blades down and back, and focus on pulling your upper arms down forcefully. Once the top of your chest touches the bar, slowly lower yourself.
Sprints: If you’re short on time, but want the benefits that long, slow cardio provides, sprint workouts might be a perfect solution. Evidence shows that short, high intensity sprint workouts improve aerobic capacity and endurance in about half the time of traditional endurance exercise.
How to: An important thing to consider with sprint training is safety. Because sprinting is a max effort dynamic exercise there is an increased risk of injury. Start slow and increase intensity over several weeks. A sample high intensity workout using sprints could look like this: after warming up for at least five minutes, sprint all out for 30 seconds, then walk for 30 to 90 seconds for recovery. Beginners should walk the entire 90 seconds and gradually reduce the recovery period over time, repeat 3 to 10 times.
Push-ups: Push-ups work the upper body and core at the same time. Adding weight plates, sand bags and even a training partner can all be used to add resistance to make them harder. Or start the push-up against a bench, table or any surface elevated off the ground to take some weight off.
How to: Place your hands on a box, bench, or ground slightly wider than and in line with shoulders. Slowly lower body until your chest nearly touches the bench or ground. Pause at the bottom, and then push back up to the starting position as quickly as possible.