Some days, especially when you’re time-strapped, you need your exercises to perform double-duty. On these occasions, it’s helpful to have a handful of exercise options that check both the “strength” and “endurance” boxes — so you don’t waste precious time.
The exercises below offer a great bang for your buck. If you have limited time to work out, pick 2–4 of the exercises, and perform one for 30 seconds then rest for 30 seconds before you move into the next move for 30 seconds. Or, perform each move for 15–20 reps. Repeat for 2–4 rounds, and try to keep your rest periods short.
For weighted exercises, choose a weight that challenges you during your set. “You want to still build strength, so the weights you choose should not only raise your heart rate, but you should also reach muscle fatigue by the end of your rep range or interval,” says Hannah Davis, certified strength and conditioning specialist and owner of Body By Hannah.
That said, good form is always key. If you find your form starts to break down before you reach the end of your set, stop and rest and/or lighten the weight, advises Boston-based strength coach Tony Gentilcore, certified strength and conditioning specialist.
Here are nine options from Davis and Gentilcore to create a quick, effective workout:
DUMBBELL OR KETTLEBELL THRUSTER
Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart and hold a dumbbell or kettlebell in each hand at shoulder-height. Push your butt back and bend at the knees to lower into a squat. Once your thighs are parallel or nearly parallel to the floor, drive through your heels and use the power of your hips and glutes to propel you back to standing. As you stand, press the dumbbells or kettlebells overhead until your arms are fully extended. As you lower the weights back down to your shoulders, drop into your next squat.
PUSHUP WITH ROW
Set up in a high plank position on the floor. Grip a dumbbell in each hand and position your hands directly under your shoulders, slightly wider than your ribcage. Brace your core and bend at the elbows to lower your body to the floor with control, making sure your elbows flare out no more than 45 degrees. Push back up to the top and row one dumbbell at a time up toward your ribcage. That’s one rep. If you can’t row the dumbbell without shrugging, use a lighter weight. Drop to your knees if needed.
Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart. Push your butt back and bend at the knees to lower into a deep squat. Place both palms flat on the floor in front of you and jump or step both legs back. Perform a pushup, then jump or step both legs forward so you’re back in a deep squat position. Stand or jump back to starting position. That’s one repetition. (Can’t do burpees? Try one of these alternatives.)
Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart. Grip a dumbbell or kettlebell in each hand at shoulder-height. Bend slightly at the knees and drive up through your hips to press the weights overhead until your arms are fully extended. Lower the weights back down with control and immediately launch into the next rep.
SUMO SQUAT WITH UPRIGHT ROW
Stand tall with your feet slightly wider than your shoulders and toes pointed out slightly. Hold a dumbbell or kettlebell in each hand in front of your body so your arms are extended toward the floor between your legs. Your palms should be facing toward you. Keeping your arms extended toward the floor, push your butt back and bend at the knees to lower into a squat until your thighs are parallel or nearly parallel to the floor. Widen or shorten your stance as needed to ensure your knees track over your feet. Drive through your heels to push back up to standing. As you stand, row the weights up so your elbows point out to the sides.
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and knees slightly bent, with a kettlebell on the floor a few feet in front of you. Keeping your back straight and shoulders down, grip the handle of the kettlebell with both hands. Then, hike the kettlebell back and up between your legs. (Allow your legs to straighten slightly as you do this.) Once the kettlebell can’t go any farther, use the power of your hips, glutes and hamstrings to propel the kettlebell upward until it reaches (or almost reaches) shoulder height. Keep your arms straight throughout the movement. When the kettlebell reaches shoulder height, pull it back down between your legs. Your chest should stay high and your gaze forward at all times.
SINGLE-LEG ROMANIAN DEADLIFT WITH ROW
Stand tall with your feet together and hold a dumbbell or kettlebell in each hand down by your sides. Shift your weight onto one leg and let that knee bend slightly. Lift the opposite foot a few inches off the floor behind you. Keeping your back flat and your standing leg slightly bent, push your hips back and lower your chest toward the floor, allowing your elevated foot to lift toward the ceiling. Stop when you feel a slight pull in the hamstrings and row both weights up toward your ribcage. Lower the weights and return to start.
Grip a heavy dumbbell or kettlebell in each hand and hold them down by your sides. Brace your core and begin walking with slow, controlled steps. Walk until you feel your grip start to give out. If you can’t walk without leaning to one side, use lighter weights.
BARBELL OR DUMBBELL COMPLEX
Technically, the barbell or dumbbell complex isn’t an exercise. Rather, it’s a way of stringing together two or more exercises to create an efficient, challenging routine.
With a barbell or dumbbell complex, you perform multiple exercises without ever setting the weights down. This raises your heart rate while still providing your muscles with the stimulus they need to get stronger. The fact you only use one piece of equipment during this routine makes it a very convenient workout option when the gym is crowded. “It isn’t going to take up three or four different pieces of equipment,” Gentilcore says.
Try this: Choose a barbell you can comfortably push press for 5 reps. You’ll use this same weight for the entire workout.
Once you’re ready, perform 5 bent-over barbell rows before moving right into 5 reps of a barbell Romanian deadlift. Clean the bar to perform 5 push presses before launching into 5 reps of a front squat. This is one set. Put the barbell down between exercises if you need to, but try to hang on until the end of your set.
Once you finish the set, rack the barbell and rest for 2 minutes. For the next set, you’ll perform 4 reps of every exercise. After that, you’ll do 3 reps, and so on, all the way down to 1 rep.