When you think about hitting the gym or taking a workout class, you probably imagine spending somewhere between 30–60 minutes sweating it out. Anything less than that and you might as well just skip it altogether, right?
Well, not quite.
WHEN IS A SHORT WORKOUT WORTH IT?
According to experts, short workouts can be beneficial pretty much anytime. “A super short workout is always worth it,” says Courtney Roselle, a personal trainer and founder of Iron.Grace coaching. “There are many ways to get a good workout in even in such a short period of time. It is never about the amount of time put in, it is about the effort you put into a workout in a short period of time.”
The only caveat: It needs to be intense.
“The key is to make the most of those 10–15 minutes, aiming to burn a significant amount of calories in a short amount of time,” says Katie Collard, certified strength and conditioning specialist, head coach at Cut Seven. “To do that, make your workout high intensity by targeting large muscle groups and elevating your heart rate. Movements like squat jumps, bear crawls and plank variations will activate large muscles and spike your heart rate more than a steady run or holding a plank.”
Of course, this all depends on your level of fitness. While intense movements like burpees and squat jumps might be needed for some people to get their heart rate up, others might be able to do so with air squats or even just walking up stairs, for example.
As for the benefits, there are plenty. “In a short time, you can maintain fitness and improve your health,” says Shayla Roberts, certified strength and conditioning specialist, a performance coach at Evolution Coaching U. That means that even if you normally have more time to hit the gym and prefer longer workouts, a quick 10-minute sweat session can help you maintain the benefits of your usual routine.
“Short periods of exercise can improve mitochondria (your muscle cells’ power generators), cardiovascular health, glucose metabolism in people with Type 2 diabetes and may even slow the aging process,” Roberts adds.
Research has also shown that short, intense bursts of training can help reduce abdominal fat (even without weight loss) and provide similar metabolism-boosting benefits to longer steady-state training sessions.
Lastly, it’s worth noting that if you prefer heavy weightlifting workouts, a quick 15-minute workout isn’t the right time to do that. “Safety requires a longer warmup to get to high levels of intensity when lifting heavy weights,” says Kimber Rozier, certified strength and conditioning specialist and coach at Results Performance Training. “Without this, you risk injury. Additionally, you’ll spend more time resting and recovering than actually lifting. Therefore you’re wasting your precious time in the gym!”
WHEN IS IT NOT WORTH IT?
There are really only a few situations when a quick workout isn’t a good idea:
When you’re exhausted: “When you’re incredibly stressed and haven’t slept, sometimes skipping the workout and taking a 15-minute nap can make a world of a difference,” Rozier says. “More is not always more. Your body needs recovery to reap the benefits of working out. If you starve it of that, you’ll actually be less likely to lose weight and see results.”
When you’re super sore: “In a 10–15-minute workout, you don’t have time to properly warm up or cool down,” Collard points out. “If you find yourself extremely sore and tight, use those 10–15 minutes to stretch.”
There are plenty of ways to get a great workout in a short amount of time. Here are three workouts to try, all with little to no setup or equipment required.
“All this involves is picking 3–4 fitness movements, deciding the rep count and trying to see how many rounds you can get in the time cap,” Roselle says. So, for example, 15 air squats, 5 pushups, 20 walking lunges and 8 kettlebell deadlifts. See how many rounds you can finish in 10 minutes, and you’re good to go. “I promise you will be able to get some heavy breathing in!” Roselle adds.
“If you only have availability for one mini-workout per week, your goal should be to target the entire body,” Collard says. Here’s an example of how to do that. Complete all the exercises in set A before moving onto set B, then set C. Complete A–C 3 times.
WORKOUT 3: TABATA
“Plan a Tabata workout, which only is 20 seconds of movement and 10 seconds of rest for 8 rounds,” Roselle suggests. “All you do is perform the same movement every 20 seconds trying to match your reps throughout the 8 rounds.” So if you pick burpees, and you do 8 in the first round, you’ll want to try to keep that up through the remaining 7 rounds.