The Best 20-Minute Workouts

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Marine conducts low crawls.
U.S. Marine GySgt. Juan Flores conducts low crawls during a squadron physical training event at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, July 26, 2019. (Lance Cpl. Lauren Brune/U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Do you want to jump-start your new year with some great ideas that you can incorporate into your fitness routine? If you are like many Americans, getting the time to exercise is challenging. But this article is proof that you can fit fitness into your schedule on just about any "busy" day in your life.

The other day, I was emailed the following question: I only have about 20-30 minutes a day to exercise. What can I do in that amount of time?

Not wanting to limit the answer to just a few push-ups and sit-ups, I set out to prove how much you could do in such a little amount of time. My goal is to prove that you do not need several hours to maintain a fitness program -- just minutes a day. Though the transition time may add to the total time invested in your workout, here is a list of 20- to 30-minute workouts you can do in your home, office, lunch time or local gym:

The superset is a great way to work out if you have limited time. Each cycle should take you two minutes. If you can do 10 cycles of this, you will total 300 push-ups and 400 crunches. Not bad for 20 minutes. No resting between sets. You basically rest by doing crunches. The two supersets you see below are great to alternate every other day.

Push-up/crunch super set

Repeat 10 cycles of:

  • 10 regular push-ups
  • 10 crunches
  • 10 wide push-ups
  • 10 crunches
  • 10 triceps push-ups
  • 10/10 left/right crunches

Leg/ab super set

Repeat 5 cycles of:

  • 20 squats
  • 20 crunches
  • 10 lunges per leg
  • 10 crunches
  • 20 calf raises
  • 20 crunches

Running or walking

How much running or walking can you do in 20-30 minutes? Some people can run 3-6 miles or walk 2-3 miles in that time. Try this one if you want to run.

Running

4-mile track work:

  • Jog one mile in 7-8 minutes
  • Three sets of quarter-mile sprints in 90-100 seconds
  • Jog or walk a quarter-mile

Six sets of:

  • Sprint an eighth of a mile
  • Jog an eighth of a mile

Or you can mix the two types of exercise together and do what I call a Spartan run.

Spartan run

  • Run one mile
  • 100 push-ups in as few sets as possible
  • 100 crunches
  • Run one mile
  • 75 push-ups in as few sets as possible
  • 75 crunches
  • Run one mile
  • 50 push-ups in as few sets as possible
  • 50 crunches

Swimming

How much swimming can you do in 20-30 minutes? Some people can swim a mile in that time. Here is a great workout if you want to mix a little PT with swimming.

Swim PT

Repeat 5-10 times:

  • Swim 100 yards
  • Do 10-20 push-ups
  • Abs 20-30

This is the ultimate workout I have ever done in under 20 minutes. The challenge is to do:

  • 100 pull-ups as few sets as possible
  • 200 push-ups in as few two-minute sets as possible
  • 300 sit-ups in as few two-minute sets as possible

Do these as quickly as possible. You can alternate exercises after each set of maximum repetitions.

As you can see, you can do quite a bit in as little as 20-30 minutes. These workouts are a little advanced, and you should consult your doctor before starting an exercise program, especially if you have not exercised in several years. You can create your own program, using these exercise ideas for your own fitness level. If you want to improve your physical fitness test scores, the motto is, "You will succeed by failing." So push yourself every set until you no longer can perform the exercise. If you do this 2-3 times a week, you will have better PT scores within a month.

Related Video

The U.S. military is the fittest fight force in the world. This video highlights the top ten military fitness exercises to test strength and endurance. Watch it today!
The U.S. military is the fittest fight force in the world. This video highlights the top ten military fitness exercises to test strength and endurance. Watch it today!

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you’re looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to stew@stewsmith.com.

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