When it comes to exercise, every little bit counts. We’re talking even as little as five or 10 minutes squeezed in between errands or before a meal.
“Reaching your fitness goals may take a little longer, but even a few minutes a day can still bring you closer to whatever goal you have, whether it’s losing weight, building lean muscle, or improving your overall health,” says Myatt Murphy, a certified strength and conditioning specialist and the author of The Body You Want in the Time You Have.
These four mini-workouts will make the most of whatever time you do have on hand. Even better, they require little to no equipment or space. Try them all to find one that suits your schedule and your liking. For the most benefit—and to beat back boredom—Murphy suggests mixing up the workouts.
The average weight-training routine lasts between 20 and 30 minutes, but that’s usually because people rest too long between exercises or do exercises that target only one muscle group. But in 10 minutes, you can train your entire body and burn more calories by choosing compound movements that work multiple muscles at once.
Your best bet: Perform the following five exercises in order for 45 seconds each, resting 15 seconds between each exercise. Repeat the cycle twice for a total of 10 minutes.
• Dumbbell squat: With a weight in each hand and your arms at your sides, or resting the weights on your shoulders, slowly sit back into a squat position; stand and repeat.
• Two-arm bent-over dumbbell row: Stand with your feet slightly apart and your knees bent. With a weight in each hand and your arms at your sides, lean forward, taking care to keep your back straight, and lift the weights to your sides; lower and repeat.
• Dumbbell lunge: With a weight in each hand and your arms at your sides, step forward with one leg and lunge. Stand and bring your feet together; repeat with your other leg.
• Dumbbell chest press: With the weights at your sides, lie on a bench—or on the floor with your knees bent—and slowly push the weights over your chest until your arms are straight. Lower the weights, keeping your elbows bent, and repeat.
• Dumbbell deadlift: Place the weights on the floor in front of you. Bend at your hips and knees, grab the weights, stand up, and slowly lower the weights back down.
As you are performing the moves, don’t count repetitions. After 45 seconds, if you feel that you could have done more, choose a pair of heavier weights for the next cycle so that your muscles will feel tired at the 45-second mark.
Don’t Have Weights?
That’s fine, because you don’t need any. In fact, “some of the most effective exercises are ones that require no machines, weights, or devices of any kind,” says Murphy.
Your best bet: Perform the following five exercises in order for 45 seconds each, resting 15 seconds between each move. Repeat the five-move cycle twice for a total of 10 minutes.
• Hands-over-head squat: Raise your arms above your head in a V position, push your hips and bottom back, and lower yourself into a squat position; come back up and repeat.
• Push-up: Focus on having your arms, shoulders, and upper back—not your butt or stomach—lift your body weight off the floor and lower it back down. If you have trouble keeping your body in a straight line, try mastering your form with knee push-ups.
• Arms-out lunge: Lunge one leg at a time with your arms extended at your sides.
• Burpee: Squat and touch the floor with both hands, kick—or step—your legs behind you so that you end up in a push-up position, then quickly reverse the move so that you are in a standing position.
• Plank: Get into a push-up position but rest your weight on your forearms, not your palms. If you can’t hold this position for the full 45 seconds, take short rests and get right back into form.
Again, don’t count repetitions. If after 45 seconds you feel that you could have done more, try doing the exercise either slower or faster, depending on which feels harder.
Have a Place to Walk or Run?
The average 150-pound person burns roughly five calories a minute walking briskly, eight calories a minute jogging, and up to 20 calories a minute sprinting at an all-out pace.
Your best bet: When time is short, try a high-intensity interval-training (HIIT) technique, which mixes exercising as hard as possible for a short period of time with longer, low-intensity exercise in between. This type of training raises your metabolism, so you burn more calories after your workout is finished. To do it, try running as fast as you can for five to 10 seconds, then walk normally for the remainder of the minute. Continue to run or walk for 10 minutes. As you become fitter, try to run longer and walk less, such as 15 seconds of sprinting, followed by 45 seconds of walking.
Got a Jump Rope?
Although how much you weigh (and how fast you jump) ultimately determines how many calories you’ll burn in 10 minutes, skipping rope is one of the most effective ways to blast fat in less time. An average 150-pound person skipping at a moderate pace can expect to burn an average of 125 calories in just 10 minutes.
Your best bet: You could skip at a moderate pace, or you could follow the same HIIT formula recommended above: five to 10 seconds at a vigorous pace, followed by 50 to 55 seconds at a slow pace. Can’t skip without tripping? Try it without a rope. Just be sure to swing your arms in time with your feet as if you were holding one. You’ll still blast calories and condition your heart without requiring a high level of coordination.