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Workouts aren’t like bachelorette parties or filing taxes: You don’t need to carve out hours and hours from your schedule in order to fit them in.
All you need for a solid sweat session is a few minutes, a little bit of space, and a workout plan. Even just 20 minutes — that’s less time than it takes to get a Starbucks at an airport or watch an episode of your favorite show— is adequate for getting a workout that will help you meet your health and fitness goals. “There are a ton of health and fitness benefits of pushing yourself for a short chunk of time,” says certified strength and conditioning specialist Lizzy Bristow, CSCS, owner of Body by Daddy, who specializes in fitness for the LGBTQ+ community.
“If you only have twenty minutes and are physically capable of hitting high intensities, a high-intensity interval training piece is one of the most effective ways to make progress,” says Bristow. (FTR: HIIT is very safe, but as is the case with any form of physical activity, it’s best to get the green light from a healthcare professional before trying it — especially if you have any pre-existing health conditions). The fact is, high-intensity interval training has been shown to improve heart health, muscular endurance, and strength, reduce body fat, and increase metabolism.
Ready to see just how sweaty a 20-minute workout can get? Try the 20-minute EMOM (AKA “Every Minute On The Minute”) created by Bristow below. All you need for this bodyweight, equipment-free workout is a swatch of floor (or grass) space and a timer.
20-Minute Full-Body EMOM: How It Works
EMOM-style workouts are a type of high-intensity interval training workouts that have built-in rest. “You start performing a certain number of reps at the top of the minute,” explains Bristow. “After you’ve completed them, you have the remainder of the minute to rest.” This built-in rest gives your body time to recover prior to the next minute so that you can continue hitting the prescribed reps with intensity and vigor, she explains.
For example, you’ll see below that one of the minutes entails doing 10 air squats immediately into 10 drop squats. If you finish those reps in 30 seconds, you’ll be able to use the remaining 30 seconds to recuperate before moving on to the next movement (shoulder taps and kick-through) at the start of the next minute.
This particular EMOM workout is a circuit-style EMOM. That means that you’ll move through five different movement combos, starting a new movement each time the clock hits 00. Once you’ve completed one circuit, which will take five minutes, you’ll circle back to the top and repeat the circuit three more times for a total of four rounds. Basically, you’ll never be bored.
The Full-Body, 20-Minute Workout
What you need: Nothing but a timer and bit of space.
20 Minute EMOM
- 10 Air Squats + 10 Drop Squats
- 10 Alternating Shoulder taps + Kick Throughs
- 10 Alternating Cossack Squat + 10 Skater Squats
- 10 Push-up + Plank Hand Walk
- 10 Alternating Single-Leg Toe Touch + 10 Single-Leg Alternating Pivot Lunge
“The movement combinations that you are doing each minute build off one another and tax similar muscle groups,” says Bristow. For instance, both the air squat and drop squat are squat variations that primarily target your lower half. “Drop squats are simply a more explosive iteration of the air squat,” she explains.
Similarly, both the push-up and plank hand walk are shoulder- and core-burners. The beauty of having you do 10 reps of each movement, rather than 20 reps of one, says Bristow, is that it keeps the workout interesting. Boredom, after all, is the antithesis of consistency.
Accessibility & Scaling Note
The above reps are suggestions, not rules. “The goal is for each athlete to be working a total of thirty of the sixty seconds each minute,” says Bristow. So, if it takes you longer than 30 seconds to complete 10 air squats immediately into 10 drop squats, scale the reps back to 6 or 8 of each movement.
Minute 1: 10 Air Squats + 10 Drop Squats
A. Stand with feet hip-width apart, toes parallel or slightly turned out 15 degrees.
B. Think about prepping for a punch by bracing your abdominal muscles to activate your core,
C. Keeping chest tall, simultaneously bend knees and push back butt to lower into a squat position. Continue lowering until your thighs are at least parallel to the floor.
D. Press into heels and mid-foot to straighten legs and return to standing.
E. Do 9 more times for a total of 10 reps.
A. Get in a squat stance and brace your midline.
B. Jump your feet out to shoulder width and drop explosively into the bottom of a squat.
C. Press through heels and midfoot for power and jump your feet back into hips-width, returning to the start position.
D. Complete 10 explosive reps.
Minute 2: 10 Alternating Shoulder Taps + 10 Alternating Kick Throughs
Alternating Shoulder Taps
A. Get into a high plank position, hands stacked under shoulders, and feet hip-width apart. Squeeze the glutes and engage the core so there’s a straight line running head to toe. Squeeze the glutes and engage the core.
B. Keeping hips square, lift the right hand off the floor and tap left shoulder. Lower right hand to the floor, then lift left hand and tap right shoulder.
C. Repeat for 10 total reps or 5 touches per side.
Plank Kick Throughs
A. Start in a table-top position. Actively press into palms and engage midline to lift knees off the ground. (This is known as a bear plank).
B. Shift weight into left hand while twisting left leg under your body and to the right. Kiss the floor with left hip before using your core to twist back to the start.
C. Now, repeat switching sides. Press weight into your right hand as your right leg weaves under your body. Tap the floor with your right hip before returning to start.
D. Repeat for 30 seconds, making sure to complete an even number of total reps.
Minute 3: 10 Alternating Cossack Squat + 10 (Total) Skater Squats
Alternating Cossack Squat
A. Stand with feet two(ish) feet wider than shoulder-width apart, toes turned slightly outward. Engage core and extend arms in front of chest, palms facing one another for balance.
B. Keeping chest tall, simultaneously shift body to the right, bend right knee, and sit hips to lower into a squat keeping left leg fully extended out to side as you do. Keep chest up and right heel flat on the floor and prevent back from rounding.
C. Press through right foot to straighten right leg and return to standing straddle start. Repeat on the opposite side.
D. Continue alternating sides until you’ve completed 10 total reps or 5 reps per side.
A. Stand in an athletic position, feet just outside hips. Brace midline and bend left knee back, bringing left heel toward your glute.
B. Root through right foot for stability. Then, bend right knee so that you are squatting with that leg only.
C. Continue lowering until left knee almost grazes ground. Or, as low as your current balance and ankle mobility allows.
D. Press through right leg and extend planted leg to return to standing.
E. Repeat for 5 reps on this side before switching sides.
Minute 4: 10 Push-up + Plank Hand Walk
A. Assume a high plank position, with wrists stacked under shoulders.
B. Tuck tailbone and draw the navel up toward spine to engage midline. Screw pinkies out and into the floor to engage lats. Squeeze quads and glutes.
C. Press elbows back behind the body to slowly lower your body toward the ground.
D. Press through palms to push yourself away from the floor and return to start.
E. Repeat for a total of 10 reps.
Plank Hand Walk
A. Get into a high plank position, making sure that midline, glutes, quads, and lats are all activated.
B. Slowly walk hands forward as far as possible, stepping forward with each hand a few inches at a time.
C. Keeping hips square, walk hands back to start and repeat.
D. Repeat until there are 30 seconds left on the clock. Aim to complete at least 3 reps.
Minute 5: 10 Alternating Single-Leg Toe Touch + 10 Single-Leg Alternating Pivot Lunge
Alternating Single Leg Toe Touches
A. Assume an athletic stance with feet under hips.
B. Brace core for stability. Next, keeping hips square, extend left leg behind you and push weight into right foot.
C. Balancing on right foot, hinge at hips to lower your torso toward your planted leg. Continue lowering until you can tap your standing foot with the opposite arm.
D. Press through planted foot to return to standing. Then, switch sides and repeat.
E. Repeat for a total of 10 reps, or 5 per side.
Single Leg Alternating Pivot Lunge
A. Start facing forward with feet outside shoulder width, feet pointed out.
B. Pivot feet, hips, and torso to the right while dropping your back, left knee toward the ground into a lunge.
C. Twist back toward the start position, extending your legs as you do.
D. Next, repeat on the other side. Pivot feet, hips, and torso to the left while dropping your back, right knee to the ground into a lunge.
E. Return to start. Then, repeat for a total of 5 reps per side.