4 Highly Effective Workouts You Can Do in 15 Minutes

Alyssa Atkinson

The best ones to do when you’re short on time.

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Photo by Andrik Langfield on Unsplash

Back when I was in my final year of college, I had one of the busiest, most stressful days of my entire life. My senior design project had a hard deadline, and the day before it was due, I was rushing like crazy to get it finished. I worked for about 20 hours that day and took very few breaks in order to get it done.

Still, I knew I wouldn’t produce my best results if I plowed through the work without stopping to catch my breath at least a couple times. The only problem was that working out had always been my way of de-stressing, and I didn’t have 30 spare minutes to go for a jog.

I’m sure you’ve found yourself in a similar situation at some point. Luckily, there’s a way that you can still get an awesome workout in when you have very little time. You simply have to shift your perspective, and allocate 15 minutes for a more intense form of exercise.

And while you might think that 15 minutes isn’t enough to get a good sweat in, that’s actually not the case. There are a number of high intensity exercises you can do to get your body moving and your heart pumping. The following are four of the most effective workouts you can do in just 15 minutes.

1. AMRAP Workouts

AMRAP workouts are unique in that you don’t have a set number of reps for each exercise. AMRAP stands for as many rounds as possible. Therefore, you are given a set duration for each exercise, and you complete as many rounds as possible until time is up. This forces you to go at full speed for the entirety of the workout, so although it’s short, you get a lot more out of it.

Shape provides the following simple example to help you “work every major muscle group to fatigue with a 10-minute strength circuit [and]…finish with the Tabata top-off”:

  • Slow Squats for 1 minute (this is what they call the “warm-up” exercise)

Then, do the following circuit two times through:

  • Dumbbell Squats for 1 minute
  • Dumbbell Shoulder Press for 1 minute
  • Dumbbell Deadlifts for 1 minute
  • Push-ups for 1 minute
  • Alternating 4x20s each: Sprint On the Spot/Squat Thrust Up and Over

This workout may only total 15 minutes, but it packs a lot of intensity into every single second to help you get the most out of the time you have.

2. HIIT Workouts

If you’ve never heard of HIIT, it means high intensity interval training. Essentially, you do a very intense bout of exercise for a short period of time.

And according to Women’s Health, HIIT workouts are highly effective:

“Most recently, researchers found that a 10-minute workout, with just one minute at high-intensity, had the same benefits as 45 minutes of jogging. One group of study participants did a two-minute warm-up on a stationary bike, followed by a 20-second sprint, then rode slowly for two minutes. They repeated that sequence two more times for a total of 10 minutes. The other group just rode steadily on the bike for 45 minutes. After 12 weeks, both groups showed a 20 percent increase in cardiovascular endurance.”

If you want to give your heart and body a boost but you’re pressed for time, you should consider giving a HIIT workout a try.

Women’s Health provides the following 15 minute HIIT workout:

  • Jump squats for 30 seconds, then 10 seconds rest
  • Runner’s lunge mountain climber for 30 seconds, then 10 seconds rest
  • High knees for 30 seconds, then 10 seconds rest
  • Roll up to tuck jump for 30 seconds, then 10 seconds rest
  • 60 seconds rest
  • Repeat three times

To get the most benefits from each exercise, focus on doing as many reps as you can with correct form.

3. The Following Core Exercises

While doing crunches for fifteen minutes straight might not do much for you (other than make your neck sore), completing a series of exercises that engage your entire core can provide a number of phenomenal benefits.

Stuart McGill, Ph.D., a professor of spine biomechanics at the University of Waterloo, states that:

“Core training makes you a better athlete in just about any strength or speed sport…That’s because a strong core lets you transfer more power to your limbs so you can punch harder, smash a drive farther, and kick a ball with more force.”

Therefore, it’s important to perform ab exercises that work all the key muscle groups if you’re trying to build up a strong core.

The following are some great exercises for stability and strength:

  • Planks
  • Glute Bridges
  • Dead Bugs
  • Flutter Kicks
  • Swimming Supermans
  • Russian Twists
  • Bear Crawls

You can complete a killer ab workout in just 15 minutes by performing each of the above exercises for one minute back to back, and then repeating the set.

4. This Style of Running

Alternating short sprints with recovery jogs can help you get the most out of your workout when you don’t have time to go for a long, slow run.

According to Livestrong,

“The benefits of sprinting include all the normal health benefits of cardiovascular activity — but in less time. Sprint training is also excellent for building cardiovascular capacity, physical power and endurance, and can help you reduce visceral abdominal fat.”

When I do sprint workouts, I like to alternate short, hard bursts with slow recovery jogs in between.

If you want to start adding sprint workouts to your own routine, Harvard Health Publishing states that you should start with “high-intensity intervals as short as 30 seconds — although you can do even shorter intervals if you need to — and gradually increasing those sprint intervals over time to two minutes or more.”

This gradual approach will make it easier for you to get through the entire workout with good form and intensity, which is important for both injury prevention and optimizing the limited time you have to exercise.

Final Thoughts

Even on our busiest days, we can all find 15 minutes to stop what we’re doing and move our bodies. And while it might not seem like much, it’s better than nothing, and those minutes truly do add up.

I used to think that if I couldn’t get a “real” workout in (which in my head meant exercising for at least 30 minutes), then there wasn’t a point to doing it at all. I now understand how wrong I was.

You have to remember that the effort you put into your workout is just as important as the duration of it. If you find yourself with only 10 or 20 minutes to devote to exercising on a particularly busy day, make the most of your time by choosing a high intensity workout that will produce similar results in half the time.

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Ohio U XC/Track alum. I love to run. I blog about food, health, fitness, lifestyle, etc. Personal Blog - nomeatfastfeet.com | Electrical and Computer Engineering Grad.

Raleigh, NC
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