Your 20-minute workout to maintain strength, reduce stress and burn calories!
Office parties. Shopping lists. Holiday cards. Neighborhood get-togethers. And the all-too-time-consuming search for the perfect gift—for your daughter, or your husband, or your sister-in-law. If you don’t seem to have time this season to fit in a workout, you’re not alone..
But we’ve got good news—if you have 20 minutes, you have enough time to perform a challenging routine that will help you maintain your strength, reduce stress, and incinerate a few calories as well. The key to getting the most from your limited time during the holiday season (or any other) is intensity—in other words, a casual stroll won’t cut it, says global fitness professional Gin Miller, owner of Gin Miller Fitness.
"You’ve got to get after it. You’ve got to warm up quickly—within five minutes—and get right into the workout," Miller says. "Then, you have to work as hard as you can without working past your fitness level." In other words, you’ll maximize your results by maxing out, effort-wise.
In a perfect world, your workout would include cardio, strength and stretching work with plenty of time to warm up and cool down. When time is limited, though, choose a strength-building workout over a cardio one. "It’s probably better to do a mix, but if you can only do one, opt for strength," Miller says. "It does a lot for you in the post-exercise state. You’re burning more calories for longer after because you’re building lean muscle tissue." And even a simple strength workout, done two or three times a week, can help you maintain and even improve your fitness if it’s challenging enough.
Our workout, designed by Gin Miller, includes seven sets of upper and lower body moves. Beginners should do each move separately. Exercisers who already strength train regularly and want an additional challenge can integrate the moves, or perform them together. Start with one set and work up to two. As with any workout, make sure you perform all movements in a slow, controlled manner. If your form starts to suffer, use a lighter weight.
The workout: Squats with overhead pressesOverhead presses
Stand with feet shoulder-widReturn to your original position. Do eight to 10 repsth apart, holding two dumbbells in your hands at shoulder height. Press up and lift dumbbells over your head and lower. Do eight to 10 reps.Squats
Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, dumbbells at your sides, chest up, shoulders back. Bend your knees, keeping your abs tucked in and your back straight, and squat toward the ground until your thighs are nearly parallel to the ground. Return to your original position. Do eight to 10 reps.
Advanced: Combine the two moves and do eight to 10 reps
Hip hinges with rear flyesHip hinges
Keeping your neck and spine aligned, abdominals contracted, holding dumbbells at your sides, hinge slowly forward at the hips, letting your hands fall toward the floor. Return to the original position by using the muscles of your hamstrings and buttocks to pull you back up. (This is essentially a bent-over deadlift.) Do four to eight reps. Bending rear flyes
Hinge forward, keeping your spine stable and your abs tucked in, dumbbells at your sides. As you hinge forward, lift the dumbbells up and out to the sides, hold briefly at the top, and then slowly lower them down. Do six to eight reps.
Advanced: Combine the two moves—hinge forward, perform two bending rear flyes, then return to original position and repeat. Do four to eight reps.
Push-ups with hip extensions
Lie face down, hands at shoulder height, weight on your knees for an easier push-up, weight on your toes for a more challenging one. Press up, keeping your spine straight, abs tucked in, and then lower yourself to a few inches off the ground and repeat. Do eight to 10 reps.
Hold your body in full push-up position, with your weight on your hands and toes. Keeping your abs engaged to maintain spine alignment, lift one leg off the ground toward the ceiling and hold briefly before returning it to the ground. Repeat with the other leg. Do six reps on each leg.
Advanced: Combine the two moves, lifting alternating legs as you lower your body into a full push-up. (Note: This is a very challenging move—only for the fittest of you!)
Lunges with lateral raises
Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, arms at your sides, dumbbells in your hands. Lift your arms straight out to your sides to shoulder height, hold briefly at the top and then lower them. (If this is too difficult, bend arms at the elbows as you perform the move.) Do eight to 12 reps.
Stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Step forward with your right leg, and lower your left knee slowly toward the floor, keeping the knee of your right leg over your right heel. Keep your chest up, shoulders back, pause briefly with your left knee a few inches from the ground, and use the muscles in the back of your right leg to slowly push back up. Repeat. Do eight to 12 reps.
Advanced: Combine the two moves and do eight to 12 reps
Lunges with biceps curls
Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, arms at your sides, dumbbells in your hands. Bend your arms and slowly curl weights three-fourths of the way to your shoulders and lower back to the original position. Do eight to 12 reps.
Stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Step forward with your left leg (the opposite of what you did with the lunges with lateral raises), and lower your right knee slowly toward the floor, keeping the knee of your left leg over your left heel. Keep your chest up, shoulders back, pause briefly with your right knee a few inches from the ground, and use the muscles in the back of your right leg to slowly push back up. Repeat. Do eight to 12 reps.
Advanced: Combine the two moves and do eight to 12 reps.
Toe taps with chest flyesChest flyes
Lie face up on a platform or weight bench, dumbbells in your hands, hands at chest level. Bring your knees up toward your chest and keep them there. Keeping your elbow soft, slowly lower your arms out to your sides; then squeeze your chest muscles and return your arms to their original position. Do eight to 10 reps.Toe taps
Lie face up on a platform or weight bench. Bring your knees up toward your chest. Then, contract your abs, keep your core stable, and lower one leg toward the floor. (The more you bend your leg, the easier the move becomes, but your knee should be slightly soft, your toe pointed. The movement occurs at the hip, not at the knee, which should remain in the same position throughout.) Touch your toe lightly to the ground, return to the original position and repeat on the other side. Do six to eight reps. (To make it more challenging, extend your legs fully as you perform the move—bending your knees makes it easier.)
Advanced: Combine the moves—as you perform each flye, lower one of your legs to the floor. (As you open your arms to begin the flye, lower your leg; as you pull your arms back toward your chest, bring your leg back up as well.) Do eigt to 12 reps—bend your knees if you start to feel fatigue in your lower back.
Hip lifts with triceps extensions
Lie face up on a platform, with feet on the floor, or on a weight bench, with your knees bent, feet on the bench. Contract your abs and press your hips toward the ceiling, tightening your glutes, then lower. Do eight to 10 reps.
Lie face up on a platform, feet on the floor, or on a weight bench with your feet on the bench. Holding dumbbells in your hands, arms extended up from your shoulders, bend your elbows and slowly lower dumbbells toward either side of your head, keeping your upper arms stationary. Return to original position. Do eight to 10 reps.
Advanced: Combine moves and do eight to 10 reps.
Express interval cardio workout
Want a fast-paced cardio workout instead? Use this express workout from Gin Miller for maximum results. Using any mode of cardio training (such as walking, running, bicycling or stair climbing), gradually increase the intensity for five to seven minutes to warm up. Then do intervals at near-max effort, using a 1: 3 ratio of work to recovery, for five or more cycles, depending on how much time you have.
For example, walk as fast as you can for 30 seconds and recover at a lower intensity for 90 seconds and then repeat. Perform as many cycles as you safely can—if you’re fairly fit, you can increase the work time by using longer intervals and/or reducing the work/recovery ratio to 1:2 (exercise hard for a minute, recover for two minutes.) If you become fatigued, perform the remainder of your cardio time at a steady rate and cool down to finish the workout.
Abbott Nutrition strongly recommends that you consult with your physician before beginning any exercise program and perform exercises under the supervision of a certified fitness trainer or conditioning coach. The effect of any specific exercise on a medical condition should be determined by your health care professional. The suggestions here are in no way intended to substitute for medical advice.