10 Mini Workout Ideas to Try
When you’re pressed on time, it doesn’t mean you can’t do a good, blood-pumping workout that will provide a variety of health benefits for your physical and mental health. All you need is a little bit of motivation, organization, preparation, and willpower, and you’ll be able to crush that workout in 20 minutes or less.
Not every workout needs to be an hour long to be effective, it’s all about intensity and vigor. However, not every workout needs to be intense to be effective as well. Sometimes your body can benefit way more from a stretching and relaxing workout that will improve your recovery, reduce muscle soreness, and help you get ready for a more intense workout the following day.
Preparation is Key
When you know that all you have is 15-20 min for working out, planning it out and preparing all of your tools will be key to really utilizing every second of that training session. Take a pen and a piece of paper or open the Notes on your smartphone and jot down all the important aspects of your workout:
- The exact timeframe (8-8:20 am)
- Location (living room)
- Type of exercises you’ll be doing (HIIT, yoga, resistance band training)
- Equipment you might need (resistance bands, mat, foam roller, water bottle, kettlebells)
- Music (if you want it during your workout)
- Timer (especially when you’re doing a HIIT or a circuit workout)
When you have everything planned out and your music ready to go, it’s time to focus on your workout and set the intention to spend the next 15-20 minutes concentrating on your movements. The mind-to-muscle connection is crucial in order to reap all the benefits in every workout, especially when you’re short on time. Without further ado, here are the 10 best mini workout ideas you can try.
1. HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training)
Probably the best possible type of training for someone who’s short on time is high-intensity interval training, also known as HIIT. It’s a type of workout where you intermittently perform an exercise with the maximum energy, strength, and speed you can muster, combined with a period of rest or very low-intensity movement.
Your activity is timed and adapted to your level of fitness. Beginners should start with shorter bursts of energy followed by longer rest times and advanced fitness enthusiasts can extend their high-intense interval and bring it all the way up to a 3:1 ratio. HIIT has also been proven to bring on a plethora of health benefits, from improving your cardiovascular health and lowering your stress to promoting healthy blood sugar levels and aiding weight loss.
An example of a HIIT workout: You choose five exercises and perform each one as fast and as intense as you can without losing proper form for about 15-20 seconds and then use the rest of the minute to rest and regain your breath. Let’s say you do indoor cycling. This would mean you increase your speed and cadence and go as fast as you can for 15-20 seconds and then rest or slowly pedal for the remainder of the minute.
You repeat that three times and then move over to the next exercise. Try to keep your rest periods in between your exercises short to maintain a slightly elevated heart rate throughout the exercise, promoting fat burn and calorie expenditure.
2. Circuit Training
Circuit training is a great option for anyone who feels like they easily get bored with one exercise as well as for those who like to tackle more muscles in a shorter period of time. You’ll use a timer with this one too as you’ll need to limit the time spent doing one exercise. The intensity isn’t as important as keeping up with the duration. 45 seconds might sound like nothing to you, but when you’re on your 20th squat in a row and the timer still hasn’t made a sound, you’ll definitely start feeling the burn.
If you have 20 minutes, plan for 20 minutes of movement, 45 seconds on, and 15 seconds off. Use those 45 seconds to actually do your exercise and 15 seconds to rest and prepare for the next exercise. You can choose to do 20 completely different exercises, do two sets of 10 exercises, 4 sets of five, or however you want to do the math. Just keep the 45:15 ratio and your 20 minutes will feel like an hour.
3. 300 Reps
The goal of this workout is to hit 300 repetitions throughout your exercise. Whether you choose to do 300 squats or choose a variety of exercises to blast through, it’s your preference. However, keeping minimal to no rest in between repetitions is what you’re aiming for. Sometimes, these kinds of workouts can even be 10 minutes long, definitely fitting into any schedule. You can perform all exercises using only body weight or take it a step further and challenge yourself with some additional equipment. It’s all up to you.
Even if you can’t hit a boxing class or have a boxing bag set up at home, you can still get a crazy good workout with shadowboxing. It’s a type of “pretend boxing” where you still perform the movements but move around the room like you’re fighting an imaginary opponent. 15-20 minutes of shadowboxing can leave you completely exhausted and sweaty, and be as efficient as a 45-min boxing class in a studio.
5. Resistance-band Training
Resistance bands are all the trend nowadays. They’re light, easy to pack in even the smallest bag, and super versatile to use. All you need to do is plan out your exercises before you start training and then keep the tension up. Whether you choose to do lower body, upper body, or a combination to tackle more muscles and fire them up, it’s your call. You can do the same thing as you would with a circuit workout and time your duration or set a value for the number of repetitions you want to do, but it’s inevitable you’ll feel the burn!
If you’re tired or your body feels sore and you don’t have the energy for an intense, burpee and jumping jacks-filled workout, roll out your mat and get to stretching. Yoga is an amazing workout that will simultaneously tone and stretch your muscles, supporting your posture and helping you improve your blood circulation, oxygen absorption, and mobility.
There are plenty of yoga apps or YouTube videos you can find and do a great, stretching routine that will improve your recovery and make you stronger and ready for any intense workout the following day.
Pilates is one of the best workouts to improve your posture and the strength of your spinal muscles. It might be low-intensity, but it can deliver quite a burn. Just like with yoga, there are plenty of apps and online videos you can browse to fit your schedule, so find the ones you like and get to work!
If you want to combine yoga and pilates with a little bit of a dance twist, barre is perfect for you. Derived from ballet, barre exercises are just as efficient as they are fun. They focus on elongating your arms and legs, strengthening them with a high number of repetitions and making you do squat pulses…sometimes for a full minute.
Since it’s a low-intensity workout, you won’t be elevating your heart rate as high, but you’ll definitely feel your muscles work as you perform isolated movements for a long period of time. After yoga and pilates, barre has become really popular so you can find plenty of different classes online, all categorized by intensity, area of focus, and duration. Choose the one that fits your workout time slot and awaken your inner ballerina.
9. Foam Rolling
If your body is really sore and your energy levels are down, it doesn’t mean you have to take a full rest day and do nothing. Instead, use the allotted time to foam roll your muscles and improve blood circulation, reduce soreness and fatigue, speed up the lactic acid breakdown, reduce inflammation, stimulate your lymphatic system, and increase nutrient absorption.
Foam rolling can do wonders for the health of your body, aiding recovery, repair, and regeneration so you can perform better in all of your workouts.
10. Passive Stretching
Another amazing option for those days when you can’t imagine breaking a sweat, passive stretching can help improve your flexibility, increase your range of motion, and have an overall calming and relaxing effect on your body and mind.
Take five to seven stretching exercises and stay in them for at least 2-3 minutes, feeling your blood rush into those areas, utilizing your breaths and getting deeper with every exhale, reducing soreness and fatigue. And in combination with foam rolling, you can get even more benefit for overall regeneration of your muscle fibers.
15-20 minutes is plenty of time for an effective workout. All you have to do is motivate yourself to put on your workout clothes and just push through the movements. After you’re done, you’ll be so grateful you did it.